In early 2016, Evie Smith found herself bedridden, recovering from a serious injury from a roller derby accident. As she thought about returning to the stressful corporate career she’d held for nearly 10 years at various public relations (PR) agencies, she couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of dread that brought her near tears. During her recuperation, she felt returning to her day job wasn’t an option anymore. Instead, Smith built her own PR agency, Rebellious PR. She leveraged the energy and competitiveness she gained in roller derby to grow her business. Almost one year later, Smith has plenty of work and more time to spend on her life’s passions of roller derby, skating and fitness.
“I’ve been seriously injured twice now. Both times it made me have to stop everything and put my environment around me into perspective,” Smith said. “Am I doing the things in life that are actually important? Am I living my best life and being my best self? Sometimes an unexpected injury, like an ACL tear, is a blessing in disguise because it really makes you look around.”
Smith re-evaluated what she wanted her career and life to look like. It included building the kind of company she’d want to work for — one that is inclusive and supportive of all individuals— and spending more time with the “nerdy and outspoken” derby counterculture that helped her grow into the leader she is today.
“At first I wanted to quit the PR game all together,” Smith said. “It left a sour taste in my mouth. But then I realized that I could do [PR] my way. I could be a real person and take on the kind of clients I want. I was wasting so much of my time and talents having to work at an agency for someone else, doing things their way. Now I get to travel for roller derby and do the kind of work I am really proud of.”
Evie self-funded her new venture through savings that got her through her first couple months of business; however, she definitely had to hustle to make money to grow her business to where it is today. It wasn’t easy. She taught herself how to manage her business finances and had to learn how to price herself as a professional services provider, how to pay herself and when to say, “No.”
“I think way more about money than I ever have,” Smith said. “Financially I am on my own in this world. I come from a family of social workers and teachers. Everything I have from my college degree to my car I have paid for myself. I belong to a few local networks for female founders and entrepreneurs, and I find chatting with other like-minded and experienced women really helped me understand business finances and more. When talking about money, I’ve really had to just get over any discomfort I had. Now, I just own it.”
Smith has grown her business with the help of savvy business networking skills and her own personal referrals. She is now hiring her first employee to join her agency. But, she isn’t stopping there. Smith is building her own rebellious empire and hopes to turn her brand into a household name — for both PR and roller derby — by bootstrapping the launch of a new roller derby skate shop business next year through the funds from her successful PR business.
“I am the woman I am today because of Derby: empowered, thoughtful, kind, smart,” Smith said. “I learned what it meant to be on a team and contribute to something bigger than myself. It gave me a lot of structure and direction, as well as a positive place to channel my energy and competitiveness. I have become a better professional by participating in Derby. And working in PR and on my career has made me a better derby player.”
Beyond derby advice, Smith shares what she wants other entrepreneurs to know who are looking to grow their professional services business.
“You can do it!” Smith said. “Don’t be scared of the money stuff and just jump! You won’t regret trying. I’ve never felt so empowered — it’s like my wings have finally spread.”