LaToya Cunningham quits government job to pursue a career in PR
LaToya Cunningham formerly worked in the foreign military sales department of the Department of Defense where she was a logistics management specialist. Although the job allowed her the financial support to maintain her lifestyle, Cunningham felt bound and decided after 13 years to pursue an entirely different track as a PR professional. Now the proud CEO of Posh PR & Events LLC, she has garnered accolades and awards for her work, including being named as one of the Michigan Chronicle’s 40 under 40, Real Times Media’s Who’s Who in Detroit, and receiving the NBPRS-DET chapter Legacy Award.
Rolling out was able to get her views on working a 9-to-5 and transitioning into an entrepreneurial lifestyle full time.
When did you start working for the government?
I started straight out of college. With the help of my mother, my best friend and I had an interview and were hired on the same day back in May 2004.
What gave you the extra push you needed to quit?
I was trying to balance two full-time jobs. My government job was definitely not a desk job where I could hide behind the computer and not work. I was briefing generals and foreign dignitaries and answering to headquarters in Redstone. My breaking point was a verbal altercation with a co-worker all while I was planning two client events and getting calls and emails from them. I felt like I was going to have a mental breakdown. I got up from my desk, went into the bathroom and broke down. I texted my best friend and she told me to “suck it up.” I proceeded to tell her, “I can’t do this anymore, I’m done.” No truer words were ever spoken.
What made you go into the public relations profession? Who was your first PR client and what was the job?
I was actually attending a newly founded church in metro Detroit and they were looking to get their name out to the community. I began promoting the church, events and conferences and I got a warm and fuzzy! Not even knowing what I was doing had an actual name, but it just felt right. From there, I solidified my first client, an introductory gospel artist debuting their Christian album, I Am Favor’s Voice in 2007; it just felt right. I may not have known all there was to know about PR, but I read books, locked down mentors who led and fed me and joined organizations like the NBPRS-DET to gain one-on-one experience in the industry which I am now the president of.
What clients have you worked for in the past?
I have been blessed to work with The Detroit Recovery Project, Detroit East Integrated Health Services, The Wolverine Bar Association’s Barristers’ Ball and Matrix Human Services.
Was it hard balancing a 9-to-5 and having your own business? Why or why not?
Maintaining two full-time jobs is not easy and someone/something will not get the best of you and your best effort; it is impossible. When I started missing things with clients, which was my passion, I knew I had to take that leap. I want to be great and I was not able to give my all in being creative towards my clients or even creating meaningful relationships with the media, which is the backbone of this industry. It can be done, don’t get me wrong, I did it for 13 years, but there were some hospital stays for exhaustion, dehydration, missing friends’ events, sacrificing time away from loved ones and even personal care.
What is the hardest thing about transitioning from a 9-to-5 to being a full-time entrepreneur?
You think you are ready, but people don’t tell you the initial shock of it all. Literally, the first week or two it felt like I was just on a vacation. It did not seem real. Answering to someone else for over a decade then abruptly ending that felt like a bad break-up; depression felt near. I truly believe when you make a giant faith walk like that, the enemy is truly on our back; but God carried me.
What is your schedule like now? Do you have more free time?
I drafted a “schedule” the day I resigned of what I wanted my days to look like. It begins with waking up at 6 a.m., reading and journaling while sipping my warm apple cider vinegar, working out then eating breakfast while checking emails, social media and news headlines. I have carved out time for client work, meetings, conference calls, pitching and crafting social media content for clients. My days have yet to be the same; it’s an adjustment. I don;t have more free time. I took a small vacation before I resigned, but I don’t foresee any vacations anytime soon and I try to balance time with friends and loved ones to the best of my ability.
What clients do you service now?
I am currently the public relations director of the NFL Alumni Detroit, an organization made up of former players in the NFL including Ron Rice, Lomas Brown, Herman Moore and Barry Sanders. Needless to say, [it’s] my dream job where we raise funds for the NFLA Athlete Scholarship Fund that aids in sending graduating seniors to college with signature events like the annual Draft Party and Charitable Golf Classic. I also am the PR Director for Detroit Recovery Project — a nonprofit organization whose goal is to aid members in the community to overcome addictions, secure employment, and housing the grant-funded housing development project. I have an office in the building where I am able to meet with and service my clients.
Are you worried about your income decreasing?
I wouldn’t be honest if I said no. With the government, there was no question my check would hit my account bi-weekly on Thursday morning, sometimes Wednesday nights. Now, I eat what I kill! My mentor and colleague Jamaine Dickens told me this and Pastor Steven Furtick said, “Even in the harvest, you cannot sit with your feet up.” Every contract I sign, every client I secure pays my bills and allows me to eat and live. I have no choice [but] to work hard, maximize my day and be better than I was the day before.
You can follow LaToya Cunningham on Facebook at Toya Cunningham or Instagram @PoshPREvents.
Photos credit: LaToya Cunningham