Member Spotlight: Caryn Starr-Gates

Member Spotlight: Caryn Starr-Gates

Caryn is a professional copywriter and an owner of StarrGates Business Communications (SBGC). Her experience includes writing copy for retail, consumer package goods, travel and entertainment accounts, banks, and television networks at Atlanta and New York agencies. As a professional freelance copywriter and marketing consultant, she helps companies market their messages through advertising, marketing, and public relations. She also supports advertising, marketing, and public relations agencies to develop revenue streams and expand service offerings through copywriting services. Her company SGBC serves an exciting range of clients across diverse industries.

If you could write a book about your life, what would the title be, and why?

“It would probably be called “A Lifetime of Reinvention”–a story of someone who had many exciting careers, with interesting creative stops along the way. I have a BS in psychology and was pre-med when I went to college. One day, in my junior year, I woke up and decided that I would be an advertising copywriter – though I had no idea really what that was. I have always been a writer. When I got out of college, I started contacting ad agencies, finding a few people to mentor me. I was told to create a spec portfolio. I got some jobs in the agency field over the course of the year –not good ones (initially), but the stepping stones. Within two years, I got an excellent job with a great agency, which launched my career. I was a copywriter for about seven years until I really got sick of it. And one day, I quit my job.

I decided to become a cook for a catering company. Initially, everyone laughed, but the chef saw some potential in me and trained me as his sous chef; a year and a half later, I took his place while the company sought his permanent replacement. I can still cook a meal for 18 people without breaking a sweat!

From the catering experience, I went into the restaurant business, and I worked for a national restaurant chain in management. I worked my way up over the course of the years, becoming a general manager. I was on opening teams, opening new restaurants because I was very good at operations, and eventually worked in the franchise division as an area supervisor for a few years.

After my daughter was born, I left the company and sat around for about six months to figure out what to do. I decided I would be a professional organizer, and I also started a gift basket and full-service gift company. I did the organizing services for about six years and kept the gift business for nearly 13 years.

During this time, people started asking me to help them with projects – particularly in writing and editing. In my networking with people, I’d mention that I was a copywriter. Suddenly, I was freelancing on the side. After a couple of years of freelancing, I decided to close the gift business and relaunched my original career as an advertising copywriter, but in a greatly expanded media landscape. In 2009, I officially registered and launched StarrGates Business Communications. So, yes, the book title has to be ‘A Lifetime of Reinvention.'”

Do you also consider yourself an entrepreneur?

“I am the owner of a company, StarrGates Business Communications. But I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. Throughout all those different jobs and industries and careers that I was in, I always had the opportunity to use my writing skills somehow. When I was in the catering business, I wrote all the lunch delivery menus seasonally with themes. I came up with fun names for menu items and did print ad campaigns for the private catering services. When I went to work for the restaurant chain, I reworked the monthly newsletters, and people liked my articles . . . they would tell me they enjoyed reading my pieces. When I started my gift basket business, I wrote the website content. It was interesting how I carried those skills with me in different ways. I really like the freelance life and doing what I enjoy the most. It has its ups and downs, with no guaranteed income. But I like being self-employed.”

Why did you get involved with the AMA-New Jersey chapter? Why is this organization important to you?

“I’ve been a member for quite a long time. I was a member of other similar organizations as well. I got an invitation to an AMA networking event and I enjoyed it. I always liked the speakers and the topics, even though most of the programs are not necessarily geared to somebody like myself. They’re really geared to people like marketing directors and marketing techies more than copywriters. But I enjoy the group and the people. I like the programs, and there’s value in being part of a national organization with chapters everywhere. I’ve attended some AMA-New York events.”

What is the best advice you would give to new professionals or young students?

“First, whatever you do, find somebody who will lead and guide you and whom you respect. If you find a good mentor who gives you good advice, latch on to that person or those people for a while until you gain some meaningful experience.

Second, do not turn your nose up at a project, assignment, or opportunity that you feel is beneath you. Because everything, especially in the beginning, is a learning experience and a stepping stone. It often takes some pretty yucky jobs just to get in the door and meet more people. You never know what you’re going to take away from a job or an opportunity – be open to learning.

Third, do not let yourself feel stuck in a job that no longer enriches you, especially in a creative field. Some people have worked for companies for 20 to 25 years, and they love it every day, and they never want to leave. I applaud them. But if you feel like you’re getting bored, you’re not challenged, speak up, advocate for yourself and never feel stuck. Many times, financial and life circumstances might mean staying in a job you hate. In that case, start creating a roadmap to get out of that dead end that’s not rewarding and nurturing you.

Finally, don’t be afraid to take a chance, especially as a younger person (or even an older person). Time is limited, and you’re never going to have an opportunity to do it again or do it over. Just do it. If it doesn’t work out, try something else. But do it. Don’t become a prisoner of your insecurities and fears.”

If someone wants to connect with you, what is the best way to reach out to you on social media?



Twitter: @StellarCopy


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