Durée & Company / Woman-Owned Business
Tell us a little about yourself and your childhood.
I’m a Miami native, born and raised here, which these days is very rare. My childhood dream was to be an astronaut. Fast forward to age 14, I started working as a bag girl at the world-famous Epicure Gourmet Market in Miami Beach. Looking back, this was the first job where what I call the ‘gift of gab’ allowed me to connect with the range of customers shopping at the market. This gift continues to allow me to connect and find touch points with new people and markets.
I went to the University of Miami studying for a double major in broadcast journalist and sociology when, during an internship, I discovered the exciting world of public relations. It’s been a very exciting 24-year journey. Now I am raising a family here with our firm’s headquarters in Fort Lauderdale and an office in Aspen, Colorado.
When did you decide you wanted to start your own company?
I fell in love with public relations at the age of 19 during a fated college internship, and it was then that I found my place in the world of PR. Now I lead a talented team of PR and marketing professionals in South Florida and Aspen, Colorado.
Durée M. Ross President & CEO
Durée & Company woman-owned PR, Marketing and Special Events business
founded in 1999. www.dureeandcompany.com
Was there a specific moment when you knew this was what you wanted to do?
I kind of stumbled into starting my business. Word got out that I was doing some work following a stint at a nonprofit, and then the phone started ringing. All those internships that I had while in college were suddenly paying off for me at 24 years old. I was so busy with work that the business was just born ― without a business plan, an office or anything!
After you made the decisions, what steps did you take?
I stayed authentic to myself and built my entire brand around that. I always say that as a business owner you have two types of jobs. Your ‘day’ job, which is in your profession, then a ‘night/weekend’ job of running the business, dealing with paperwork, etc. I never set out to have my own company, but it just happened for me! I guess it was just meant to be.
How did you fund this project?
When I started the business nearly 20 years ago, I lived at home and was able to start with a small overhead working out of my bedroom ... on dial-up!
What were the hardest hurdles?
My career often has me working nights and weekends, all while balancing the life as a CEO, wife and a mother. While everyone sees the outcome of hard work and success, people don’t always recognize the personal sacrifices and around-the-clock unrelenting commitment that it takes to get there. It takes perseverance, hustle and integrity to be a business owner. I have definitely had to get tougher over the years.
Did you have a mentor?
Absolutely. I have had several mentors, especially when I was just starting out in the PR field. I still keep in touch with all of them. The neat twist is that I actually had the opportunity to hire a former mentor to come work with me.
Do you feel it was more difficult because you are a woman?
Not at all. Being a woman has shaped and defined my brand! From the keynote speaking engagements I accept, to the “personality” of our online presence — it all represents Durée & Company.
What advise do you wish someone would have given you?
Before starting a business:
Intern as many times as you possibly can, as soon as you possibly can. Invest the time and do whatever it takes — a great work ethic and desire to learn (especially in our constantly evolving industry) are absolutely key.
Being a business owner:
I would say make sure you are completely committed and have the ability to be available and ready to deal with anything that comes up at all hours of the day and night. Having your own business means it’s pretty rare to have much time off (even when you do have time off it’s usually spent catching up or on administrative tasks). The sky truly is the limit; in my wildest dreams I could not have dreamt this up.
At any point did you want to give up?
Always! There are some days I still want to (those are very few and far between, thankfully!) but it’s just not in my DNA. Sometimes that is a blessing and a curse.
What made you keep going?
Something internal prevents me from giving up. Once I make a commitment, I have to see it through.
How long did it take to become profitable?
I was profitable from the very start as my overhead was low.
What was the best thing you did to grow your business?
In 2013, I purchased and built an office (my home away from home) to host Durée & Company’s dynamic team. After months of design and construction, the award-winning company’s office opened — complete with chandeliers, “tickled” pink and chocolate brown carpet and state-of-the-art communications technology. Designed to accommodate my team of professionals and provide clients with a chic environment for presentations, meetings and special events, the headquarters represented the next phase of expansion for the firm. As our D&Co dream team grew, so did our offices! We took over the suite next door two years after moving in. We recently expanded our office in Aspen, Colorado, now located in the prestigious Alpine Bank Building, to also be full-time! While our agency has operated in Fort Lauderdale for the past 19 years ― and will continue to do so ― our longtime ties and growing client list in Aspen and around Colorado have resulted in this exciting, additional venture. This expansion has been almost two decades in the making! I have been a part-time resident of Aspen for nearly 20 years. While I have done business in Colorado for many years, and have strong South Florida/Colorado connections, I felt it was important to open this full-time, larger office to handle our client workload throughout Colorado.
Do you think social media is important?
Absolutely! Digital and social media are almost interchangeable terms these days. Social media is a place where your audience can not only learn about a brand, but also engage with it. The right tools can help a business capitalize on this by monitoring activity and allowing for measurable outcomes. This data allows businesses to see what works and what doesn’t, and should be a huge driver in creating and refining a social media strategy. Effective use of social media allows businesses much more direct — even intimate — contact with their target audience, which in turn affords them the opportunity to respond directly to their needs and desires, while saving money they would otherwise have spent on prospects who aren’t interested in what they have to offer.
Where do you see your company in 5 years?
Having already expanded our reach with both our South Florida and Aspen, Colorado offices, in five years, I want to continue working with clients with whom we love making a difference for their vision, their cause and their business. We love to be allowed to help make a difference for whomever we are working with.
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