Teresa Bigelow, founder of Spiral5 Media, has a very Millennial career path: employment interspersed with travel, a failed startup, values-driven pursuits and self-employment. Her path is also a highly networked one. Bigelow started her career as an Account Coordinator at a tech PR agency. Her knack for developing relationships with journalists and developing ideas for longer-lead features lead to a Media Relations role. Bigelow’s second job was a huge career stretch: she became Global PR Director for Mumbai, India-based music streaming company, Saavn with only two-years of PR/Media experience under her belt. The stretch opportunity came about because of business connections: the CEO of Saavn knew Bigelow from her previous. Co-founding a startup followed approximately two-years later, and when her enthusiasm for the startup passion-project lost steam, Bigelow returned, initially with some reluctance, to her PR roots.
Kelly Hoey: We met through the Dreamers & Doers entrepreneur network. What other business-focused networking are you up to?
Teresa Bigelow: I have memberships in a couple of co-working spaces. I’ve also started Spiral5 Collective a community for other freelancing women and consultants across various sectors of PR and communications. The idea is to support and collaborate with each other like an agency, but operate independently.
Hoey: Ok. I want to learn more about your career. Where did your career journey start?
Bigelow: It started just after college graduation on a tear-streaked yoga mat on the room of my living room in San Diego, California (circa 2011).
Hoey: So how did you get from the yoga mat to New York City?
Bigelow: I’d applied for 100’s of jobs in California, with no incoming offers (which explains the tear-streaked yoga mat), when it occurred to me to move across the country. With a little over $1000 dollars in my bank account, I booked a one-way ticket and moved to New York City. I slept on friend’s couches and took the first minimum wage job I found. Three weeks later a PR firm I had interviewed with in San Francisco called to offer me a job. When I told them I had moved, I was hired on the spot as they were building out their New York office.
Hoey: Talk about your motivations or need to seek out new opportunities.
Bigelow: Typically cycles of change come up for me when I’m feeling blocked or stalled. The last big one, in 2016, was out of necessity. The startup I had been trying to get off the ground wasn’t working out, and PR was the fastest way I could make money. I feel I’m going through another “refocus” period in my career. This time it is more about purpose. I’m zooming in on alternative lifestyle companies (cannabis, sextech, holistic wellness, psychedelics-as-therapy research) and brand new industries that are expanding against the wall of cultural stigmas. I’ve come to realize that I thrive in uncertainty and seek out the unconventional.
Hoey: What’s the career boost that changed your career path?
Bigelow: Running the global PR for a major music streaming company out of Mumbai, India. I was outside of my comfort zone and ultimately, that role helped to build my confidence working in high-pressure, unconventional settings.
Hoey: Despite lacking the traditional resume “checklist” of required experience, you were offered the Global PR Director role at Saavn because the CEO knew you.
Bigelow: Exactly. I’d only had two years of PR experience and didn’t know the first thing about working with the media in India. To say I was under-qualified for the role is an understatement. But, I’d stayed in touch with the founders, taking time to meet with them after I’d left the PR firm. All I can say is they were confident in my potential to succeed in the role and their belief helped me find confidence in myself.
Hoey: Not everything in your career has been a success. You’ve struggled at times. How do you overcome disappointment?
Bigelow: Humor helps. And talking to other people definitely helps to neutralize the disappointment. But, there’s a part of me that knows there is no such thing as a failure. I’ll give an example. At the beginning of my career in tech PR, I was written up for a web series. My idea was for a scripted series, but the journalist felt “techie reality show” would get more clicks. It did, and my idea was trashed on the internet. It was pretty traumatizing. I was certain my professional reputation was ruined! The experience ultimately taught me the value of slowing down to discover my authentic voice versus rushing through life, checking off boxes and forcing my ambitions on the world .
Hoey: What was the biggest takeaway after your startup didn’t work out?
Bigelow: Don’t get too attached to the details of your dreams, rather stay focused on the values your dreams represent. There’s always another dream or project to pursue! I think we all get too caught up in the specifics of our goals and ambitions — especially in New York City. Follow what gets you jazzed and if you’re not jazzed anymore, stop following it, then take a step back to see what the bigger career picture is.