Jamie Prince’s marketing business began with one phone call in one of the worst of times, financially, and one of the best times, personally.
A Greenville native, Prince was working as Director of Corporate Communications at The Cliffs real estate communities after graduating from college, jump-starting her career in New York City, and returning home to marry her husband, David.
“I was young, working long hours, and doing whatever it took to do the job,” Prince says. “I was having fun and worked on some great stuff.
“Real estate was booming — until it wasn’t.”
And so began the bad times, the Great Recession, in 2009.
Prince decided it was time for a change, not just because of the economy. She had a new baby girl, Reese.
“I had such a long commute, and I was working such long hours. Reese was the first to be dropped off at day care, and she was the last to be picked up. It just broke my heart,” she says.
“Time is the most precious resource, and I wanted to dedicate more time to my daughter.”
She wanted a professional life, as well, so she decided to take that summer off and look for consulting work in the fall. But days after leaving The Cliffs, the phone rang. Prince’s business was born – Flourish, a marketing, public relations, and events management firm.
The first caller, her first client, was The Reserve at Lake Keowee. Her husband reminded her that she wasn’t even registered with the state. “I put the cart before the horse the very first day,” she explains.
Thirteen years later, Prince and her husband have two more children, twins, Jack and Emmy.
And Flourish, with its staff of 16, has served 125-plus clients (about a quarter of them non-profits) and earned more than 60 industry awards. Most clients are referrals.
A recession, a growing family and a new business might seem like a challenging strategy for success. But Prince believes those early experiences helped her steer Flourish and its clients through the economic upheaval caused by COVID-19.
“We grew those first years by helping small businesses navigate the recession. When the pandemic struck, it was uncanny how much I referenced back to the style of counseling I did with those folks,” Prince says. “If I had not started the way that I did, in the environment that I did, this past year could have looked dramatically different for Flourish.”
Her philosophy, in 2009 and 2020: Get back to the basics.
“In our business, the basics are helping businesses prioritize and making sure they have the information to be able to make the best decisions with their resources. Then, we come alongside them with ideas that are realistic, that can be executed well, and that will move the needle,” Prince says.
“We have always strived to help in practical ways, to look at the business as a whole.”
Prince says her agency, like her career, is non-traditional.
“We are a ‘small-in-number’ marketing, PR, and events firm. But the work we do is extremely significant and high quality,” she says. Because she came from the corporate community instead of an agency, she says Flourish is structured with “senior-level talent.” Staffers have an average of 19 years of experience.
Agencies are usually led by two or three senior members, while the rest of the staff plays a support role, she says. “The people who clients initially meet and believe in are not the same people who execute plans and are day-to-day contacts.”
At Flourish, the tables are turned, Prince explains.
“We have fewer support team members because the leaders are doing the work on behalf of the clients. That’s significant because the leaders know, over time, what’s worked, what doesn’t work, what’s too costly, and what has great value,” she says.
“Our clients love that. They benefit from that. It resonates with them. It’s important to them.”
The strategy at Flourish is to view a business through the eyes of the client, to listen, to diversify with the needs of the client, and to help.
“Helping people is the fuel we use to keep growing professionally,” she says. “The clients that have been with us year after year, and the clients for whom we do the best work … they know we’ve got to get our hands dirty. We have to get to the heart of what’s going on before we can create things that work.”
Working with small businesses can be especially rewarding, Prince says. “Small business owners are in the weeds all the time. They’re responsible for all aspects of the business simultaneously. I know that. I live that.”
Prince says the fresh eyes of Flourish staffers can reveal solutions that already exist. “You probably already have what you need, but you need help mining that, extracting that, and figuring out how to use it to your advantage.”
All businesses will benefit from re-evaluating how they communicate with clients and customers as more people are vaccinated against COVID and the economy improves, Prince says.
“The psychology of consumers has changed because the world has changed.” She acknowledges that there is no one appropriate message and that the message can be upbeat, but she says the tone of marketing and promotion for goods and services should be empathetic.
“You have to identify with humanity. You have to adopt a humane voice and be sensitive to the fact that whatever you’re putting out there needs to be helpful. It doesn’t need to be all about you. You need to be helping.”
Flourish is also finding that clients want to re-engage.
“It proves that we need each other. We weren’t created to be independent. COVID separated us from one another. It was isolating and lonely,” Prince says.
“It’s healthy to exit the past year in the spirit of hopefulness. Life won’t be like we defined it before. We’re still on this journey. We’re still grieving. But we are choosing to move forward. And that brings me a lot of joy.”