Courtney Richardson on Building and Representing Black-Owned Businesses

Courtney Richardson’s sunny personality and bright lipstick shines seconds upon meeting her. The founder and CEO of Do It For The Brand, a full-service strategic public relations firm based in New York City, focuses on “making the impossible possible for emerging women-owned brands and personalities of color.” She spoke to She Spends about what it takes to start your own business, how to grab your wallet and support women and people of color in business, and tips on keeping her skin and hair looking flawless.

1) Tell me about DIFTB. How long have you been running your own PR firm? What are some major lessons you've learned and major wins?

I started my own PR firm out of the lack of representation I witnessed while working in the corporate world. I’ve been lucky to have some awesome 9-to-5 opportunities at different ad and PR agencies since moving to New York City after grad school that have helped me get to where I am today. But too often I’d work on cool and out-of-the-box campaigns for brands and companies that either weren’t reflective of the underrepresented experience, whether that be for women and/or people of color. As a black woman, I would ask why these groups weren’t considered or would suggest that they should be but was never satisfied with the answers or lack thereof.

The fact that these companies with large marketing budgets didn’t understand the potential ROI they could gain from authentically understanding and targeting women or people of color is what drove me to start Do It For The Brand. It allowed me to take matters into my own hands by identifying spaces that were being overlooked yet needed representation and giving these brands the much needed TLC they rightfully deserve when it comes to PR and marketing exposure.

Since starting Do It For The Brand in 2015, I have learned some major lessons and have had major wins that have pushed me farther without turning back.

Outside of gaining some amazing brands and people as clients, one major win that always stands out to me is having proved to myself that having my own business can be done. Being mostly independent most of my life, Do It For The Brand is a constant reminder of a milestone started from scratch and an example that doing what you love is within reach.

Originally from sunny California, I’m typically an optimistic person, but one major lesson I’ve learned since starting my own PR firm is that sometimes it takes a little more work and grit to showcase the benefit and impact the clients that I represent have. Whether through a media pitch or a proposed partnership, not everyone sees the purpose of featuring or working with a brand or person that might cater to women and/or people of color. Sometimes you can’t convince everyone but I see it more as their loss and continue to be an advocate for my clients and what they choose to represent.

2) You have an incredible client list. Why do you take on certain clients, and how do you know they will perform well?

Thank you! If you believe in your brand, do it out of love and are identifying a need to fulfill within the industry, you’re alright in my book and Do It For The Brand will take it from there! When I was in the corporate world, one thing I took away were the power of networking and learned tactics to gaining new business and clients, like SoulCycle, Shea Moisture and Emmy-award winning celebrity hairstylist Kiyah Wright.

Most of DIFTB’s clients are within the beauty and lifestyle space because they are areas I identify most strongly with as an everyday consumer. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a huge fan of beauty and lifestyle products and experts.

I’m no ‘beauty and lifestyle whisperer’ to say the least, but because I’m always very interested in growing emerging brands that need an extra infusion of passion, energy and talent, this ability and intuition has always given me and my clients proven results no matter how challenging the task, time and time again.

3) Many of your clients are black women. Do you rep them as a form of amplifying black voices and businesses, or do you feel connected to the brands as a black woman yourself?

Both! Because I am a product of the very cultures that we service, this allows me and my team to expertly craft a unique and genuine voice in order to tell our clients brand stories through novel ideas, events, product launches and communications.

Even more, because I feel connected to my clients as a woman and person of color, it allows me to be a voice for brands that might feel voiceless in a very saturated market or within industries that many times turn the other cheek. Sometimes I find that clients may not know the power that they or their brand can truly have on the industry until they start working with Do It For The Brand. If I’ve empowered a brand and its team while getting the word out to the rest of the world, I’ve happily done my job.

4) Why is it important, as a consumer, to support women-owned businesses, particularly black-owned businesses?

I think that women-run companies and black-owned businesses that specialize in products that help make women’s lives (like mine) better are just super interesting to me — especially as a black woman. But I also just really want to work with brands that have the same values as I do.

I feel like the thing that I can do as a consumer is put my buying power into brands that align with how I think and feel as a black woman, and brands that are women-run and woman-founded, too. That’s something that everyone can do, is really just take control of your wallet and put your money and your time and your energy and your brand loyalty toward brands that really align with who you are or better yet, who are often seen as underrepresented. Granted it can be difficult to find this, and I think it has been for a lot of women for a long time.

