If you’re old enough to remember “In Living Color,” you’ll recognize Michele Karlsberg from the sketch about the hard-working Jamaicans. Well, she wasn’t in the sketch, but she certainly embodied its punchline as an Italian ice vendor, T-shirt peddler, salami slicer, camp counselor and stock trader, to name only a few of the things she did before starting her own marketing and management firm with clients like lesbian comedian Kate Clinton.
Her choice of career isn’t surprising as her new career choice entails a wide array of activities that draw on her rich history.
What do you do and why?
I bring a unique combination of offerings to effectively carry out publicity and marketing campaigns for writers, organizations, businesses and entertainers. This year, I celebrate 25 years of publicity services. Marketing and management uses multiple resources in communications and marketing to tackle client challenges, whether at the local, regional, national or international level.
Bottom line is: I love what I do. If I could share my knowledge with others to help them move onward and upward then I am one happy gal. I am dedicated to building community and what better way than promoting books, organizations, businesses and the spoken word. I will always help bring forth new and established voices. I like publicizing the voices that need to be heard.
What did you do before you started your company?
Many things. I was a HSBC foreign exchange clerk, held an administrative job in advertising, worked at a health insurance company, babysitting, travel agent, patient liaison at a hospital, tour escort, camp counselor, pizza maker, T-shirt vendor for the Philharmonic Orchestra, traded penny stocks, sliced salami, production coordinator for 125 adult sophisticate magazines, worked at a toy store, sold Italian ice and was a patient liaison at a local hospital.
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
I was sitting in SFO airport in 1989 and an attendee of the annual Outwrite Writers Conference approached me and asked if I freelanced and if was I available for hire. My business is the result of that question.
What’s the single most important piece of advice you received when first starting your company? What would you tell a young entrepreneur in turn?
Work hard. Never wait for things to happen, make them happen for yourself and never give up. I would tell anyone, especially the young to take chances. Yes, at times, it is not only about what you know but also who you know. Make connections, be that go-getter. Also, keep an open mind about teamwork.
What aspect of business ownership came as the biggest surprise to you?
How much attention is truly paid toward your own business. It is a 24-hour attention getter. You might not be at the desk, in a meeting or making phone calls, but the bottom line is it’s all day long. Your business is your subconscious.
What do you find most rewarding about owning your own business?
The travel and constant discovery.
Where do you see yourself and your company in five years?
When I first started my business, I did envision my name on a building in Manhattan, but now I will be very happy if my business in five years is as rewarding as it is today. If I can maintain the work, relationships and successful campaigns then I will be doing fine in five years.
What resources would you recommend to someone who is contemplating starting her own business?
Mentors. The importance of mentoring relationships becomes evident as you recognize the value of networking and maintaining relationships throughout your professional career. The value of a good mentor is immeasurable. If not for those who gave me an education in communications, I would not be where I am today. I thank them every chance I get.
What would you say is the single most important key to sustaining a business long term?
What obstacles did you face in establishing your company and how did you overcome them?
I was the only obstacle. I would tell myself I can’t do that. To get through any obstacle, I just told myself move aside and get out of your own way.