Bloom is a proud woman-owned, woman-led agency focused on working with like-minded employees and clients who are on a mission to make the world a better place. We’re celebrating all of the incredible women who have broken barriers this Women’s History Month, so, we’d like to introduce you to a changemaker that continues to innovate in the communications industry — our Founder & CEO, Brianna McKinney.
Bloom Communications: Tell us about your journey to starting Bloom Communications.
Brianna McKinney: Throughout my career, I intentionally worked at smaller companies to learn what it would take to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to understand the behind-the-scenes and back-office support, in addition to my experience as a communicator and marketer.
Before Bloom, I was a partner/co-owner in a PR firm and training institute. I was young and had a business partner, who was my polar opposite in a lot of ways, which taught me a lot about running a business. I knew early on that I wanted to run my own agency but that I had a lot to learn. This partnership allowed me to have that entrepreneurial experience without going at it alone.
I went back and forth deciding when the right time to start my own business was, but I learned that there would never be a “right time”. So, I took a risk and started Bloom Communications in January of 2012, and am so glad I did.
BC: Bloom isn’t like a lot of other communications agencies. Talk about Bloom’s mission and your mission-driven philosophy.
BM: There are different definitions of mission-driven, but to me, it’s about a person or company looking to make a difference – to pursue a larger purpose that extends beyond profits. Whatever you’re doing, you are leaving a mark — changing the way something has been done to better your community or the world. Although a big part of our agency mission is to support nonprofit organizations, mission-driven organizations include any business or organization doing meaningful work with passionate people dedicated to making a positive change in their communities. It’s a model that is fairly unique to stereotypical agency life, but is one that I think more agencies could lean into to inspire and retain their employees and clients.
BC: You have had some pretty steady growth over the years. What has changed and is Bloom now what you initially expected or envisioned?
BM: It’s not what I expected, at all. When I first started, I just wanted to freelance and thought that’s what I would do. I loved working with nonprofits and healthcare organizations and figured I’d pick the work that inspired me. And, for the first three years, that’s what I did. Then, one day, I met up with a good friend and her husband. We were all talking shop and I was asked when I was planning to grow Bloom. I initially said I wasn’t planning on it, but my friends encouraged me to consider all of the jobs I could create and within a nontraditional agency model — providing career opportunities for good people to do meaningful work exclusively supporting values-aligned organizations, which is hard to find at most agencies. That was my AHA! moment and my driver for growth. My ‘why’ makes it easy to place the focus on our people first. They motivate me every day.
BC: As women are celebrated for their impact throughout history this March, tell us about your experience being a successful, female business owner.
BM: It was hard at first. I think because I was both a woman and a young one at that. I was 30 years old when I started Bloom, and at the time I looked even younger. I had many experiences where I had to work harder to prove myself. I learned quickly that as a woman, building my business meant more work. More networking, more inserting myself into male-driven business groups or networks. I had to adjust and adapt to things like golf outings and whiskey and cigar networking events because I wanted to show up at the table, and that’s what all the men were doing. My story is sadly not much different than many women in business, but, rather than focus on the past, I’d prefer to look forward, and see the opportunities before me to help women rise into leadership positions.
As I’ve grown Bloom, I’ve seen our society recognize the value women bring more and more. Men are fantastic at many aspects of business, as are women. Women provide a critical complement to men in the workplace – often bringing enhanced sensitivity, a keen focus on work/life balance, an aptitude for problem-solving, emotional intelligence, empathy, and more. These skills and attributes provide a lot of added benefits not only to employees, but to bottomline company/brand growth as well. I have also seen women evolve in the workforce. Early in my career, I saw a lot of women stepping on each other to get to the top. And, it still happens, but I am continually working to do my small part to change that. I focus, both inside and outside of Bloom, on how we, women leaders, can turn around and help others climb along with us. Yes, we generally need a competitive edge, but let’s stop being competitive with each other in spaces and circumstances in which we could be helping the next woman in line. Can you imagine what we could accomplish by helping each other along the way?
BC: Who has inspired you throughout your career?
BM: I am fortunate to have surrounded myself with a lot of unofficial mentors throughout my career because of the nature of the clients we choose to work with. I learn so much from our clients because of our shared values. But, I also learn a lot from my team. I think people place a lot of importance on having an official mentor or someone that inspires them, but I look up to a lot of people in different ways. I think it’s important as a business leader to be humble enough to recognize you can learn from both the people above you and below you. Everyone has something to teach you if you have the ear to listen.
BC: 2020 caused a lot of stress on business owners and employees. But Bloom weathered the storm and has continued to grow. How do you hope to inspire your team this coming year, as we slowly step out of the pandemic?
BM: We were very fortunate as an agency to have been incredibly busy in 2020 – including communicating our existing and urgently onboarded clients’ plethora of pandemic-related shifts and pivots to both internal and external audiences. But that caused a tremendous amount of stress. On top of being busy in our work lives, we were emotionally drained from the pandemic, from home-schooling, from lack of socialization. I’m forever the optimist, and the key to being an optimist is that I acknowledge reality while believing the future is positive. The reality is it’s difficult to authentically inspire or feel inspired when you’re tired. And, let’s face it – we’re all tired. So, for this next year, it’s all about getting back in alignment, individually, so we can be in a place where we have the space to find renewed inspiration. So, it’s turning to the simple things as sources of inspiration…how do we find safe yet meaningful ways to get together and create connections? Connections are what inspire, so if I can support my team to reconnect with each other and others in their lives on a continual basis as our country opens back up, the inspiration and creativity will reignite and sustain for an even brighter future.
BC: You’ve seen positive growth over the last year, what do you hope to see in the next five or ten years for Bloom?
BM: As we grow, I want to remain focused on staying financially healthy, always aligning our values with our work, being customer service focused, and controlling growth so it benefits and protects our team, clients, and communities. Also, to continue to break the stereotypical agency model with a healthy, inspiring, and collaborative culture.
BC: What words of wisdom would you give a woman interested in starting a business?
BM: Make sure you meet with other business owners of all shapes and sizes to align your expectations with reality so you’re prepared to dive in with your eyes wide open. If after that effort you still decide you’re passionate about the business-ownership path, that effort will make the journey more enjoyable and rewarding.