Irish Women in Business: Anne Marie Foran of AM Foran PR
For the latest in our series of editorials focusing on Irish Women in Business, we’re talking to Anne Marie Foran, the founder and Director of AM Foran PR.
Anne Marie grew up in Canada but moved back to her parents' homeland in 2000. Hitting the ground running, she built up invaluable relationships in her chosen field of PR, climbing the ladder all the way to the top - establishing her very own agency.
Here, Anne Marie speaks to Her.ie about the highs, the lows, the challenges and the learning that went on along the way.
What is your background? Where did you grow up and is there a history of entrepreneurship in your family?
I grew up in Toronto, Canada into a very Irish household with my parents both hailing from Ireland. While there is no history of entrepreneurship there is without a doubt, a very strong work ethic that was passed down by my parents and exists in myself and my 3 older siblings. Nothing was ever just handed out – we worked hard and we were always praised for ‘trying our best’. My first job was in a sports shop at 14, quite young really, but at that time I was ready to work and it was great to be able to treat myself to the cinema or a pair of jeans without having to ask for money. Those teenage years of selling, working the cash register, handling customers and bookkeeping were invaluable.
What was your first indication that this would be the career for you?
In secondary school at aged 16 we underwent career guidance testing and the job that most suited me was Public Relations – I had never even heard of it! However I was able to see at that age how my strengths in writing, organising, helping to work and run events all fitted the bill.
At what age did you first suspect you would eventually go into business for yourself?
Probably in college. I absolutely loved to organise and run college events, pub nights and club activities. At the time I was a dancer and I also started dance classes for children in the area as well as student dance classes. Looking back, I was always entrepreneurial and loved the feeling of starting something new and seeing it grow & succeed. Post-college, when I moved to Ireland in 2000, I knew within a few years that I wanted my own PR agency. I just needed to get stuck into learning everything I could over the next few years.
Did you pursue other careers before launching your business?
Professionally I always worked in the PR industry. Before I started my own business, I worked for 10 years in other PR agencies as well as in in-house PR roles with clients from the corporate sector to a children’s charity, to consumer and finally to L’Oreal Luxury. Working alongside so many gorgeous beauty brands solidified my decision that the Beauty industry would become the core to my boutique agency. I always felt most creative and successful when working with Consumer clients so it was a natural progression that my agency launched in this direction.
What were your goals when you set up your business?
Primarily it was to set up as a Boutique agency that worked with clients from areas I was passionate about – a mix of beauty, lifestyle and health clients. I worked extremely hard over the 10 years pre-launch to prove myself in the industry and to develop and foster excellent relationships with the media and clients. Initially my other goal was to prove to myself that I could compete with the bigger agencies and I have.
What challenges have you faced thus far?
The recession! I launched my business back in 2010 having left a very prestigious role in a global beauty company with all the safety nets that come with such a position. Not knowing who my first client would be, when I would land one, and all the usual frantic worries made me question my decision. But within two weeks of launch I had a client secured, my confidence was restored and I have continued to grow each year. But it doesn’t end there. As a business owner, you are always faced with new challenges – pitching for new business, filing taxes, new social media learnings etc... but it is how you cope with these challenges that is key.
Do you think there are certain challenges that are unique to women who set up their own businesses?
100%. I have a 3 year old son who was born just as I was in the middle of steadily growing the business. The thing is, you just have to deal with what is your own reality and don’t compare yourself to others. So while I may have been exhausted during the night time feeds, it was also a chance to catch up on emails in the quiet of the night. When the baby went to sleep, I rang everybody looking for me. I became a much more focused worker.
My husband is my best friend and the most supportive person I know so while I may have thought at times it was just too much to juggle a newborn and a new business, he always had my back and his encouragement is a huge reason why I came through those first newborn months.
Now juggling crèche, early/late meetings, business travel along with cuddles and watching Peppa Pig is the norm and I wouldn’t change it for the world – just like thousands of working mothers across Ireland do each day.
What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?
Having a viable business five years post-launch and a happy and healthy family – what more could I ask for?
What is your favourite/least favourite part of your job?
My favourite part of the job, despite the cliché is seeing my clients happy with the results I have achieved for them. I am also a product junkie ( I could easily spend an hour rooming around a chemist looking at what is new) so I absolutely love working with my clients on their new beauty/health launches before sending them to the Editors’ desks. I also love the friendships I have built up with my clients and the media – it makes “work” that much more enjoyable.
The least favourite has to be the admin, the accounting, the paperwork – but it has to be done. I simply make sure I do it on a day when I can work fast and efficient so it is done and dusted for another month!
What is a typical working day for you?
A typical day is a 6.30am start when I check emails and any social media activity that may have occurred overnight that I need to respond to immediately. Then we get our little man ready and out the door for crèche and I am in the office before 8am to start the day. I have a very large list of clients from the beauty, health and lifestyle sector so that means new product launches, writing press releases, creating strategy, briefing Editors, hosting events and everything in between takes up my day. I sit down for dinner with my family and once the bath, the books and my little guy is tucked up in bed, it is back to work for an hour or two, check in with all social media, a quick look at something on TV and off to bed to start it all again. A few Pilates classes a week helps to keep me grounded as well!
Are there any other women in business that you look up to?
So many to name here and I don’t want to leave anyone out. I always love to read about business women juggling career and family and look to them for inspiration as I continue to grow AM Foran PR.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Lots of sound advice but something so simple from childhood always sticks out in my mind when I’m asked this question – “Shoulders back and head up” – given to me by my mother heading off to school, by all my dance teachers heading off into competitions and which still holds true in business today.
Confidence is key in selling yourself and your body language is the first sign of it when you walk in the door.
What advice would you give to other Irish women who wish to get into business for themselves?
Take the time to do up a business plan and really look at your budget. I didn’t start my business with a website on Day 1 as my immediate priorities were stationary, business cards, a printer, office equipment and so on. It is all about planning in the first year and having realistic expectations.
That and network, network, network – there are so many more opportunities to do this online and in person now than there was five years ago so start making those contacts – you never know who might be your first sale, your future website designer, your financial advisor – so if you don’t put yourself out there you are moving in the wrong direction.
What are your plans and ambitions for the future?
My plans are to move into a larger office space in the next few months with additional staff support in the immediate future. We continue to meet with new beauty and health brands so expansion in this area will continue to be a priority. Public speaking is also on the agenda around the themes of advice giving to other business women starting off and to PR students in general. My immediate ambition is a holiday in the sun – now I just need to get booking one!
For more on AM Foran PR, see:
- Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Twitter - @AMForanPR
- Facebook - @AMForanPR
- Instagram - @AMForanPR1