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“The business formula calls for a clear purpose, team members driven to fulfill the brand promise, and a genuine, honest-to-goodness love of people.”

This interview was made possible by our friends at Guidant Financial:
Guidant Financial
The leader in alternative startup, franchise and small business financing.

Tanya Sammis is the CEO and heart and soul of Sammis & Ochoa. For more than six years she has dedicated her career to the promotion of her clients and their endeavors.

Mario Ochoa is the Chief Strategic Officer and resident optimist for the firm. He specializes in client management, creative development, strategic planning, copywriting, and looking at the glass half-full.

Sammis & Ochoa is a San Antonio-based public relations agency, specializing in media relations, event management and strategic planning. Founded by Tanya Sammis and Mario Ochoa, the company maintains more than a decade of combined public relations experience and manages clients on a local, regional and national level.

MO: How did you get your start in the PR industry?

Mario: I entered into the industry on accident. My career path has seen me dabble as a freelance journalist, a reporter for a construction industry website, a copywriter for an advertising firm, an editorial manager for a magazine, and finally, as a PR professional. It was not a straight path to my position today, but it was an invaluable journey. I was hired as a public relations manager for a small firm in San Antonio and began the process of learning the craft. Google was my best friend at the time; there was nary a PR term that I did not Google for clarity. It was a true trial-by-fire experience. And I am grateful it was. I believe it crafted me into a better employee and employer.

Tanya: I selected public relations as my major upon graduating high school. I went to the University of Texas not really knowing what PR was or what to expect – I just knew it was the “behind the scenes” work. I ended up truly enjoying the material, earned my degree and fell in love with PR in the world of sports. So, I went back to UT, earned my master’s in sport management and interned with both the Houston Astros and Texans public relations departments. I had the most amazing mentors. It was like a dream come true, but I soon found out that making it in the profession with a team was not the easiest feat. My family was incredibly supportive as I searched for a job in sports PR. I ended up moving back to San Antonio and landing a job with a PR agency, which was much different, but allowed me to experience PR in a variety of industries.

MO: How did the two of you meet and what inspired you to start a business together?

Tanya & Mario: We met while working at for previous employers – and ended up working at the same agency. We shared a small 10×10 office for our first few weeks, and it forced us to converse and learn about one another. For two years, we toiled for this company and determined that setting out on our own was going to be the best for us. So we did. And in January 2010, we made a leap of faith, trusted in God and began our business with $125 in our bank account and two smiles on our faces.

MO: How are you helping facilitate the growth of entrepreneurs throughout Texas and beyond by creating an environment of education and empowerment?

Tanya & Mario: Great question. I think entrepreneurship starts in the office. We have committed ourselves to identifying potential interns and team members that embody the entrepreneurial spirit – creative, industrious and determined. We like to say that we “hire to fire.” This doesn’t mean that we are keen on letting people go; rather, we want people to leave us better than they came in. Turnover in business is inevitable; why not make the transition out a great one? Leave us and start the next great enterprise. Leave us and use your minted tools to rock the pants off your next employer. This is progressive. And if our team members choose to stay with us an inestimable amount of time, we want them to have this same entrepreneurial spirit and lead our company like rock stars.

Outside the office, we are strongly connected to the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a global organization of entrepreneurs in more than 70 countries. We participate in as many learning events as we can to stimulate our business intellect and to peer share. We are candid about our business and more than happy to share our flaws with other entrepreneurs. This candor promotes sharing, which promotes unity, which most importantly, promotes action. It is amazing what can happen when we stop hoarding information and start sharing. Entrepreneurs’ Organization advocates this and so do we.

MO: At the Global Leadership Conference, your firm was awarded the “Best PR/Media Campaign.” Can you talk about your award winning campaign and what factors made it stand out from the competition?

Tanya & Mario: Being awarded Best PR/Media campaign at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization’s Global Leadership Conference in May 2012 was empowering.

Our firm is not littered with chest-beaters and people with a look-at-me attitude. We kick butt every day, go home, rest up, come back and do it again. This behavior is in our DNA.

Because of this, we never lobby for awards or self-induced recognition. To have a client recognize us was both surprising and inspiring. We try and follow the blueprint laid out by great companies – Rackspace, Google, Apple, Starbuck’s, etc.

With EO, much as with our other clients, we told their stories. We shared what they were doing to make the better place. We ensured that they were caught empowering others and improving our city, region and beyond. With each of our campaigns, we call for creativity and greatness. We utilized a variety of media outlets and the ever-changing world of social media that conveyed a variety of stories to the public about the individual entrepreneurs in the organization and EO as a whole.

The business formula calls for a clear purpose, team members driven to fulfill the brand promise, and a genuine, honest-to-goodness love of people. If your company can live by this formula, all of the trophies in the world would be trumped by the loyalty and appreciation of your customer.

MO: Mario, I have enjoyed reading your blog and was wondering if you could share with our readers some of your action steps for learning how to sell yourself eloquently?

Mario: Thank you. If you readers are interested in really connecting with their readers, I can offer this:

Be concise: People live busy lives, so get to the point. Exposition is only welcome in paperback novels. In the digital world, people want pictures, top 10 lists, and easy-to-digest content. You don’t have to be Twitter-efficient with your words, just be clear and quick enough for readers to get in and out in less than five minutes.

Be controversial: Entrepreneurs by nature go against the status quo. If you are passionate that your insight can change your industry or world in some small way, say it. Few will scorn you for it. Many will thank you. Others will simply ponder your idea. Either way, you provoked thought, and that is a beautiful thing.

Be spontaneous: Entrepreneurs are inspired all of the time. Channel this energy into your content. Don’t feel like writing a 150-word blog on IT and ROI? Go for a bike ride and feel the breeze. Don’t feel like updating your website with new bios and service information? Tune into your favorite musical artist and let the words come. These tools may sound abstract, but movement and music are proven to increase the brain’s serotonin levels, which have a direct effect on your creativity and energy levels. Simply put: It is your natural happy pill. Use it.

MO: What’s the biggest professional risk you’ve ever taken and how did it turn out?

Tanya & Mario: Without a doubt, the biggest professional risk was exiting from our former employer and starting our company. After initial expenses, we were left with $125 to open our first bank account. We had no clients, and consequently, no revenue stream. But through it all, we never wavered or got scared. We kept the faith – faith in God, each other, our incredible families and support system – and we keep that same faith today. We live and work with a set of core values that resounds through and in each of our team members, and faith is the greatest of these.

We are proud to say that nearly three years later, we have grown our staff to 7 people, obtained nearly 20 active accounts, and that $125, well, that has grown exponentially. It has been an exciting and humbling experience.

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