SOUTH PORTLAND – Angie Helton’s self-description of “Air Force brat” makes part of her story well understood. The self-discipline and flexibility one must have or develop to survive the early years of a military childhood come in very handy when conceiving of, and then executing, a successful entrepreneurship.
When Helton smiles, the whole room lights up. Follow that with a sense of style par excellence and an enviable collection of shoes and it’s not hard to imagine how she got started and stayed to clean up. Through the years, she’s become a doyenne of traditional PR – press releases, television, radio, video and social media outlets are her playground.
Before starting Northeast Media Associates, 11 years of her life went into being an Emmy-award winning television news producer, and after that she was chief operating officer at 480 Digital, a film and television production house in Portland. By then, she’d gotten her fingers in many pies, knew the lay of the land – and its residents – and felt ready.
“Some people are not suited for a business like this where you don’t eat if you don’t have clients. It works for me,” she said.
Q What were your most important needs in getting started?
A I really wanted to make sure I had a secure client in place before I launched my business. I wasn’t comfortable going out cold without any revenue coming in on Day 1. That doesn’t mean that the business was immediately profitable. It just means that I had some actual work on my plate. I also needed to have a network in place to provide referrals and references.
Q What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
A I was an Air Force brat and grew up, for most of my childhood, in Aroostook County. I was surrounded by hard-working parents and a community where I learned that those efforts can lead to success if channeled in the right way.
Q What do you think the advantages are of being a female entrepreneur?
A I honestly don’t look at being female as something that gives me an advantage. I think what helps give any entrepreneur an advantage, are drive, spirit, intelligence, good instinct, and the willingness to get hands dirty. The only thing I can think of from a female perspective is [that] shoes can be an advantage. I am a shoe lover and have some interesting styles in my expansive collection, and they are sometimes great conversation starters when networking.
Q What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
A I would suggest surrounding yourself with smart people who have started businesses themselves. Right out of the gate, I had the support of two great entrepreneurs who I leaned on for all kinds of advice from how to write proposals for potential clients to the best way to deal with taxes. That kind of help from unselfish supporters made a big difference. The other bit of advice is to always have a good bottle of bubbly or wine under your desk. There are good days and bad days and those refreshments work for both occasions.
Q If you knew then what you do now, would you have done anything differently?
A When I started the business in 2006, I was a one-woman band. Now, I have a great team of contractors whom I work with on a regular basis helping to fulfill big projects for clients. This has allowed me to grow the services I offer and hence land bigger and better projects. I wish now that I had brought on contractors earlier in my business so that I could have grown a little faster.
– Lucia Davies
Northeast Media Associates