Photography by Kelly Ann Shuler
Stepping into Marcia Perry's home office is the perfect mix of Manhattan ad agency hustle and Central Pa. coziness. Phones are ringing, emails are dinging and assistants are running around, but Marcia stays cool and calm the entire time – it's organized chaos and she loves it.
As founder and owner of Perry Media Group, a full service ad agency that specializes in helping businesses connect with hard to reach audiences, Perry is a multi-tasking maven who’s passion for her work is only eclipsed by her dedication to her top role: mom.
Perry began her career at 18, working for a country radio station in Columbus, Ohio. The Pittsburgh native left Ohio for Nashville to pursue her dream to become the first black female country superstar. That experience led her further into marketing where she found her calling. “I fell in love with marketing and connecting the dots between my client and the consumer,” says Perry. “It was a natural gift.”
Fast forward ten years and Perry, now a single mom was making the leap to move to Central Pennsylvania to work for a new start-up ad agency. She had no family or friends in the area and she came here as she says with just her daughter and her dog. But she did have a plan and a vision for what she wanted — to be recognized as the marketing person who made things happen for clients. “In the midst of that relocation,” explains Perry, “I branded myself throughout Pennsylvania and within the communities as a marketing expert. It was challenging getting into certain circles, but I never gave up.” She says she attended as many events as possible, talking to whoever would listen, introducing herself and forming relationships within her new community.
Building Her Brand
“I networked my butt off!” Perry says with a proud smile. “As I say in my branding seminars, branding, networking and marketing is like repeating yourself over and over. You have to say the same thing every single time.” Perry credits her personal branding efforts with helping to establish herself in a new area. “Each time I went to a networking event, I would say, ‘Hi, I’m Marcia, and I do marketing and I’m really good at what I do.’ I would give my elevator pitch and I never strayed from what I do. Pretty soon it clicks and people are telling other people, ‘You gotta work with Marcia, she does PR and marketing and advertising.’ They forget who you are and what you do if you don’t keep repeating it.”
Perry also stepped into as many volunteer leaderships roles as possible during this time, serving on several boards for area non-profits, including the National Black MBA organization, the African American Chamber of Commerce, the Latino/Hispanic Community Center and YWCA Greater Harrisburg, while also serving on the Commission on African American Affairs for two governors.
These experience gave Perry great insight into nonprofits, state agencies and government authorities, something that would benefit her in the future as she began to focus her marketing expertise on these areas.
While Perry was working full-time and building her brand in her downtime, she realized something — being a single mother left little time for her to spend with her daughter, who was growing up fast. It was just the motivation she needed to make the bold move to strike out on her own and form her own marketing agency, and Perry Media Group (PMG) was born. “The stars aligned when I left my former firm, took a leap of faith and launched my own business,” says Perry.
“It needed to be all about me and not in a conceited way. But sometimes when you listen to other people, they make you doubt yourself and insecurities pop up out of nowhere and you’re thinking, ‘I can’t do that.’ However, there are times when you’re backed into a corner and you have to come out swinging and can prove other people wrong and say, ‘you don’t think I can do this, watch me!’” And that’s just what she did.
“I had been a single working mom for 15 years,” explains Perry. “I missed so much of my daughter’s life. I didn’t want to feel guilty going to a doctor’s appointment, I didn’t want to feel guilty when my kid is sick, I didn’t want to feel guilty that I’m going to her dance performance. I was sick and tired of feeling guilty when I wanted to be home.” Perry says she’s talked with many working moms that have similar experiences, which led her to develop another aspect of her business model.
#MomSquad is Born
Enjoying success from her success as an entrepreneur, Perry wanted a way to give back to her community. Realizing that other moms struggled with the same issues of time and family balance that she did, she decided to focus on hiring and working with other moms, many of whom have their own small businesses, to complete her agency. From graphic designers to social media managers, Perry connected with women at the height of their careers who were also tired of the full-time schedule that left little time for flexibility or mommy duties. “I want to help moms and not all of my team members are moms, but most are. I created #momsquad because we’re all moms that were hardcore career women and left 8-5’s to fulfill our obligations at home, but still want to be fierce career women. We’re winning contracts left and right. It’s really an empowering movement and a conversation that I want to start.
How an entrepreneurial woman can start a business and bring on a team of moms because all of us are professionals. When you hire PMG you aren’t hiring people just out of college (not that there’s anything wrong with that). But here, everyone is at the height of their career, you’re dealing with professionals, women that can multi-task that have already perfected it. We have meetings where kids are running around, dogs are barking, and we get work done. It’s fun, it’s exciting. I tell them, let’s have fun, get things done and make some money!”
Perry’s Mom Squad consists of around a dozen freelancers and independent contractors. The team does weekly meetings and video conferences, relying on technology and a high energy work ethic to juggle multiple projects continuously. “No one can be lazy on the Mom Squad team!” adds Perry.
Perry understands from experience how hard it is to be a mom and a career woman at the same time, especially if there is not a partner to lean on. She wants to inspire moms to stop feeling so much guilt when they’re the ones doing so much. “We are the ones who think two weeks in advance for everyone, we’re always ahead of the game, but no one is thinking that way for us. And it’s not a woe-is-me thing, being a mom, it’s quite gratifying, but the realities of being a mom today are challenging.” She wants moms to know that the idea of a perfect work/life balance doesn’t exist, but it doesn’t mean you can’t create your own strategy. “You have to find what works for yourself and your family. What may work for another mom may not work for you.” For Perry, that means she might work seven days a week and still be sending emails at 11p.m., but it also means she has the freedom to drive her daughter to a friend’s house or have dinner with her every night.
For those moms who might have an entrepreneurial dream, Perry has plenty of advice. “It doesn’t happen overnight. A lot of young people seem to want it now, but it takes time to craft your art, to develop relationships and earn trust. Consistency is key.” She also advises moms to not be intimidated, but to go after that dream. “As a mom, we already multitask. There are great managers and great bosses out there, but if you do want to work for yourself, do what you love and it will work from there. Figure out how to make money from it. My daughter has always been a part of my work. Be proud to be a mom and businesswoman!”
Perry’s philosophy and spirit are evident in the projects she takes on. Focusing on nonprofits and government initiatives, Perry enjoys building relationships with clients and becoming deeply investing in their goals. “I care about my clients, every single project. I’m not just a consultant, I become a member of their team and a trusted friend.”
And that is evidently a successful philosophy, with three years under her belt and $3 million in revenue to show for her efforts, Perry only has plans to expand further from here.
Perry can’t emphasize enough what finding an authentic connection to work can do for finding success. She says her home office is a perfect example. Instead of being stuck in an office building somewhere away from her family, she can be home and host clients in an atmosphere that makes them feel welcomed and comfortable. “It’s so me! I can say to clients, “Come to my house.” I do good work and we just take more steps to get into the hearts and minds of our clients to try to get to who they want to reach.”
Currently, Perry is working with the Department of Health and the Health Promotional Council on a campaign geared toward obesity and diabetes prevention and control. “We’re trying to break bad habits and it’s hard,” adds Perry. To reach minority populations that are so often affected by these health issues, Perry is using grassroots marketing techniques that extend beyond traditional radio and TV ads. “We’ve done a lot of research on how to get this message to the citizens of Pennsylvania. We’re bringing in fitness celebrity Shaun T to kick off Diabetes Awareness in November. It’s all about being different, being unique, being involved.”
And Perry is excited about the future. She hopes to extend her marketing reach into some larger federal projects soon and on the personal front, this single mom might be hearing wedding bells in the not so distant future. As an inspiration to working moms, Marcia Perry shows that with consistent effort and drive, anything is possible.