Owning a business is the hardest job, but it is so worth it.
Starting and operating a business, especially during the pandemic, is very time consuming. Even when not working, we find ourselves thinking and / or talking about work. We’ve worked long hours before, but have definitely taken it up a notch while operating our own business. However, no matter how time consuming and overwhelming it can be, being co-founders is by far the most fulfilling role we’ve had in our careers. We get to choose who we want to work with and we’ve got amazing clients whose small businesses are making a big difference in the world.
The COVID19 pandemic has disrupted all of our lives. But sometimes disruptions can be times of opportunity. Many people’s livelihoods have been hurt by the pandemic. But some saw this as an opportune time to take their lives in a new direction.
As a part of this series called “How I Was Able To Pivot To A New Exciting Opportunity Because Of The Pandemic”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Huang and Denise Lengyeltoti.
Linda Huang and Denise Lengyeltoti are the founders of Be Boldly PR, a Los Angeles-based communications agency with a global reach. As industry leaders with over 20 years of experience combined, Linda and Denise are passionate about uplifting people and brands they believe in through bold, strategic campaigns.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
Of course, thank you for having us!
Denise: Hi, I’m Denise Lengyeltoti, co-founder of Be Boldly PR. I grew up in Northeast Los Angeles surrounded by a loving family, filled with lots of cousins and an older brother who has been a consistent role model. Being part of a large family and always involved in various sports and enrichment programs, I learned the value of teamwork, communication and collaboration early on. Having immigrated to Los Angeles at a young age with her family, my mother raised me to appreciate and respect other cultures, work hard for what I want… and to dream big. All of which contributes to who I am today. While Linda and I come from different backgrounds, our values and passion in supporting BIPOC-owned businesses couldn’t be anymore aligned. We plan to use Be Boldly PR as a vessel to share stories that deserve to be told. I love being part of positive change in our world through our agency.
Linda: Hi, I’m Linda Huang, the other half of Be Boldly PR. Hailing from the mean streets of Houston, TX, I followed my ambitions and the sunshine to LA and now call this city my home. My sister and I were raised by our single mother who instilled values of independence early-on, so no surprise that Denise and I ended up starting our own PR agency when we faced adversity due to the pandemic. With Houston being one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., I was fortunate to grow up appreciating my Taiwanese-American heritage and was constantly learning and experiencing cultures different from mine. Little did I know, my upbringing would eventually fuel my passion and desire to help uplift BIPOC-owned businesses and amplify their stories.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
In the wise words of Master Yoda when he imparted knowledge on young Luke Skywalker, “Do or do not, there is no try.” These words resonate deeply with us because this was how we approached the road to entrepreneurship. A few months prior to the pandemic, we had discussed starting our own communications agency, but never pulled the trigger. The pandemic presented a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for us to take a leap of faith and really put 110% into launching our own business.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Create & Cultivate’s Work Party podcast made a significant impact on us as we were starting our business. Their weekly interviews feature female powerhouses who share their stories of how they got to where they are today. The conversations between podcast host Jaclyn Johnson and her guests are equal parts inspiring and informative. Jaclyn does an amazing job of creating and uplifting an inclusive community of female entrepreneurs who offer different perspectives on life and female business ownership.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before the Pandemic began?
Prior to the pandemic, we worked together at the Los Angeles Tourism Board overseeing and executing global communications strategies and tactics. While we were at the tourism board, we worked closely with hotel properties, restaurants and local tastemakers across the city to tell their stories and engage with the media on their behalf.
Denise: I started my career working at a global firm representing brands such as Tourism Australia, Frito Lay, Mattel and PlayStation. Following my love of travel, I moved to a boutique agency that specializes in destinations and hotels. I also worked in-house at a luxury property before joining LA Tourism.
Linda: Before moving into tourism & hospitality, I started my career in entertainment PR. I spent the majority of my career as a TV publicist where I’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of my favorite shows on networks and streaming services including Netflix, BBC America and NBC Universal to name a few.
What did you do to pivot as a result of the Pandemic?
We lost our jobs due to the pandemic, but quickly committed to launching our own communications agency, Be Boldly PR. We took this opportunity to pursue other verticals we were personally passionate about including wellness, sustainability, and WOC-owned businesses. We agreed not to limit ourselves to the skills we had mastered in our careers, but to take the opportunity to grow our skillset and provide our clients with well-rounded solutions that actually make an impact. We are now working with a diverse roster of clients who are aligned with our values and we are able to offer them a range of services that go beyond traditional PR.
Can you tell us about the specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path?
While working at our previous employer, we loosely talked about our dreams of working for ourselves one day. When the pandemic hit, tourism and hospitality were severely impacted and our organization laid off a majority of staff. We were devastated and while going through the unemployment process together, a light bulb went off. Neither of us were previously capable of leaving our full-time jobs to launch a business because we were not independently wealthy. The pandemic inadvertently opened a new opportunity for us that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. We quickly took the bull by the horns and launched Be Boldly with the help and the support of our talented close circle. Within a month, we registered our business, had a working website and were able to land a couple of clients.
