Sandy Sponaugle joined Cowork Frederick in December 2012. As someone who dives right in to participate, it didn’t take her long to ask to be a featured member. Cowork Frederick’s Featured Member series gives us a chance to celebrate their awesomeness and get the word out about their business(es), so we were glad to oblige. Sandy is yet another Cowork Frederick member who has run a successful business for over 10 years.
Sandy’s business, Platinum PR, is a boutique public relations firm created to assist businesses and organizations with cost-effective solutions for their communications, marketing and event publicity needs, serving as the marketing/communications department for businesses and organizations that do not have these talents internally.
Sandy heads up a small team that includes two contractors and a full-time employee. Over the 11 years she’s been in business, Sandy has also worked with over 20 college interns. “It’s a way of giving back, which is very important to me, and I like the enthusiasm and fresh perspective interns bring.”
In keeping with that focus on giving back, Sandy is very involved in the business local community as a member of the Chamber of Commerce in several counties, including Frederick. She also serves as volunteer with the United Way of the Eastern Panhandle. She is a Past-President (now elected board member) of the American Advertising Federation – Greater Frederick; serves on the board of directors for the Scarborough Society of Shepherd University, Shepherd University Alumni Association, and is a member of the Maryland Economic Development Association and International Economic Development Council (IEDC). (Whew!)
Sandy grew up in northern VA and attended Shepherd University, graduating with a double major in Economics and Business Administration. She liked general economic theory and statistics (and says she still knows just enough to be dangerous), but was fascinated with idea that there are organizations that help businesses grow and hire people, and how that increases tax base and increases overall wealth of the community. There are pieces of government that exist simply to help businesses succeed. She wanted to be a part of that.
She started her career in Jefferson County, WV, with the Jefferson County Development Authority, where her focus was research and community relations, and then played a lead role in the Frederick County Office of Economic Development. She worked extensively in business development with a focus on marketing, including trade shows, direct mail campaigns, web site development and maintenance and collateral development.
Why Platinum PR? It’s a common story. Sandy started her own business upon reaching a crossroads in her career. She could continue on and pursue hardcore economic development or take what she loved most about her career and start her own business. With a child on the way, the flexibility of having her own business was a clear choice.
Maintaining about a dozen customers at any given time, Platinum PR currently works with several local, regional and national organizations that include the Maryland Economic Development Association (MEDA); Blue Ridge Community & Technical College and Garrett County Economic Development. Sandy noted the ideal portfolio is one with fewer larger customers, customers with ongoing communications and events throughout year, where she and her team can dive in deep and partner with them in a sustained and collaborative way.
When asked what she learned in your first year of business, Sandy noted the importance of keeping a client informed. “They are not mind readers.” She explained communication is especially important when you’re doing things on behalf of your customer. “It’s easy to get busy doing work and neglect communication. You have to stop and let your customer know what’s going on.”
Ironically, given how successful she’s been in promoting others, the biggest challenge Sandy has faced is maintaining an appropriate focus on her own business development. “You can’t get complacent. You have to promote myself, not just others.”
“My favorite project is always my current project”, Sandy replied when asked about her favorite “win”. But then, after considering a bit more, she continued with a story of how she pitched her very first potential client when she was eight months pregnant. She was promptly turned away. The potential client didn’t see any value in public relations. A year later, she was hired by that same client and has done business with them ever since. “If you get shot down, get back up. Don’t quit if you know you’re the right fit for a client. Keep trying.”
Like Platinum PR, Cowork Frederick gets most of its new “business” via word of mouth and so it was that Sandy learned about Cowork Frederick. Member Jennifer Gerlock referred her to us. Since joining, Sandy has pulled up a chair to work in our Community Room, has met with clients in our Collaboration Room, and held meetings in our Conference Room. She likes the variety of work spaces and the flexibility that her membership gives her to choose what works best at any given time.
Before joining Cowork Frederick, Sandy worked at other shared workspaces and a leased office, so I had to ask how Cowork Frederick compared. “There is no comparison. Even as a one-day-a-month Supporting member, I feel welcome at any time, like I’m part of a community, a community where everyone is also growing their own business, some working at Cowork Frederick full-time and others at various levels of part-time. There’s no stigma to being part-time. Everyone one is equal. The atmosphere is one of friends coming together, not a sterile office.”
Asking her closing thoughts for our interview, Sandy replied “My passion is in other people’s success. I really get excited to see someone else getting attention. I love attention too, but … Just this morning my husband put the newspaper in front of me. Right there on the front page was a big picture of a client with a half-page article. It made my day.”
We feel the same way, Sandy. Cowork Frederick exists for the members of its community and to foster connections that support their business success. We celebrate yours.