Andrew Joseph on PR

I have the honor of going way back with the amazingly accomplished Andrew Joseph, founder and dynamo-in-charge of Andrew Joseph Public Relations. AJPR is a New York based full-service communications firm specializing in shelter, design, and lifestyle brands. We had a chance to catch up on a recent visit and I couldn’t resist squeezing in a little photo shoot on the sidewalks of Chelsea. When the talent is this good, who can resist?! Andrew graciously accepted my request for a quick interview, and his insights are invaluable!

NR: How did you get into PR?  What was your vision for the firm you wanted to build? What drew you to working with shelter, design, and lifestyle brands?

AB: When I moved to NYC in 1999, I was as prepared as I could be; I thought I had a job lined up being a rep for a perfume company, but as life would have it, that job moved to Baltimore as I was in the process of moving from San Francisco. As one does, I scrambled to find work by networking the heck out of my contacts and landed a job at Vanity Fair, a Conde Nast publication. After Vanity Fair, I moved on to another title: Allure. In the time I was there, as magazines seem to be, there was a constant musical chairs of staff changes and I thought, “well, maybe the magazine world is not for me and I should try this PR thing,” which seemed somewhat more stable.

NR: What’s the secret sauce in PR? Is it industry connections, a finely tuned intuition, timing media cycles, pure style?  When you’re absolutely in your stride, which of your many skills are you using the most?

AB: You hit the nail on the head- it’s a combination of all those skills, but mostly it’s being mindful of who you work with and represent. I spent years working for other firms before I started my own, and my goal at the time was to work for clients that you are excited about. That said, above and beyond, any qualities a good PR person needs to have are honesty, integrity, and the ability to pivot and evolve with your business model as the industry and media landscape change around you.

NR: What are some of the traps in communications strategy?  Are there “empty calorie” efforts that seem appealing on the surface but don’t produce results?  How do you know what strategies really have substance?

AB: Good public relations skills are like a painting- every brush stroke counts, both big and small. There is a quote from Jane Russell that goes, “Publicity is terrible; but only if you don’t have any.” That being said, as I mentioned in my previous answer, you have to pivot in this world of how people disseminate and process information. So I try not to be stuck in “what are you supposed to do.” I think people that stick with what works, which doesn’t always work the day after tomorrow.

NR: How do you feel about paid social media?

AB: Authenticity is the name of the game. From time to time a pay to play strategy pays off, but more often than not that does not always reach your target audience.

NR: Is PR seasonal in a universal way or are the cycles more industry specific?

AB: Totally and fully universal and always a hurry and go strategy. There is never a down time.

NR: In the age of startups it feels like brand identity is constantly evolving and being revamped as companies find what works.  Are PR dollars spent before brand identity is solidified wasted dollars?

AB: Brand identity is the why someone cares and if someone does not have a story to tell that is fine tuned and honed – then what are you telling? Branding first!

NR: How should creative professionals approach PR?  Is there a possibility for results with a less-than-corporate budget?  What’s one solid effort that can yield results without breaking the bank?

AB: We work with solid and established brands as well as those that are up and coming. The first thing you need are assets you can share with the media. In my world, working with architects, interior designers, and luxury home furnishings – photography is where you start to make an investment – without that – what are you sharing with media? it’s a very image driven industry.

NR: Frequency, duration, and intensity are often used as measures for the likelihood of success in exercise; do these translate to the world of PR?

AB: That is so funny ask that question. I frequently speak with another PR professional on best practices and how designers work with public relations firms, and she always quotes me saying that PR is very much like a gym membership. You can pay, but if you don’t put in the work it’s like not going to the gym. Meaning, PR folks are only as good as the clients they work with if they put in the time to do the homework. There is always homework and all those qualities apply. 

NR: You’ve shared your amazing fitness journey, what gives you the best results?  What motivates you on the days when your body says “Screw you; I don’t want to go to the gym!”?

