UT Professor Tamara Bell’s Advice for Austin’s Future Entrepreneurs
How a professor-turned-solopreneur got started on her venture
Tamara Bell is passionate about media, her students and entrepreneurship. She holds a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in journalism. Besides being a lecturer in both the Journalism School and the Stan Richards School of Advertising & Public Relations at The University of Texas at Austin, Bell also runs her own small business called Two Bells Media, a publishing and public relations company named for her and her son Jackson. She has helped many clients with their PR plan and also wrote “The Quote Keeper,” a quote-keeping journal. The spirit of entrepreneurship is something that Bell is constantly passing on to her students, which is why I sat down to chat with her about how she got started on her venture and what advice she has for the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Tell me about your business – how and why did you start it?
I started Two Bells Media in 2014 because, at the time, I was doing some freelance PR consulting and writing. I wanted to create a business because I wanted it to be more structured as opposed to just freelancing. I was also seriously thinking about writing books, so I figured that the only way for me to get published was to be self-published. During that time, I was trying to figure out exactly what I wanted this business to look like and whether or not being in business is something that I wanted to do. I am now ready to dive into the deep end and will be turning my sole proprietorship into an LLC this summer as I have some stuff in the works.
What excites you about media?
I love everything about it. With great power comes great responsibility. I think that in PR we do have a way of “creating that power” for ourselves, a company or a brand. We have that ability to do this and we just need to make sure that we use it responsibly. I am very fortunate to know a lot of people in the industry who do exactly that – take this responsibility very seriously and use it in a way that is not manipulative. It’s our job to make sure that people understand what the truth is, as unbiased as possible, rather than add to the clutter. It’s our responsibility, but also our joy.
What concrete steps did you take in order to take your business plan and make it a reality?
I didn’t really have a business plan. I am not saying it’s a bad thing to have one, but it’s all based on projection and how well you are going to do in the future. It gives you some indication of where you think you’re going, and I totally believe you need a roadmap, but
at the same time it needs to be flexible. We are not so tied to our projections that the minute something happens our business plan is no longer good. Business plans are good to have, but don’t hold on to them so tightly because life happens.
What advice do you have for someone about to start their own business?
Embrace the fear. Go ahead and just embrace it. Tell yourself “I have accepted that there is fear in this, but I am not going to let it take control over me. I’m running with it.”
How did you start teaching at UT? What drew you to academia?
I always kind of knew I wanted to teach. Back in 2007, I was working at the Capitol, and in between sessions I decided to pursue my masters degree and Ph.D. at UT. Once I had a child, I could no longer work at the Capitol because the hours were crazy. I started looking for jobs and saw a listing in the department of public relations and advertising at UT. I have been there on and off ever since. I have learned more from my students than what I have taught them. I am fortunate to be at a school where everyone is at the top of their game.
What are you working on at the moment?
PR Done Write, a website where I teach solopreneurs or small business owners how to DIY their PR plan. It will be ready in July. I’ll have a blog where I’ll be offering tips and tricks for PR writing. Then I’ll offer PR courses in the fall along with workbooks for solopreneurs to learn how to get buzz for their businesses through media relations and other PR writing topics.
For more information on Tamara Bell or PR Done Write, you can visit tamaraannebell.com.