How are things going with this new initiative?
We’ve been up and running for around nine months and everything is going well. We are in a groove now with what it takes to run a business during the pandemic. We love our clients and we are excited to grow with them. The great thing about working for ourselves is that we’re able to quickly pivot to keep up with industry trends. We are able to bring added value to our clients with services including partnerships, social media management and affiliate marketing. We are excited to continue learning and growing both our team and client roster.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
We wouldn’t be where we are today without the immense support of our family and closest friends. If we had to pick a particular person we are grateful for, we have a few. The first is Michelle Lim from The Everly Collective, a branding and design studio. Michelle created our brand identity and website in record time. The second is Neel Sodha, owner of DTLA Walking Tours and accountant. When we told Neel our agency plans, he offered to teach us how to register a business and now provides ongoing guidance and instruction on how to manage our books and cash flow (things we knew nothing about nine months ago!) Lastly, our significant others, Kevin and Pat, who have been supportive of our new venture since day one.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
Like most, we were accustomed to an in-person, open-floor plan work environment. In fact, our previous employer preferred team members physically in the office. Working during the pandemic is a strange new world. We’ve made the drastic shift to full-time remote work. We haven’t met any of our clients in-person and all our meetings, whether that be internal, weekly client check-ins, or accounting, have been done via calls and video conferencing. It was challenging in the beginning, but through this, we’ve learned how to communicate clearly and effectively. While we dream of the days we can plan team retreats and meet our clients in-person, we have no complaints about working in our comfortable home offices.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- You can’t do everything
A key lesson we have learned while operating Be Boldly is that you can’t do everything. While we are still a small agency and have to handle most tasks ourselves, we split the workload fairly and check in on each other to ensure the other is not experiencing burnout. The work never stops when you own your own business, and there’s always something more we can be doing. By establishing realistic expectations and setting boundaries, we ensure we are giving ourselves time to rest and recharge. Lastly, if there are tasks that require experts, we’ve outsourced them, so we can prioritize servicing our clients.
2. Rest and self-care is very important
We touch on this a little bit in our first lesson, but rest and self-care is so important, especially now. We are both Capricorns and for those who don’t follow astrology, a key trait of Capricorns is that we are workaholics. We can identify with this label and often need to be peeled away from our at-home workstations. We constantly encourage each other to take breaks, enjoy our evenings and stick to our wellness routines, because without them we can’t run our business. We need to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of everything else.
3. Owning a business is the hardest job, but it is so worth it
Starting and operating a business, especially during the pandemic, is very time-consuming. Even when not working, we find ourselves thinking and/or talking about work. We’ve worked long hours before, but have definitely taken it up a notch while operating our own business. However, no matter how time-consuming and overwhelming it can be, being co-founders is by far the most fulfilling role we’ve had in our careers. We get to choose who we want to work with and we’ve got amazing clients whose small businesses are making a big difference in the world.
4. Don’t’ compare yourself to others
Starting our own agency, while super exciting can also feel intimidating. We are entering a space dominated by PR powerhouses and while we have years of experience under our belt, we are starting fresh and working to make a name for ourselves. We’ve had to remind ourselves not to compare our agency with others and to embrace our own voice because that is what makes us unique.
5. Stick to your values
Since launching Be Boldly, we have realized the importance of recognizing our values and sticking with them. Our business is a reflection of not only ourselves but of our clients as well. We pride ourselves in being champions of small businesses that strive to be the change they want to see in the world, so being able to share and amplify their stories makes our jobs so much more meaningful. If this means having to decline opportunities that aren’t a good fit, then so be it.
So many of us have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. Can you share the strategies that you have used to optimize your mental wellness during this stressful period?
Being in PR, we are no strangers to news cycle-induced anxieties. As big proponents of self-care, we use our platform to share and encourage healthy practices within our community. Some of our favorite practices include:
- Scheduling breaks into our workday. This can sometimes be a 10-minute walk outside, puppy play breaks or even something as simple as taking an actual lunch break away from our phones and laptops.
- Swap out social media doom scrolling for a book. Some of our favorites include President Obama’s A Promised Land and Long Bright River by Liz Moore.
- Make time to indulge in things we love. Whether it’s taking an extra 10 minutes to do a full 10-step Korean skincare routine, go outside for a run, or enjoy a quiet evening curled up on the couch with a glass of wine (or two), these are a few ways we prioritize our wellbeing.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
This pandemic has been hard for everyone, and people have been affected in different ways. You never know what someone is going through, which is why we would love to inspire a movement of compassion. There is a great divide in our country right now. Giving people from all walks of life the opportunity to share their stories, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, religious beliefs, etc., could help strangers find commonalities and eventually, bridge that gap.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
We would love to have lunch with Meena Harris, lawyer, mother, children’s author and founder of Phenomenal. We are inspired by her work to uplift women and advocate for issues surrounding diversity and equality for all. We would love to chat with Meena and ask how she juggles everything, what are her tips on self-care, what are her future plans and if she has advice for two WOC co-founders who are just starting.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!