The pandemic had a lasting impact on many industries and professionals, forcing entrepreneurs, workers, and business leaders to pivot their plans and reinvent their career paths to survive and function effectively.
Call it happy accidents, a series of unfortunate events, or reinvention at its best, but that’s exactly how things played out for the co-founders of The PR Influence. It is a modern public relations, social media, and brand development agency that launched during quarantine to help brands best reach their audience in this constantly evolving cultural landscape.
The PR Influence’s Cuban-American co-founders, Carolina Gonzalez and Claudia Vilches were on a mission then and are on a mission now: to help companies take their brands to the next level with unmatched service and personalized 360 management. These Latinas are innovative, ambitious, and driven by a passion that runs deep in their bones, a passion they credit to their roots and what it took to get them where they are today.
The PR Influence is all about helping clients connect with their audiences in a variety of ways, from branding and graphic design (think logo development, web content, and marketing) to social media relations (which platforms to be on and what kind of content to post) and event activations (influencer events, networking events, collaborations, and more). They really do it all, which is the point and what first inspired Claudia and Carolina to launch their company.
Honoring the roots
Both growing up in Miami, Claudia and Carolina were intensely aware of what their families had sacrificed for them and future generations. “We both come from similar backgrounds. Carolina was born in Cuba, and I am a first-generation Cuban-American,” Claudia told BeLatina. Their families had to give up so much to provide them with the childhood they experienced. With this in mind, Claudia and Carolina have always been determined to make sure those efforts were not in vain.
It seems creativity was a passion they both shared, but one they didn’t bond over until they met at a production job later in life. “I grew up in a very creative environment, and I started working for a production company, where I met Carolina,” said Claudia. “We were always a dynamic duo, and when that job didn’t work out, Carolina applied for her masters at NYU, and that’s how we ended up in New York together.”
Making the most of an unexpected situation
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent quarantine period was both a blessing and a curse for Claudia and Carolina. They had both just moved to New York City because Claudia had been accepted into the PR Master’s program at NYU.
“We literally packed a van with less than a month’s notice and moved to New York so I could start at NYU,” explained Carolina. “We got to New York and got settled and had both just landed jobs in March of 2020 when the pandemic hit. When those jobs were quite literally pulled out from under our feet, we scrambled and needed to find a way to move forward. We took our passions and made The PR Influence come to life. We knew that we absolutely loved social media, graphic design, and communications. So, we decided to launch an agency that could be a one-stop-shop for brands.”
They launched The PR Influence out of their shared apartment during quarantine, literally creating a brand while the world was shut down and they were stuck at home trying to figure out what to do next.
Was it a tough time? Absolutely. Was it full of struggles and suffering? Without a doubt. But “sometimes the things you least expect end up being the experiences that shape your life the most,” said Carolina.
“We suffered as much as all other companies we worked with at the beginning of the pandemic. We were doing a lot of favors [by] taking huge pay cuts and working 16-hour days to help other business owners who were going through their own tough times and trying to make ends meet. In hindsight, I don’t think we would change a thing, even in those hard times, because we were able to help other brands who needed it the most while also creating a brand for ourselves.”
An inspiring adventure
Claudia agrees that several things helped propel them to where they are today, running their own business and owning their roles as Latina leaders and entrepreneurs. First, they were inspired by other Latina leaders who really gave them the guts to go after their own venture. And second, they knew that their skills were needed.
“What pushed us was a mixture of necessity and talent – we already knew what we were good at and what we were familiar with professionally. Ironically, we were forced to stay home (during quarantine), but it helped us because we had nothing else to do and nowhere to go. Our focus was to lift our brand up and get our business off the ground,” said Claudia.
It hasn’t been an easy road. The duo struggled with time management and the daily juggle of getting all the work done to ensure they met their clients’ needs. As best friends, roommates, and co-founders of their business that they run together each day, accountability and finding some separation in their routines have also been a challenge.
When challenges are the best teachers
They’ve also faced obstacles as Latina business leaders trying to establish their expertise in the PR world.
The pressures come from external sources as well as internally. As Latina entrepreneurs, “we put so much pressure on ourselves, especially because we’re first-generation Cubans. I immigrated here when I was six years old,” explained Carolina. “Thinking about our families who had to give up so much and make such a shift to come here, to America, to find a better home and find better opportunities, I want to make sure that the women who came before me see that their sacrifices were not in vain.”
She also sees it as an opportunity to set an example and pave the way for the Latinas who will come after her, so they know they can do anything they put their minds to. Claudia has experienced similar struggles to prove herself. It’s a constant struggle having people question how serious or important a career path is, she explained.
But they’ve grown and learned a lot along the way.
Today, as the world is starting to feel relatively more normal, at least where the pandemic is concerned, The PR Influence is still moving forward and growing with each new experience. Almost two years after launching their agency, Claudia and Caro have certainly learned a lot. They’re excited to pay it forward and share their wisdom with other Latinas considering starting a business.
Future plans include scaling their business to continue offering unparalleled attention to each client and making sure they are hitting every aspect of the digital world. The ultimate goal is to have an agency where brands do not need to go anywhere else to satisfy their branding and PR needs. They are also focused on working collaboratively with other Latinas in the PR world, rather than seeing one another as competition. The goal, they explained, is to support other Latinas and help elevate what everyone is trying to do to succeed. “We’re all here to build a community,” said Claudia.
Their best advice for other Latinas considering their own venture and interest in starting their own business? “Don’t take things personally. Business is business. We learned that the hard way,” said Carolina. And listen to everyone, continued Claudia. “You can always learn from anyone; it doesn’t matter if they are older or younger or have more or less experience than you. Listen to everyone’s ideas and take their thoughts into consideration.”