Amid chaos, there is opportunity.
In 2008, as the United States was reeling from the housing crisis that snowballed into the Great Recession, I saw a chance to capitalize on a client successfully offering a private real estate investment called non-traded RETs to mom and pop investors and was able to grow DeFazio Communications by 100% throughout the economic downturn.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, the world turned upside down and my instinct told me that while the pandemic would pass, we would continue to face a more detrimental challenge: environmental degradation.
My concerns were soon echoed in the sentiments of the public. Environmental tailwinds pushed to the forefront of peoples’ minds as the United Nations and other global organizations published reports warning that time was running out on the climate clock; and reports of reduction of smog amid shutdowns revealing skylines and nightscapes heightened public awareness. And there, amid the disruption of the pandemic, there was a revelation.
I saw the perfect opportunity to marry my professional skills in public relations with my passion for, and lifelong commitment to, the environment to tell the stories of organizations leading the green revolution.
I relocated to the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, a place I had longed to live, and began my second startup venture with Sustainable PR.
Despite my excitement, this leap into a new business was daunting. Environmentalism and sustainability had always been my passion, but navigating its marketspace was unprecedented. The green economy was just beginning to emerge and was rapidly evolving; there was no model or track record of success to follow. I operated on instinct and intuitiveness and relied heavily on my research and knowledge of immerging technologies and trends. But familiarizing myself with all the manifestations of the green economy was just the first obstacle.
I opened a brick-and-mortar office at 46 Elm Street in Glens Falls–a city at the gateway to the Adirondacks, close to nature and a stone’s throw away from the capital.
Building a team in a new city while working remotely was a struggle. You can’t match the productivity and creative juices that come from working in a shared environment. But I was able to manage the increasing workload by hiring skilled, independent contract workers.
When I finally hired a full-time staffer, I was sidelined with COVID and relegated to my apartment for two full weeks just as they came on. I was unable to provide sufficient direction or oversight. I sensed their frustration but was flat on my back and only able to answer a few emails each day. That hire didn’t work out, throwing another challenge in Sustainable PR’s development.
Luck shifted, though. We hired a full-time employee and grew our client list. And as we raised those clients through the ranks, SPR was propelled forward in the industry.
Once again, my bold move paid off. Through perseverance and creativity — and the stellar work of our first intern Maggie McAden and our cast of world-class consultants— we adapted and began to hit our stride. I believe our timing was, in many ways, ideal. The pandemic forced many people to reevaluate their lives and consider what’s important. Maybe they changed jobs, prioritized relationships or moved (I made a move to a place I always wanted to live), but the Great Reset allowed us perspective to assess what’s important.
Thankfully, many realized there is no more crucial issue than the health of the climate. Compared to a global disaster, everything else pales in importance, making the work we do at Sustainable PR a success.