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From a small Midwestern town to the Big Apple. A story of fulfilling a dream!

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I began my journalism career at a very young age as the editor of my elementary school's year-end newsletter. I loved it and, especially, the opportunity it allowed me to interview other students about interesting topics such as the first man landing on the moon, the death of Robert Kennedy, the Vietnam War and heightened race relations. My love for journalism continued throughout my years in junior high school and high school in a small town in Wisconsin and then into college at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where I studied many forms of journalism -- print, broadcast -- and public relations. I worked for the Milwaukee Journal and Maine Things Considered and covered politics, human interest and local news.

I moved to New York City in 1988 where I worked in corporate America for KPMG Peat Marwick and AT&T. I then decided to really learn about the public relations world by working at Howard J. Rubenstein Associates and Dan Klores Associates, where one's ability to work effectively is truly tested. I had a number of clients -- all challenging, but vastly different in scale and focus -- and my job was, simply put, to get them on TV, in the newspaper or on the radio often and strategically. It was intense work but I loved working with the media so closely once again.

It was after nine years in an executive position at a large nonprofit in New York City that I decided it was time to branch out on my own. I was apprehensive and a bit scared -- I wasn't sure I would be successful. I had two clients and some others that were within reach. It was a tough few years but I soon realized that I wouldn't work any other way. I love the independence of being my own boss, setting goals and achieving them. I have learned from past experiences that to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be focused, understand your clients' needs and expectations, be flexible and work hard...very hard. And the women I have met along the way are just this -- hard working, diligent and strategic.

As I say to those who work with me, if the media is working, so am I and so must they. I love my work and my clients' work -- I primarily work with nonprofits. I cannot see myself punching in or out again. Because I can chat with people on the internet who are in my business, I do not feel isolated from the work force. Our business has changed; times have changed; but the challenges remain and I welcome them.

I’m here to tell my female colleagues reading this that you, too, can do this. I came from a small town of mostly conventional thinkers and none of my relatives were entrepreneurs, so they doubted me and my aspirations. Despite it all, I’ve come out on top and I’m really proud of that.

I must say that my greatest mentors are women. They have helped me, inspired me and many have hired me. The jobs have been challenging and the expectations high but I don’t think I’ve disappointed any one of them.

As Jimmy Stewart say "It's a wonderful life!"

Claudia Stepke
Claudia Stepke Associates
Manhattan, NY

We are a boutique firm specializing in media/public relations and cause-related marketing with a keen eye for the news and how social marketing can hit your bottom line. We are former journalists and social media experts who understand how the news works, know the journalists who will be interested in your story and have the means to get your message to key audiences in ways that will bring results and meaningful visibility.

Add a Comment2 Comments


An eye-opening and inspiring post for some who will read this, no doubt. We're glad you found EmpowHer and we're exceptionally glad you've tuned into this amazing community of women.

For those who don't know how to go about finding a mentor, how about a few tips?

February 17, 2010 - 11:21am
(reply to Diane Porter)

Hi Diane,

Thanks for the read! I have found my mentors through friends or they are former bosses, colleagues and/or people who have helped me find my way in NYC. Your mentor is right in front of you; you just don't know it!



February 19, 2010 - 10:49am
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