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Hailing from our neighbor to the North, Anita Gatto started her career as a journalist at one of Canada’s largest media companies. With a lifelong love of storytelling, one of her first writing assignments was to interview designers, Chip and Pepper, which led her to a job offer and career detour into the world of PR. Now, settled in sunny LA with her film director hubby and daughter Mia; Anita has birthed yet another baby, a full service marketing agency aptly named, Self Employed. Read on to learn more about Anita’s latest venture and what she’s working on.

We love your story on how you launched your career. Tell us more about your early days and what lessons you learned along the way.

Writing for a daily newspaper taught me how to hustle. It didn’t matter how much I had to do that day, the deadline was the deadline. Working with tough editors also taught me how to dig into a story and find the best narrative and messaging. Working for Chip & Pepper also taught me the art of staying calm amid chaos. That is still the most important skill I am learning to master in work and life.

Did you have someone who really influenced and helped to develop you in the early days? A mentor? What was that like?

In my professional career, I was fortunate to be mentored by people such as Robert Stock, founder of Robert Graham, who gave me the opportunity to move to New York City at the age of 27 and head up his global marketing division. However, my actual first job was waitressing at my dad’s Italian restaurant. Witnessing my father’s work ethic and creative tactics to please customers is what influenced me the most in my career. Not being allowed to quit the restaurant in my formative teenage years, also played a huge role in shaping my determination. To this day, when I have a bad day, I just make sauce.

How did your background help to prepare for your new journey as an entrepreneur?

Being a waitress, a journalist and the youngest executive on a global brand’s Board of Directors has provided me the ultimate combination of street and boardroom etiquette that I believe is important when ideating.

You’ve launched Self Employed, a results-driven experiential marketing agency with your business partner, Sarah Ivory. What are you most excited about in launching this business? What scares you?

I’m most excited about having Sarah as a business partner because she gets me and has had a freakishly similar path to me. I am also excited about the timing we have chosen to launch Self Employed. I have been a CMO and have launched my own PR agency, this simply feels like the best time to be a marketer. Brands are embracing manifesto marketing, they want to mean something more than just being featured in an article. Executives are embracing strategic partners rather than multiple agencies competing to boost their own swim lanes. I am scared of growing too fast, but I guess that’s a good problem.

Marketing encompasses so many areas. Can you tell us some of they key things you do for brands?

Our formula is simple, strategy and execution. What sets us apart is we really focus on the client and the consumer. Meaning, we provide top line strategy, creative services that enhance what the executive’s day to day demands are and help sell through the ideas we have. Then, part two is we execute what the consumer will experience. Everything we do has PR and social legs but it is all driven from bottom line goals.

You were the founder of your own PR agency that you sold in 2015 – congrats! What was that experience like? Was it hard to walk away from something you built from the ground up?

It was a really fast turn around and a deal that taught me very important lessons. In a matter of 3 years of launching New City PR, I gained enough momentum to be attractive to a larger marketing company in Los Angeles. I knew PR was transforming and I craved my past marketing days. While I left the organization completely, I still get sentimental when I find an old business card… especially the one I gave my husband the night I met him. It was an exciting time in my life for sure.

What 3 things should a startup do to market their company successfully?

1. First of all, know why you are doing what you are doing. I love the Simon Sinek exercise, The Golden Circle, that helps to determine the “why” of your business. Once you pinpoint that, you have a clear vision of how to articulate and promote what you do.

2. Never stop asking for advice from more successful business leaders and mentors. Their support and word of mouth is highly valuable. We have some pretty amazing business advisors today, and their feedback makes us stronger every time we meet with them.

3. I feel like most people say “get out there”, and while that was true for a certain stage of my career, I’m a mom now and have new demands at night, like needing to hit my pillow at 9pm. Take what used to be “dinner networking” or “bar networking” and turn it into a breakfast meeting or a SoulCycle meet-up. It can actually be a more effective way to bond with someone you are trying to do business with.

What advice do you give to other mamss wanting to start their own business?

You will definitely get a new form of clarity as a mother launching a business. It’s all about time management. You know in your gut if the opportunity in front of you is worth taking you away from your kids. There needs to be passion there and you need to master your day. If you are working on a million emails after the kids go to sleep you are only going to burn out. You need to find ways to set up an energy-filled working day that allows you to do you after a certain hour.

When you aren’t launching your own agency, you are working on your first screenplay. Tell us more about that!

I‘ve become sooo LA. Actually, I have wanted to write my own screenplay since I was in my early 20’s. I have a ton of great people around me guiding me with structure. It helps that I am married to a writer and Director. The screenplay is about growing up in an Italian restaurant. If it turns out to be nothing, it has served as an amazing therapeutic exercise. I encourage everyone to write out their feelings as often as possible.

3 pearls of wisdom

1.

Accept that you can't master everything everyday, but you can master one thing each day.

2.

Be honest with your time. The power of "no" can go a long way when you have so much to do on a daily basis.

3.

Planks. During pregnancy and every day. Planks have helped me get my core back in shape and it's great meditation time.

xx Anita Gatto
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