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“Because I have such a diverse background, I’ve always been able to create positions based on my passions.”

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Champion PR + Consulting is a woman-owned PR + Consulting Firm, specializing in assisting environmental non-profits and green/sustainable companies (or those who wish to be) succeed, as well as locally owned, unique businesses that need help creating buzz. Basically, we like to make sure that people with passion + purpose receive the attention they deserve!

Stacey Champion’s diverse background includes working as an indoor air/environmental quality expert for the past 10+ years and doing the “green” thing for most of her life, so helping green & sustainable companies “walk their talk” without just using buzz words is a core part of the business. Though many PR/Marketing firms have “green” sects these days, there has been a crack-down by the FTC on greenwashing, so protecting liability with factual claims in marketing materials is crucial. Ms. Champion also serves a niche in helping unique local businesses create buzz, with clients such as: FilmBar (an indie lounge/theater) 180 Degrees Automotive (a woman-owned auto repair shop) and Scandalesque (a burlesque troupe).

Stacey Champion, Champion PR + Consulting - Owner/Consultant

MO: How have you been able to establish and develop a successful niche market firm with initial investment of only $500?

Stacey: Because I’ve been entrepreneurial the majority of my life, I have always worked hard at developing, building and maintaining relationships with a variety of people everywhere I go. The old adage “it’s all about who you know” is the cornerstone of the success of any business in my opinion, but I like to take it a step further by saying “it’s all about how you treat the people you know.” I like to develop strong, symbiotic relationships within every aspect of my life. My friends become my clients – my clients become my friends. With a PR + Consulting firm and a home/coffee shop office, there wasn’t much involved with start-up costs outside of new business cards, a new phone, and some software. After that, it was just about reaching out to my contacts. I still haven’t had time to even finish my own website!

MO: Shortly after you launched Champion PR + Consulting, you had a strange bizarre online reputation management issue. Can you tell our readers what it was and how you dealt with it?

Stacey: Ugh. What a surreal nightmare! Just a couple of months after starting my new company, I woke up and checked my email. The first email I opened said I should be put in a box and die in prison! At first I thought it was a joke. Then I started opening more. I immediately Googled my name, and much to my horror, saw a recent Fox news clip out of Minneapolis (my hometown) with my name in it. I watched the clip, which involved a reporter asking a woman questions through a door. She refused to open the door, so her face was never visible. What had this faceless woman done? She had taken a box to the post office to mail it to her son in some southern state. The box contained a puppy. Not a toy puppy. A LIVE puppy! It just so happened that this woman lived in my hometown, had the exact same spelling of my name, and was the same age as me. I immediately freaked out because I thought my identity had been stolen, so I called the Minneapolis police department. The woman I spoke with verified the “bad” Stacey Champion had a different date of birth, so it was an awful coincidence. She gave me the reporter’s contact info so I could reach him, which I did to have them update the story to tell their viewers to stop harassing me – which they ran, but the damage had already been done. The story went VIRAL within a matter of hours, and because of my speaking engagements, articles and community involvement, if you Googled “our” name, I was the one who popped up on the first 10 pages. There are apparently 7 other people floating around out there with my name too! So I, Stacey Champion, was INUNDATED with hate mail, nasty messages on my blogs, and mean Facebook messages. I changed my Facebook name to Stacey “NoPuppyMailing” Champion because people were posting my links all over the place. I called one of my local media contacts and pitched them on an online reputation management story, which they ended up doing. I then had to take the link to that video and post it everywhere I could. I ended up getting a couple of speaking gigs from it afterwards, and still tell any potential new clients that if they Google me, to just know I never tried to mail a puppy. The real kicker was that at the time, I was on the downtown dog park committee and had just adopted a puppy from the Humane Society. My friends still tease me about it. Lemons to lemonade though.

MO: You’ve been living a green lifestyle before it became trendy to do so. Where does your passion for environmentalism and sustainability come from? Have you had any mentors or inspirational influences along the way?

Stacey: I grew up with a hippie mom and remember being at Earth Day events from the time I could walk. My family also went camping in northern Minnesota every summer at the Gunflint Trail, so I‘ve always had a strong love for nature, even though I’m a city girl at heart. My adult life took me to Chicago, Los Angeles and Maui prior to ending up in Arizona, and living “green” has always just been such an integral part of my being that I never gave it much thought. I supported environmental non-profits and ate organic whenever possible, and grew up feeling like everyone has a moral and ethical obligation to help protect our planet.

