It was like working on an assembly line for Rachel Ayotte and Meredith Vachon when they started out at large public relations firms.
Unhappy, they started their own firm, Bread & Butter PR, in the Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles; its clients are in the hospitality and food industries. That was six years ago. Today, the firm has six offices, two that recently opened in Texas. Its seventh office is scheduled to open in Las Vegas early next year.
It’s fairly unusual for a small PR firm to open satellite offices across the country instead of expanding at headquarters. But the co-founders said they prefer to have reps in the same city where they have clients, and those professionals understand the local market better than someone who flies in from Los Angeles.
Besides Los Angeles, the offices are in Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas; San Francisco; and New York.
More offices bring higher overhead costs, of course, but there are fewer travel expenses. And Ayotte said the company opens the offices to match the business they do.
“We grow to accommodate our clients versus bringing on clients to grow,” she said.
For example, clients such as L.A. celebrity chef Susan Feniger, and Fabio Viviani, who appeared on reality TV show “Top Chef” on Bravo TV, were often working with New York media. So it made sense to open an office there rather than fly back and forth each month, said Ayotte.
Plans for the Las Vegas office also grew out of a need to accommodate current clients.
“We’ve had clients like Elizabeth Blau’s Honey Salt and California Pizza Kitchen who enjoyed working with us, but expressed the need to hire a local Las Vegas firm,” she said.
Jerry Swerling, professor of professional practice and director of public relations studies at USC, said opening satellite offices instead of building one large firm is an interesting model but it also raises some questions.
“A big question mark will be who exactly is going to be staffing these offices and their level of expertise,” Swerling said. “Just as clients want easy access they want outstanding people, and the who is more important than the where.”
Ayotte acknowledged that the biggest challenge for the firm is staffing the regional offices. She has been focusing on hiring local talent with knowledge of public relations as well as emerging restaurants and chefs.
Ayotte and Vachon met in 2004 while working for Wagstaff Worldwide, a hospitality public relations firm in Los Angeles.
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