Owner of Monika Dixon Public Relations
TAKE US TO BACK THE BEGINNING. HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN PUBLIC RELATIONS?
I came to the States in 2002 – I’m originally from Poland. I used to study English there. I started a company called BeeCloser to bring Polish business owners mainstream and that suddenly became the main focus. That opened up the eyes of American business owners that want to be known in the Polish community. It’s a strong force. I started Monika Dixon Public Relations in April of 2012 to separate myself from that idea and now 90 percent of my clients are American. I also have a division now where we do web development, logo development, and social media strategy – it really grew.
WHO WAS PARTICULARLY INSTRUMENTAL DURING YOUR START?
I have three people that I really admire and I’m not quite sure if they know that to me they were mentors. They are not from my industry.
One is my husband Geoffrey, whose constant encouragement is always uplifting and thoughtful. He makes me feel like I can move mountains. He’s my number one fan.
Les Coney – he’s the vice president of Mesirow Financial. I know nothing about finance. I’m on the creative side [laughs]. But the way he networks, the way he thinks about people. He always thinks about connecting. When you start working with people who have never worked in public relations they may not see the benefit. Les really understands it. I learned a lot from him.
Laura Schwartz – she worked for President Clinton as the director of events. She wrote a book called Drink Eat and Succeed and she also talks about networking. She makes everybody feel at ease right away. When you meet her, it’s breathtaking. She spoke at one of my events in the past.
BEING A WOMAN LAUNCHING YOUR OWN BUSINESS, WHAT ARE THE SUCCESSES AND DIFFICULTIES YOU EXPERIENCED?
I think what I would consider a success is building a good following and having people around you who are there to support to you and believe in your vision. With meeting so many people it’s really hard to choose the ones that you trust because every person that you work with is a reflection of your brand. I try to choose people I know I don’t have to guide and that allows you to grow really fast. I connect people who normally nobody would think of connecting and see a benefit there. I’m of course very protective of all of the relationships I have. Being a cute girl of course will help you and I actually think that’s something you go up against a lot of times. You have to prove that you are smart, ambitious and that you will do what you say you will do.
ARE THERE CERTAIN THINGS YOU LOOK FOR WHEN SELECTING CLIENTS OR DO THEY FIND YOU?
I’m very fortunate in that all of the clients I get are from word of mouth. I just expanded going into the New Year, with seven new clients. I feel like everyone has a story. It’s the story and the personal connection that you have. I don’t know if I’m fortunate or it’s probably not normal but I’m very close with all of my clients. I like to be friends with them. I think you have to make people feel really comfortable. If you don’t, then they don’t open up.
THE MEDIA INDUSTRY IN CHICAGO IS GROWING QUICKLY, WITH THE ADDITIONS OF SUN-TIMES SPLASH, STATUS MAGAZINE, AND VARIOUS BLOGGERS. WHAT DO YOU THINK CONTRIBUTES TO THE SUCCESS?
They are all really different. Splash is all about the crème de la crème of Chicago – the socialites, the women who live in incredible environments and give a lot of good back. What they do for charities is amazing. They devote everything. Even with bloggers, when you start following them, you can tell where their heart is, and that they all have their own angle. And Susanna Negovan – she’s so driven. A machine. The people running these different publications must have the confidence that what they say matters because many people trust their word and their decisions. Status Magazine is another exciting new project because it targets Europeans and we needed a new voice.
IT SEEMS LIKE A LOT OF YOUR PR IS EVENT-FOCUSED? WHAT IS ONE OF THE MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS?
Yes. When you create an event, it creates a lot of exposure. There is usually fashion attached to events, as well as a charity tie-in. I did an event for Luxury Management called The Immaculate One at Murphy Auditorium for the American Cancer Society. There was a little girl going through chemo for the third time and her biggest dream was to be in a fashion show. It was a match made in heaven. We got her a wig, a boutique on Oak Street – Madison and Friends – gave her a dress and we had a makeup artist and she got lashes. She just looked so pretty. When I saw her, it was just so incredible. We had her open up the show. To be able to make connections like that, that is what it’s all about.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE SOMEONE STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS AND TIPS FOR LAUNCHING A BRAND SUCCESSFULLY?
Not to quit their job! [Laughs] You need to have some sort of income that will let you do what you really love doing. Unless you know that somebody can help you. Don’t get investors. It sounds so cool to say “I have investors.” But, when you have them, you cannot make one decision. There will be a lot of people giving advice. What you have to think about is that they are not you and they have very different personalities and visions. My advice to somebody would be just to go for it, even with social media. Don’t be afraid of judgment. There is a big possibility that people will never find out what you have because you are not open about it.
CHICAGO SOCIAL NAMED YOU ONE OF THE BEST-DRESSED BUSINESSWOMEN LAST YEAR. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE AND HAVE YOU ALWAYS HAD AN INTEREST IN FASHION?
My mom is an average European mom – takes care of her family, but on Sundays when the church time comes she really dresses up. I come from a very traditional family. Sunday became the day that we would get dressed up. [Laughs] I like everything to be comfortable. I can’t wear anything that is tight. Because I have kids, I can’t be restricted in any way. I love high – low mixing. I love dresses just because they are easy. I love vintage jewelry – I collect it. My necklaces are SARCA and Dana Rebecca.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO SHOP?
I love SARCA. I do love Forever XXI for everyday. I like vintage so whenever they have a vintage show in Chicago, I try to go. Decades – I got a vintage Chanel bag and it looks like a gold brick.I did a bit of research and it turns out it was made in the 1960s and they only made 60 of them and it was worth four times more than I paid for it. It was the first time that I actually made money shopping! [Laughs] I like Atelier Azza of course! She is now in India designing her next collection for the next few months. With Sita Ram, she put her heart into it.
WHAT CAN WE FIND YOU DOING WITH YOUR DOWN TIME, IF THERE IS SUCH A THING FOR YOU?
I want to say sleeping! [Laughs] I just want to rest. I sleep very little. Even if I get a chance to sleep, I just can’t. I work a lot, I work non-stop. I sleep five hours a night. I think that’s a challenge because all I want is sleep. Juggling family, husband, kids – that’s difficult. Making sure that they are happy means a lot to me and creating our schedule in a way so they feel I am always with them.