AB: Thanks for noticing. I simply turned a corner about 2.5 years ago at a point that I was 40+ pounds overweight and I was like “No- no more.” And rather like starting my own business, make the choice that giving up was not an option.

NR: What’s for breakfast?

AB: Coffee and exercise.

NR: What are you reading?

AB: I wish I read more; I average 400+ emails a day so when it comes to personal reading, I have to say, I am lacking.

NR: What’s your most recent tattoo?

AB: A Fornasetti inspired tattoo wrapped in a serpent.

NR: What’s your happy place these days?

AB: Happy place is 1000000% my home in upstate New York in the country outside of Saugerties, NY. It is an investment in my sanity. Four acres in the middle of the woods with no neighbors in sight and the sounds of the woods are more healing than I thought possible.

NR: You always look damn good, do you ever have trouble deciding what to wear?

AB: Almost every day I change twice 🙂

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June Manley & F4 Capital: Revolutionizing Venture Capital Funding

Did you know that less than 3% of venture capital funding goes to companies with female founders?  I didn’t, until I had the chance to photograph my client June Manley for her next big project.  I’ve been so honored to work with June over the last few years. She is a passionate entrepreneur and industry thought leader with over 15 years of high-tech experience at companies like HP, Citrix, Riverbed, and NetApp. When she came to me for photos and videos to promote her new organization, I was more inspired by her than ever.

After her experience seeking funding for her own startup, Phala Data, June learned first-hand the extent to which VC Funding is not as available to women as it is to men.  Never one to sit on the sidelines, June was inspired to do something to fix a broken system. June founded Female Founders Faster Forward (F4 Capital), a non-profit with 501c/3 status, in 2017 to address gender bias in venture capital funding.  Their immediate goal is to increase the VC investments for Female led startups from 3% to 20% by 2020.

I’m thrilled that we had a chance to talk with June about this important work.  I hope you enjoy our conversation and take the opportunity to support F4 Capital however you can!


NR: What surprised you when you started your first company, Phala Data?

JM: There were a few surprises when I founded Phala Data – a big data analytics software startup. The positive ones were: I thought getting a product developed from an idea in my head was going to be a challenge, but not only did I successful get the product developed, I was able to file six patents along the way. I thought getting my first customer was going to be a challenge but ended up with a Fortune 50 software division with over $3 in revenue.

The negative surprises came when I began seeking venture capital funding. It wasn’t the rejections that were the surprises, it was why I was being rejected. The reasons that I had no control over, it was not because I did not have a viable product in a massive market, it was not because my investor pitch needed improvement, it was because I was a female founder without the right social connections. What surprised me most was less than 3% of venture capital funding goes to startups with female founders. In 2017, nearly $84B was invested in startups, again only 2.2% of the investments went to startups with female founders.

NR: Did you receive venture capital funding? What was is like to try to get

JM: No, I did not receive venture capital funding. I bootstrapped my startup all the way through product development, first customer and filed six patents. I walked away after I realized that unless I was willing to bring a male counterpart to the VC meetings I wasn’t going to get the funding. That was not how I wanted to get VC funding. If they did not believe that I could bring a product to market, without a male co-founder then I didn’t want their investment.

NR: Without venture capital funding, what options do startups have to establish and grow their companies?

JM: Without venture capital funding there are limited options to establish and grow your startups. According to research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation 80 percent of female founders used personal savings as their top source of funding for launching their new startup. Women go broke, even bankrupt, trying to bring viable enterprises to market. It shouldn’t and doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine the startups that get left behind due to lack of sufficient funding. They represent lost opportunity, unrealized, positive financial impact, possibly paradigm-changing solutions that died on the vine. These ventures could have changed an outcome in a person’s life, a business, an industry, an economy.

NR: What advice do you have for people who have want to start a company but
don’t know if their idea is viable?

