"Right now, [anyone] could get rich," says Tony Greene, senior vice president of account services with Sterling Hager Inc., a Watertown, Massachusetts, public relations and marketing firm. He's referring to the booming demand for public relations agencies that cater to high-tech clients.
While you should have some knowledge of cutting-edge technology to be effective in this field, your business itself doesn't necessarily need to be highly sophisticated at start-up. In fact, Dennis Chominsky, 28, and his partner, Jason Miletsky, 28, started PFS New Media Inc. in Wayne, New Jersey, under humble circumstances: While working as a bartender, Chominsky started a production company in his garage, and Miletsky toiled as a waiter while running a PR firm out of a one-room home office. In 1996, the two decided to join forces and target the high-tech market, later adding a third partner, 34-year-old Deirdre Breakenridge. They brought in $3.5 million last year.
With growth of the high-tech industries running at an astounding 300 to 400 percent a year, clients will find you, Greene assures entrepreneurs. In fact, his firm turns away business because it already is operating at capacity. Beginners can get the word out about their services by contacting industry associations and advertising their Web sites.
The PFS partners do offer a few caveats, namely, the proclivity of high-tech clients to offer payment in stock options rather than cash. Proceed with caution when choosing your clients, and make sure you have plenty of stamina. "The biggest challenge," Chominsky concludes, "is that everything changes so quickly. To keep up with our clients, we need to be two steps ahead of other public relations firms."
The basics: a high-powered PC, software that lists media contacts (such as Bacon's MediaSource Software, 800-621-0561), a copier, a solid postage processor for bulk mailing, a few phone lines, a fax machine, business cards and letterhead.
Total cost: $4,500
What they spent: Chominsky and Miletsky started their separate businesses for about $3,000 each and needed little additional equipment when they merged. They worked full-time jobs after the merger, then slowly built from that base.
For details: Public Relations Society of America, (212) 995-2230, www.prsa.org