Lily decided to quit her job and start her own public relations consulting company
Lily Taban, a graduate of California State University, Northridge. Lily has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism with an emphasis in Public Relations and a Minor in Communications Studies. Her first job out of college was at a boutique PR firm and throughout her career, she’ve worked with a variety of brands ranging from beauty to fashion, entertainment to non-profit, and lifestyle to tech. After almost seven years between in-house and agency PR, Lily decided to quit her job and start her own public relations consulting company.
Fig & First started as a side hustle out of Lily’s apartment with nothing more than a laptop and a cross street which inspired the name. After a bit of back-and-forth trying to come up with a business name, Lily settled for her mailing address so she could cross that off the list and hit the ground running. Lily Taban had put off working for herself for so long that while she wish the name would have more substance she didn’t want to wait any longer. After a while, the name began to grow on her and Lily became very happy with her decision because it serves as a reminder of where and how she started as the business continues to grow and evolve into something more.
How did you become an entrepreneur? Have you always been entrepreneurial?
I come from immigrant parents who came to this country looking to pursue the American Dream and while neither of them graduated college, both were equally driven to build something of their own and are successful business owners. You might imagine that because of this I would have always been entrepreneurial but that wasn’t the case at all. Ever since I can remember, my dad always pushed me to start my own business but I never had a sense for it. I always considered myself more of a creative and had no intention of working for myself when I could collect a steady paycheck, paid time off, and medical insurance. But after bouncing from job to job after I graduated college, I noticed a trend; the first six months of employment I’d always find myself in a honeymoon phase, shortly after which I was unsatisfied, bored and looking to jump ship. Instead of continuing down the same path, I finally decided to take my dad’s advice and branch off on my own.
What inspired you to start Fig & First?
I think what inspired me to start my own business was the lack of inspiration I felt while working for someone else. I know this is a cliche but it’s true; if you don’t build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs. I didn’t know what my dream was but I definitely knew what it wasn’t. Before I ventured off on my own, I took on a side project that I was really passionate about and that helped me generate an extra income. After a few months, I had saved enough money through that project that it could serve as a financial safety net should I need it. After a bit of a mental back-and-forth whether to stay with my employer or start working for myself, I realized the only things holding me back were empty excuses. I didn’t need more experience, a business degree, or more money saved up. All I needed to do was just start, so I did.
What are your company goals currently? As in vision and mission (what is the problem you are looking to solve).
This year’s company goals focus on growth and expansion. Each year has been more successful than the previous and I plan on continuing that trend in 2018. This not only boosts business and revenue for Fig & First but also helps brands find their voice and raise awareness of their products or services. We aim to work with brands who share a similar aesthetic so the partnership becomes mutually beneficial for both of us.
Can you describe your customers?
Our clients are innovators, visionaries, and creatives. They’re brands with purpose who have an amazing story to tell but aren’t quite sure how to tell it or have the resources to promote the amazing work they’re doing. That’s where we come in.
Why do your customers select you over your competitors?
We’re very selective when it comes to our clients and only take on projects that resonate with us. We love what we do because of the people we choose to work with. Whereas some of our competitors may take a more “by the numbers” approach, we approach every project in a personal way that is unique to each client based on their needs and goals. Our clients consider us as part of the team rather than a third party agency and in building these connections, our clients often become our friends.
What sacrifices have you had to make to be a successful entrepreneur?
Sacrifices are required in reaching success as an entrepreneur. While sleep, money, relationships and social life are certainly at the top of the list, a majority of my success has come from being able to sacrifice comfort. Within the first year of business, and even today, I’ve had to wear many hats as I tried to navigate how to run a company and I’ve had to really step out of my comfort zone in the process. It may come naturally to some, but if you’re an introvert like me, it can be a terrifying experience, especially when you put yourself out there and aren’t completely sure what you’re doing. That being said, the sacrifices you make are temporary and help you grow as an entrepreneur. Sacrificing comfort has brought me multiple opportunities in both business and personal growth and while it’s scary to give something up for a while, you get a big return in the end.
To what do you attribute your success in a consulting company and how do you define success?
A few months ago I was at a Ladies Get Paid Town Hall (If you haven’t heard of Ladies Get Paid, look it up immediately) and the way one of the speakers defined success really stuck with me. Robyn Ward, CEO of FounderForward said, “Success is often defined by achievement instead of fulfillment, and it’s not the same thing.” It was a bit of an AHA moment for me because I realized while you can certainly have both, achievement without fulfillment can be a dangerous thing. We may consider our achievements to be how many clients we brought in, how much money we made, how many awards we’ve won, and it can become competitive and lead to chasing things due to expectations and pressure from those around you. While different things fulfill different people, the end result is the same; you feel a sense of purpose and joy. I attribute much of my success to the joy I feel in working for myself. Feeling fulfilled at the end of each workday is a success to me.