But I’m thrilled at the handful of companies that are finally stepping forward to say that not only do they align with these views, but they are creating products that help Black women and women everywhere to help make our lives better.

5) Tell me about your routine, both as a woman and a business owner. How do you start your day? What type of makeup/skincare do you use? I want to get a sense of your workflow and also some personal grooming tips/recommendations (kind of like ITG's Top Shelf).

I am a creature of habit and think routine is crucial for progress. My average day is typically spent hosting desk sides with editors, holding status meetings and brainstorming sessions with clients, traveling, crafting pitches and putting on or attending events around New York City. So, starting my day off right is important for me, I take the time necessary to make sure I’m at my best.

I typically wake up every day between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and when I reach for my phone, it’s not to check email but to start my day with some meditation. I’m a fan of the Calm app and spend 20 minutes in a session. After I’ve gotten my Zen on, I take a peek at my calendar and Trello to-do list for the day, then skim through newsletters that have arrived in my inbox during the start of my routine, such as Glossy, Beauty Independent, Hello Giggles and Cosmo.

Afterward, I follow up on any emails or pitches I’ve scheduled via Boomerang for Gmail (life-changing!) earlier in the week. Then, it’s time for a quick run/exercise routine in the park and afterward, indulging in my favorite time of the morning — getting ready to head to the office!

I recently came across a cocoa butter bar soap by Palmer’s that is to die for. I have very dry skin and wash my face with it using my Clarisonic Facial Brush. The soap has the most moisturizing rich formula, smells divine and leaves my skin buttery smooth. I follow up by toning with a few swipes of Thayers Alcohol-free Witch Hazel in Rose Petal and use Drunk Elephant’s C-Firma Day Serum. Finally, a couple small dabs of Frosting by KAIKE is the best moisturizer for my face — hands down.

I’m a major product junkie and makeup is not excused from my hard to break habit. I get my fix from my everyday go-to products which include a bronzer by Anastasia Beverly Hills called ‘So Hollywood’ (so sad it’s been discontinued but has lasted me so long), NARS Orgasm Blush, Urban Decay’s Perversion Mascara and the finishing touch always involves a red lip for me. I recently have replaced my ‘Ruby Woo’ by MAC (I know, clutches pearls!) with LIPP’s matte red lipstick in ‘Avenue’ — it compliments me perfectly!

My hair is natural and I enjoy wearing my hair curly and straight. So, if my hair is not in Havana twists or extensions, hair care products from Jane Carter Solutions and tgin are my favorite.

6) What are some trends you're seeing among your clientele?

No matter how big or small the brand is, I’m seeing more of my clientele having ‘aha!’ moments as to what PR really is and are warming up to its role and why it’s a necessity. I think this is so refreshing because there always seems to be confusion as to what a publicist does or what PR is, no matter the industry.

One trend that we’ve been implementing on behalf of our clients is humanizing their brand. We’re seeing an influx of requests from clients to ensure that their brand voice and messaging is being framed to reflect ‘real women.’ Whether via social media influencers that mimic their consumers or positioning themselves as the BFF you need, much of my clientele want to really relate to their consumers and be a part of their daily lives.

Also, in-person activations and pop-up events never go out of style at Do It For The Brand — our clients can’t get enough of them!

7) What are some trends you're noticing as a publicist surrounding social media and purchasing power among women?

That the purchasing power of women is now in their hands, literally! With e-commerce being the norm, I’m noticing that brands are strategically using social media to remind women of their purchasing power and are using it to get various call-to-actions in front of them. All of our current clients are either online brands or people who have their own online brands.

But I’ve also noticed that women are relying not only on Instagram and Twitter but also email marketing to stay abreast of the latest launches and product how-to tutorials. I think brands like ColourPop, Fenty Beauty, e.l.f. Cosmetics, Kiehl’s, ONYX and even press outlets like Byrdie, Galore, Into the Gloss and Refinery29 do an amazing job at helping women to keep up and flex their purchasing power.

8) What is your best advice to women looking to start their own businesses?

Starting a business is one of the scariest yet liberating adventures you can embark on. Although it consists of long nights and early mornings, I think it’s very important to tap into yourself whenever you can come up for air. Giving yourself permission to feel is so important, along with granting yourself permission not to be a perfect person. The key is to remind ourselves that we’re human and finding a seat at the table becomes easier when you allow room for error and even more importantly, leave room for yourself.

As women, we’re stronger than we think we are. Just be and trust in yourself and you can’t go wrong.

-Amanda 👡