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Finding Hope: Marking Our 17-Year Business Anniversary During a Pandemic

By on Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Stacked rocks, or cairns, like the ones in the photo above, are often used on trails to show that you are on the right path. Cairns are markers guiding you forward to the correct trail. When navigation is difficult, the cairn helps you find your way so you don’t get lost. Today, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to decimate the U.S. economy and alter our lives in ways we never imagined, we are also marking a milestone.

On this day, 17 years ago, Steppingstone LLC came into existence. What began in 2003 on an old kitchen table in the basement became a thriving small business offering public relations and writing services. Three years after I started Steppingstone LLC, my husband, Rick Miller, joined me in the business, adding creative services for graphic design, branding, and website development. One new client was overjoyed to find us – declaring we were the “unicorn” she had been seeking, because we bundled together the messaging and strategic expertise in public relations she was seeking, with the creative skills and execution her association needed. That combination has made us a valuable asset to many organizations and nonprofits.

And now, we are surviving the pandemic. It’s not been a smooth ride. All of our clients have had to make some changes. Some have had to lay off staff or scrap plans completely and retool their approaches. Others have postponed campaigns or done something new. A few have noticed when our 10-year-old daughter picks up the phone and answers (we pay by the call).

And it may not be the year we thought we’d have, but we are surviving. And why is that?

We’re a small business, so we have multiple clients. If one client puts work on the back burner, hopefully someone else is getting ready to do more.

People trust us. Business survival in today’s climate of uncertainty is not just about numbers. It is also about relationships and trust. It is about working with people and organizations where they are at and nurturing relationships over time. We’ve placed a lot of our “stock” so to speak, in people and relationships.

It’s also about helping business owners and leaders make tough choices when they may not have any good options, and helping them find a path forward. And we are even helping some of them find opportunity in unlikely places. Even in a pandemic, there is still room for creativity, hard work, and great content to shine.

Survival for a small business in today’s climate is also about hope. That’s the rock at the top of the cairn on our trail – hope. We have weathered tough times in the past, and somehow, this little business has always made it through. We’ll drink a toast tonight to 17 years in business and look to the future – because we know there is still so much more amazing work to do.

Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent PR practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites (contact to discuss your projectreview our portfoliosign up for our e-newsletter). She blogs about media relations, social media, public relations, and work-family balance. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven

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