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May 2010 Ms. CEO of the Month: Kitsy Rose & Melissa Hightower

Posted in INSIGHT, INSPIRATION by msceonet on May 3, 2010

Entrepreneurial publicists are like sisters in business

Fate brought them together, but it’s their friendship that makes them so solid

By Nina Hemphill Reeder
Ms. CEO Correspondent

Before Kitsy Rose started her eponymous public relations firm, she was an account executive at another local PR agency. Likewise, somewhere under the same Georgia moon, Melissa Hightower, was working as a PR and marketing manager for famed bridal designer Melissa Sweet. Whether it was the cosmos or, more likely, just the entrepreneurial spirit of the autonomous women, they both decided to go into business for themselves.

Kitsy Rose (L) and Melissa Hightower (R) are entrepreneurial publicists headquartered in Atlanta, GA, USA. Their firm, Kitsy Rose PR, works with a national roster of clients. Kitsy and Melissa are the May "Ms. CEO of the Month" feature representing the theme "Family & Friends." (click for larger view)

And while each found success independently, they were struggling to keep up with the workload on their own. Meanwhile the two had still never met; but it wasn’t until mutual friends suggested they join forces that they finally connected, uniting under Kitsy Rose PR. Now the rest is a three year history, a comprehensive client list and sister-like relationship (a bond so close that they even shared the same straw on set of our photo shoot. Now, do that with Myrtle, your coworker from accounting!)

Do you both like to travel?
Melissa: I have two kids so my travel days seem to be a little over until about 18 years from now.

Kitsy: I’m connected. I have the World Blackberry, so when I’m traveling, she can always reach me. But yeah, I’ve had great opportunities. I’ve spent time in Asia. I’ve spent time all over Europe. I love it.

What’s your favorite place?
Kitsy: Hong Kong. I would move to Hong Kong in a heartbeat. It’s like New York on speed. It’s just so crazy; there is so much fashion and so much food and just the hustle and bustle—it’s very energizing.

PR people are nonstop, always working around the clock. So is it hard when you are with family or on vacation to turn off that PR girl?
Melissa: I think when you start your own business and start your own company, you know what you are getting into—and especially in this industry. When you lay your head down on the pillow at night and you are ready to go to sleep, you still are thinking. I keep a pad under underneath my mattress and a pen on my nightstand because I brainstorm constantly. I think there is no off switch.  It is constant creativity.

Kitsy: We’ll both be on our Blackberries in bed, which isn’t great. I wake up in the middle of the night and check it and quite often send emails back at 3 and 4 in the morning, but it is also great because we are each other’s bosses. And we get to do what we are passionate about and what we love to do.

What’s your most rewarding professional moment?
Melissa:For me, it is definitely the product placement. It’s the client placements. Having [worked] three months to get them in a Marie Claire article and then there is your client with a five-page spread, it’s a really big deal. And again, it’s about the passion. You know the client is so excited, and it’s rewarding. You worked really hard, you got something great, your client is thrilled and you are thrilled. It’s not your name on that five-page spread, but you know that your relationship and contacts and your determination and persistence got that, and that is very rewarding.

Proudest personal moment:
Melissa: I have two [children], ages 3 and 4-months…I joke and I say anytime without the kids is great, but I was spending the night away from them last night and it is hard being away from them. So that’s definitely my proudest: being able to balance that and taking the time to be a mom and being able to be a career person as well.

Kitsy:For me, it’s definitely my relationship with my family—and then my friends. I’m blessed that I have friends from childhood and people that I have just met recently that I think drive me and are really good people.  They motivate me and keep me real.

What’s your most embarrassing professional moment?
Melissa: I have an embarrassing moment that is about to trump all embarrassing moments. So I’m in New York, I’m pitching editors, going from outlet to outlet, so… I have on my white dress—it’s spring…I have my SunChips and my Vitamin Water…so my hands are full and I’m going on top of the subway grate. So the subway comes under and my dress goes above my head. 

Kitsy: She pulls a Marilyn Monroe.

Melissa: I see nothing but white. And my Vitamin Water is open. I’ve got an appointment and so in that moment, I think, ‘Don’t spill the Vitamin Water on your dress.’ So I’m trying to get my stuff down, and I didn’t think to step off the subway grate [so] the wind would stop. And as soon as I stepped off, I look…and all these men are standing outside the electronic stores just smiling.

Is there something that you bought recently that you can’t wait to wear?
Kitsy: I actually just recently purchased a dress at Sandpiper, and it’s a real cute, bright, plaid, backless—I think it’s Alison + Olivia, and I’m really excited about that, but my legs need to see the sun first.

Melissa: I haven’t purchased anything recently, and I refuse to until I get all the baby weight off. I have these Marc Jacobs pants hanging in the closet and I say, ‘You will get into those.’ So I refuse to purchase at this moment.

How do you two work together?
Melissa: It’s funny because we do have different personalities, but we complement each other really well. She is very organized and very together. Somehow she’s able to balance that creativity with the organization. 

Kitsy: She calms me. But as far as work-wise, I think we have a lot of the same strengths, but [we divide things accordingly]. I love the media and the pitching. And I really like the knack of the local media; I’ve been doing it for 12 years now (you know since I was 16 of course). Melissa is really good at the branding and the national pitching, Web site content. She kind of does a little more of the marketing, and I do a lot more of the true PR.

What famous girl duo would you two compare yourselves to?
Kitsy: There is none like us. And you wouldn’t want us to sing.

What advice would you give to other friends or family members getting into business together?
Kitsy: Just really sticking to your passion and your strengths, but not being afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and break down boundaries and barriers. You can’t take no for an answer; you’ve got to go around and figure out another way.

As far as our partnership goes, we have worked together for three years, and we have had our disagreements [but] it’s how you get through the bad times. You learn to walk away and rebound from them, and you come out stronger and more connected. And we have a lot of respect for each other. And I love her.

 Melissa: Don’t cry.

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