What would you say are the top three skills needed to be a successful entrepreneur?
Patience. Chances are you’re not going to be an overnight success so you’re going to have to learn to enjoy the process. It’sokay to feel inspired by entrepreneurs who are hitting milestones but be sure not to compare your first few years to theirs. Everyone is on a different path and once you start straying away from yours you become lost. Stay focused on you.
Self- Assurance. You’re going to doubt yourself a lot in the beginning and experience a severe case of Imposter Syndrome. You’ll begin to ask yourself, “Am I a fraud? Am I qualified to do this? How are people not only trusting me to do this but also paying me?” When this happens, take a step back, recognize it as in fact nothing more than Imposter Syndrome, and remember why you started in the first place. Channel the confidence you had when you first decided you were going to start your own business and remember that even the most successful entrepreneurs experience feelings of doubt. Take a deep breath, pat yourself on the back, and yell “I can do this!” if that’s what it takes. You got this, you just have to believe it.
Humility. While confidence is a must in entrepreneurship be sure not to let it mutate into narcissism. Celebrate every success while staying humble on your journey. Recognize the challenges you faced and the people who helped you overcome those obstacles. Success is temporary; you’ll hit highs and lows and you’ll want the people who cheered you on during your highs to stick around during the lows. Recognize opportunities where you can give back and help others in the same way they helped you. Always strive for collaboration over competition.
How would you describe your work style?
I’m the type of person who has about 100 tabs open at once so to-do lists work very well in keeping me organized and helping complete daily tasks. Everyday I will take five to ten minutes to write down the goals I’d like to accomplish. Once that’s done, I’ll start checking items off my list. More often than not, the list will grow throughout the day which can make it feel impossible to get everything done. When this happens, I like to prioritize items based on urgency and complete those timely items first. I keep my daily mantra on a Post-it on my desk that reads, “You can do anything but not everything” and it serves as a good reminder that the work will always be there and you need to be able to step away and allow yourself to refuel.
How do you want to improve yourself in the next year?
I don’t think there’s a limit on ways to improve ourselves and everyday I hope to strengthen my skills as a business owner and entrepreneur. My goal has been to learn one new thing each day; it can be something as small as finding a new media outlet to follow to something big like learning a new software. The industry is constantly evolving and unless you act like a sponge and absorb all the information you can, you’ll fall behind.
Tell us about your proudest achievement?
I’m partially joking when I say this, but my proudest achievement has been successfully launching this business and keeping it afloat without taking out any loans or draining my savings account. Over 20% of businesses fail within the first year and that number more than doubles after five years. This is why improving yourself and constantly learning is critical in running a business; you need to take notes on what’s working for other entrepreneurs and what’s not and build that into your strategy.
What is your favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My favorite aspect of being an entrepreneur is holding myself accountable for each success as well as every failure. Accountability sets expectations and goals and recognizes that there are consequences in not achieving those goals. This can be both terrifying and liberating but it’s a necessary growing pain. Without accountability, you won’t recognize your failures and you need those learning experiences to grow from.
What have been some of your failures, and what have you learned from them?
Early on it was very difficult to put a price on my services. When launching Fig & First I had no business experience and had no idea what competitors were charging or where I fit in with my level of experience. It didn’t take me long to recognize that I was undervaluing myself and I was overworked and underpaid. I had thought that charging a lower rate would be more appealing to potential clients but I soon noticed that that number didn’t reflect my worth and only appealed to clients with no budgets and high expectations. It wasn’t an overnight process but after the recognizing the problem, I was able to more than double my rate and pick up some dream clients in the process.
What does your and Fig & First’s Mondays look like?
It starts with a 5:30 am wake up call to Kanye West’s “Good Morning” followed by a brief but dark walk into the kitchen to brew some coffee. Once I’ve had my morning fuel I usually digest the latest headlines on the Daily Skimm. I’m not a traditional morning person but waking up early gives me a head start on my day and eliminates the stress usually associated with rushing to work. Once I get to my desk, I check for any urgent emails that need immediate attention before beginning to write my task list for the day. I reserve my pitching for early mornings since a majority of editors are on the East Coast and work on strategy and research later on in the day. In the afternoon I like to try to step away from my computer and take a walk or workout to avoid the afternoon slump. As a business owner, you’re not working a 9-5 job so it’s important to take some time for yourself throughout the day so you’re not constantly glued to your screen and forget important things like eating lunch. I’ll usually continue working into the evening and try to unplug around 8:00 pm to make dinner, read a book, catch up on my favorite show and enjoy the rest of my evening.
Lily, thank you for taking your time to answer this interview questions, it was such pleasure to learn more about you!