JM: I would suggest leveraging a tool like Business Model Canvas or start
with the questions below to guide your thinking.
1. Who is your customer? For example, if your customer is businesses,
answer: What kind of businesses? How big or small is the typical
business? In a particular market? What is the title of the buyer?
2. What problems are you solving? How does your product solve those
problems? How does solving their problems make their life better?
Does it make them more money? Look better?
3. What are the key features of the product? The features need to solve
specific problems. The more quantitative (e.g. time saved, money
made), the better.

NR: What inspired you to start Female Founders Faster Forward?

JM: Last June when I was reaching the end of the runway for Phala Data,
and I had to shut down the operations and the development effort, I was at
the lowest point in my career. I was looking through a presentation that I
did for the SBA’s Innovation & Investment Office Director back in March 2017, I had a used a tagline: Female Founders Faster Forward. It dawned on me that I had to change how startups got funded. I had to be part of the solution that increased the current 3% of venture capital funding to 20% by 2020.

NR: How can we support the work F4 is doing?

JM: F4 represents the struggles of female and all under-served founders
being systematically shut-out of venture capital funding—not because of
their startup investment viability, but because of their gender, race and
social economic background. F4Capital was founded specifically to help
change the current, archaic, venture-investment model and to help deliver
more venture capital to female founders. Our Startup Investment Model
Index (SiMi) effectively measures startup maturity, opportunity, and risk,
while eliminating bias and prejudice in prevailing venture-funding

In the simplest of terms, SiMi is like a FICO Score® for Startups. Much like
the impact of the FICO Score on consumer lending, SiMi assesses,
informs, and empowers startup founders on venture investability—outside of gender, race, or other identities. By focusing purely on the state-of-the-startup, SiMi also facilitates smarter investing. Using sophisticated data and analytics driven by artificial intelligence and machine learning, SiMi delivers entirely new levels of funding transparency and benchmarking, creating entirely new positions of funding for under-served founders, whether women or other minority groups. Our effort is not about personal profit. We created SiMi to literally disrupt and revolutionize startup funding, so that more qualified startups succeed, whether founded by women or not. As such, we organized as a 501c3 non-profit.

You can help get SiMi developing by donating today.

NR: You’re an incredibly dynamic person, what do you do to maintain your

JM: Thanks Nancy. My family and friends have been tremendously
supportive in my journey as a female founder and in leading the effort to
increase the investments for startups for female founders from 3% to 20% by 2020. When you have an ambitious 10-yr old daughter who wants to be an entrepreneur, an innovator and a future female founder, you find the energy to be part of the solution that paves the way for the next generation.

NR: What are you currently reading?

JM: Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

NR: Thank you so much, June!

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Turning Twenty: A Decisive Moment

Claudia GonzalezIt’s not often that I have the opportunity to photograph a subject I know with certainty is at a pivotal juncture in their life. Just prior to the mark of her 20th birthday, Claudia asked me to photograph her before the end of her adolescence as a gift to her mother.


Claudia wanted to be photographed outdoors, serene and woodsy, in the way of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. It seemed unfortunate at the time that the date of our session — the last date possible — was forecast to rain, with the elements markedly against us. Thanks to Claudia’s sense of adventure, however, the wind and mist presented an added air of spontaneity and mischief.

“The setting was like I always imagined it, even better with the lake.  I was super cold but I’m glad it didn’t show in the pictures!  The wind was a plus!  And I’m glad my ideas for the shoot were all accepted.”

There is a sense of magic at a moment when everything is possible. Thank you, Claudia, for inviting me to share that moment!

I wish you all the best as you begin your next chapter. I hope it is filled to the brim with new adventures!

– Nancy


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Behind-the-Scenes: Baby Portrait Session

I had so much fun photographing this little one at the studio and it’s wonderful that her mom captured some behind-the-scenes footage. Now you can see what it’s like at an in-studio baby portrait session!  We keep the studio nice and warm to keep the babies happy and cozy….

For more videos from Nancy Rothstein Photography, please visit our YouTube channel.

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