They are their own success stories.
Taryn Scher, Katherine Davis, Jamie Prince, Marion Crawford and Velda Hughes each started their own public relations and marketing firms at different points in their lives and for different reasons.
Since then, their businesses have thrived, and they’ve made a name for themselves in Greenville’s public relations landscape.
Here are their stories:
Taryn Scher, TKPR
Meet the Sparkle Boss.
Taryn Scher founded TKPR in 2008 after she and her husband moved to Greenville for his medical residency program.
Scher already had a public relations background — she had previously worked as an in-house public relations and marketing director for a New York City fashion company. While there, a work associate started calling Scher “Sparkles,” so she ran with it.
“’Sparkle’ kind of took on this whole new meaning for me,” Scher said. “It’s the headline, it’s the wow … it’s that moment that makes you say, ‘tell me more,’ so we try to find the sparkle for all of our clients, whatever that is.”
TKPR’s specialty is earned media coverage, and most of its clients, which include Artisphere, VisitGreenvilleSC and Table 301, are in the travel and hospitality industry.
“Our specialty is landing the stories about their businesses in the national media,” Scher said,
Despite the pandemic’s freeze on travel, TKPR was able to secure more than 50 national stories (think The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and Travel + Leisure magazine) for every one of its clients last year.
“I don’t know anybody else in town that’s doing that,” Scher said.
Katherine Smoak Davis, Smoak PR
You could say that Katherine Davis formed Smoak PR out of sheer force of will.
Davis started out as a freelancer, taking on a project here and there while building her resume and career.
“It was a lot of hard work, a lot of going to my parents’ friends and saying, ‘Hey, will you let me write this press release for you and prove to you that I can do it and get you published?’” Davis said.
Eventually, Davis gained enough clients to open Smoak PR in 1993.
The company, which Davis described as a “boutique PR firm,” offers media and community relations, digital media services and event planning. Clients run the gamut, from Spinx to Reid’s Fine Foods to Thomas McAfee Funeral Home.
It also takes on a nonprofit each year and provides services pro bono, Davis said. “Our goal is to be a partner to our clients.”
Jamie Prince, Flourish
Flourish began in 2009 in the pit of the Great Recession.
After spending seven years as the director of corporate communications at The Cliffs, Jamie Prince decided it was time to strike out on her own.
“Within a very short time period, I realized that the expertise that I had built up at that point in my career was needed by other businesses — particularly small and medium-sized businesses — that were trying to navigate the recession,” Prince said.
She named her business Flourish, which means to thrive.
Today Flourish employs a dozen team members specializing in public relations, marketing, branding and creative services and corporate event planning and production. It’s served over 100 brands (current clients include Ivy Salon, the Greenville Country Club and The Shops at Greenridge) and won about 60 awards for its work.
But Flourish’s biggest selling point, according to Prince, is its senior level team.
“We can plan and execute campaigns far quicker than a junior team because we know the best practices,” Prince said. “This isn’t our first rodeo.”
Marion Crawford, Crawford
At various points in her life, Marion Crawford has been a television reporter, an associate producer, a writer and even a part-time Spanish teacher.
“At the heart of everything I’ve done has been the role of communications,” Crawford said. “I have always loved the idea of sharing important stories.”
A logical next step, then, was starting an agency that helped businesses tell their stories, which is how Crawford came to be.
The company, which was founded with three people and now has 31 employees, will celebrate its 11th year in business this month.
Crawford is a full-service advertising, marketing and branding agency with local and regional clients that include United Community Bank, Southern Wesleyan University and Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Charleston.
One of Crawford’s more unusual clients is the Sumter Police Department.
Unable to find qualified police candidates, the Police Department hired the agency in 2018 to help recruit officers by leveraging digital advertising that targeted audiences further afield.
“We helped refine the applicant pool and help them have more qualified applicants on the front end,” Crawford said.
Velda Hughes, Hughes Agency
Velda Hughes wanted to have it all.
“As a female, my dream and my hope was to be a great spouse, a great mother and also have a great career,” Hughes said.
She was able to do that by starting her own company, the Hughes Agency, 20 years ago.
A journalism major in college, Hughes worked at Multimedia Inc., which owned The Greenville News, before going into business with a partner to open Linning Hughes Public Relations. Eventually, she decided to branch out into advertising, and the Hughes Agency was formed.
The agency currently has 26 employees and offers public relations, marketing, advertising and event planning services. Clients include TD Bank, Synnex, YMCA of Greenville and Auro Hotels.
Hughes Agency is also raising the $20 million to build Unity Park, a project Hughes is particularly proud of.
“It’s going to be a real highlight for Greenville, and it’s going to bring people here from all over the country,” Hughes said.