From employee to entrepreneur in your 30s

When I turned 30, I had a pretty ideal life:

  • A high paying corporate Public Relations job for a Global Firm
  • A hefty expense account
  • The ability to jet set to New York every other month for business and fun
  • A rent controlled apartment in San Francisco
  • A boyfriend I intended to marry

Some would think I had it all. But, I felt stuck. I was tired of living in a shoebox apartment. I was tired of the grind of living in a big city and frankly, I was tired of working for somebody else. I knew I wanted something more, but I didn’t know what it looked like and I didn’t know what it felt like.

But, I knew I had to try.

So in early 2014, I did.

andreea holland

I quit my job (with that matching 401K, full benefits, expense card). I found my own clients, which at first was barely enough to pay rent. I left the big city grind of San Francisco and moved to picturesque Santa Barbara.

About four months later, here’s where I was at:

  • The business was thriving.
  • My personal relationship completely went up in flames.
  • I met a guy named Dan, who told me about Project Getaway.

I’ll expand on that last bullet. It was a warm summer weekday, and I was invited to a local BBQ for tech entrepreneurs.  It was here that I met a mid-20s guy named Dan, who told me about an experience he had at ‘Project Getaway’. It truly was a chance that I stumbled upon Project Getaway. Pure luck. Luck that changed the direction of my life.

Dan had a few business ventures under his belt and seemed comfortable discussing them openly. He started telling me about a month-long trip to Bali at an “incubator” for entrepreneurs. It was a place where 20 like-minded people from all over the world went to start, build and grow their businesses. On top of that, his current business and lifestyle seemed very desirable:

  • He lived in luxury villas
  • A chef cooked for him three times per day
  • Numerous impromptu massages
  • Self-prescribed hours that included surfing
  • Spent time with entrepreneurs from all over the world, starting businesses across industries
  • Went exploring in exotic locations
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All this, and it was totally affordable on a shoestring budget.

I immediately thought to myself, “Wait a second! I’m an entrepreneur – I don’t fully own a business yet, but I’m consulting. I have clients that trust and pay me. I should apply for this. Plus I’d love to leave the country right now”

Five beers later, I went home and applied.

Three weeks later, I received an email saying I was accepted.

I was a little paralyzed. I only had a few days to make a choice. To me, it wasn’t just a choice of “do I want to go travel for a month.” It was a larger decision that could potentially affect the trajectory of my life and my career (part of me thought I should stay in California and continue trying to get clients, building up my portfolio – not get on a flight to Indonesia).

I decided to go.

It was a surreal feeling, since I literally had zero commitments to anyone or anything in the United States (No relationship, no apartment, no corporate job).

All I had was a handful of clients that sustained me, my skillset, my ethics, a little bit of optimism and whole lot of hope.

I boarded my flight emotionally drained from the weeks leading up; however, I was also full of anticipation. I knew I wanted more, and to get more, I had to take a few risks. Even at the expense of my dignity in Terminal 2 at SFO (I may or may not have been crying. My mother may or may not have walked me to the gate). I had never been to Asia. I had seen a large portion of America, Europe, the Caribbean and Mexico, but always for 2-3 weeks tops (Corporate America vacation policies). Going to Bali for a month, on my own, not knowing a soul, on such short notice, was a big deal for me.

When I arrived at the Denpasar airport, everything fell right into place.

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It’s safe to say that my time spent with those 18 other business owners will stay with me forever. Together, we shared business practices, got up at 2 AM to hike mountains, spent nights awake lying on the beach talking about our lives/aspirations, made fun of each other for our cultural differences, and partied until the sun came up.

We also expanded our networks and in turn, grew our businesses internationally, just by sitting in the same room as each other.

We created new businesses, based on our combined brainpower and skill sets.

I was having a ball. My emerging PR Firm was well underway at this point, due to the resources I had access to and the people I was connecting with. I would talk about it often. I gave presentations on Public Relations and I even helped a few startups win press coverage.

Through all of the success, I kept hearing the same thing over and over again:

“I want to put ‘as seen on Forbes’ on my website and marketing collateral”

“I have a killer service/product, but reporter’s won’t respond to my email pitches”

“I can’t believe my competitor is a leader in our industry, I know their product isn’t as good as mine”

“I want to be an authority in my space. I am a capable, smart expert who knows with the right structure, direction, and formula, that I can do it on my own.”

I refuse to/can’t pay 5 figures a month for a PR firm.”

It made perfect sense, but I couldn’t figure out a way to make the price point as low as they wanted, without feeling like I was diminishing my own skill set, time and talent.

I told folks to go online and find a course or a program. I had no idea what was out there, or if it was even good. The feedback I was given was that there just…”wasn’t much available.” And, that none of these “programs” or “automation tools” were helping to attain the feature coverage they were looking for.

I asked my fellow PG participants, “What are you looking for? Why do you want PR? What will feature media coverage do for you”?

I wanted to understand their perception of PR.

The answer was unanimous. “We want to understand it. We want to know how it works and how it can grow our businesses. Can we use it in our sales funnel? We want authority and credibility in our industries.”

“And, backlinks. We want backlinks.”

employeetoentrepreneur 2

Wow, I thought. There are programs for everything online – finance to social media marketing to design. But, there really wasn’t a solid and trusted resource for PR, for early stage entrepreneurs. I briefly thought about it…but went back to building my PR Firm (for those established startups).

Project Getaway ended, but I ended up staying in Southeast Asia for three months total, hitting all of the digital nomad hotspots through Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and Cambodia. I went back to the States and got Dialed PR off and running.

In 2015, I continued my travels – Morocco, the Caribbean, and back to Southeast Asia for two more months. I realized that the demand for this “PR Coach” or “PR Program” was still in high demand. I was getting asked the same questions as before, especially in Singapore, where I was asked to speak to portfolio companies at a venture capital firm on the basics of PR and it’s place in their businesses.

It was at that point I realized this PR curriculum and counsel needed to be created.

In 2016, after months of content creation, brainstorming and finding a business partner, on top of years understanding the root problem, PR Traction was born.

Six weeks of immersive, online PR coaching for solopreneurs, early-stage entrepreneurs and business consultants who want to demand authority and credibility in their space. I had heard what people wanted for so long, that ultimately, the most difficult part was putting the pieces together.

I am forever grateful that I went to that summer BBQ. I am grateful to have met Dan. I am grateful for Project Getaway, as it was crucial to the growth of Dialed PR and the impetus of PR Traction. But most of all, I am grateful for the 18 other like-minded entrepreneurs from all over the world I met on that very first day, who will forever be part of my personal and professional journey.

Andrea Holland

Founder/CEO of Dialed PR –public relations agency for startups

Co Founder of PR Traction


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