In 2002, we bought what we would later discover was a sick house, after both my son and I got very ill. It turned out we had a fairly extensive hidden mold problem, and at the time, insurance companies hadn’t yet excluded mold from their coverage. Our insurance adjustor brought in a carpet cleaning company that had taken a 1 day class and didn’t know what they were doing. They ended up contaminating everything we owned and we were out of our house for 8 months. That was the beginning of my career in the indoor air/environmental quality industry. As I got more involved in that industry, I saw a major disconnect of not taking the opportunity to educate people and businesses on healthier lifestyle/product choices also, so worked to bridge that gap. It’s interesting how our paths can twist and turn… Then the green movement “tipped” and now I’m considered old-school!

I’ve been fortunate to have incredible mentors along the way – far too many to list here. I am inspired by those who have fought long and hard for both environmental and social justice issues because the two really go hand in hand, like Mahatma Gandhi, Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King Jr. and John Muir. I admire David Suzuki, Jayni Chase, Al Gore, Lois Gibbs and Sylvia Earle. I draw daily inspiration from my local sustainability community and my green comrades Eric Corey Freed, John Stein, Josiah Cain and Heather Gadonniex – all people who are making a difference.

MO: How have your experience and background helped you found a business from scratch? If you had to start again is there anything that you would do differently?

Stacey: Because I have such a diverse background, I’ve always been able to create positions based on my passions. I’m a pretty tenacious broad, so once I set my mind to doing something, there’s not much that could stop me. I don’t think I could honestly say I would do anything differently, because the heartaches and failures along the way are there to teach us lessons and make us stronger. I guess if anything, it would always be nice to start out with a giant bucket of money to help get you through the first year of business, but that’s not always possible! The other thing I would add is the importance of hiring people to do the things you suck at or just can’t stand. I wish I had learned that lesson earlier on. People who start their own businesses are typically Type A personalities, and we’re often too stubborn to farm things out because we think we can do everything. In business, it’s very important to recognize both your weaknesses and strengths early on so you can spend your time being as productive as possible. Do the math on your time, and if there’s someone who can get it done easier than you, let them. You’ll make more money at the end of the day.

MO: Are there any green trends that you’re excited by?

Stacey: I’m a huge building science dork, so the first thing that came to mind was the advancements in manufactured/pre-fab housing. Both the science and engineering components are there and it leaves less room for construction defects. There has been a huge advance with these homes also being extremely energy efficient and utilizing environmentally-friendly building materials. I’m a big fan of green architect Michelle Kaufmann, and like what companies like ideabox are doing with new mini-developments. People have also gotten very serious about adaptive reuse since the economy crashed, which I view as a very positive thing. I’m very excited to see more cities getting serious about their recycling and composting initiatives, and am in love with the pop-up trend and recycled shipping container markets.

MO: Can you give our readers any easy tips to start living a more environmentally friendly lifestyle? Or running their business with a more sustainable approach?

Stacey: Baby steps. We’re all consumers no matter which way you look at it, but all of the little stuff does add up – just like in any relationship. Start by watching The Story of Stuff and get serious with yourself about what you really need. We buy (and throw away) so much unnecessary crap! Start with the obvious. Recycle and compost. Many cities even have home/business compost pick-up services (like my client AZ Valley Compost) that make it easier for apartment dwellers, etc. Get rid of your energy sucking light bulbs and energy vampires in your home and workplace. Many cities and utility companies are incentivizing low-cost energy audits (usually $100 or less) so take advantage of it to save potentially thousands of dollars down the road. Reduce your paper consumption. Sign up for paperless billing, use your smart phone or laptop to take notes, only print stuff when necessary, and use a free app like CardMunch to scan business cards on the spot so you can hand them back without having thousands accumulate in piles on your desk (this is said from experience). Bike, walk or take public transport whenever possible. Be a label reader. If you can’t pronounce the majority of ingredients, don’t put it in or on your body. This applies to cleaning products and other things you use as well. Get educated on Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to diminish the need for using known neurotoxins in your space to combat pests. Eat organic and local when possible. Support organizations such as Local First. Educate yourself on being a conscious consumer. And always remember the wise words of Mahatma Gandhi: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

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