Originally from Virginia Beach, VA, Meredith LeJeune got her start as a marketing and communications coordinator for Dominion Enterprises — a marketing services company serving the real estate, automotive and travel industries — doing a little bit of everything from traditional public relations to developing marketing and sales collateral.
After she moved to Atlanta and joined another integrated communications firm, the idea of starting her own firm with a focus in public relations cemented itself in the back of her mind.
In 2012 when her day job restructured, Meredith was laid off. She used the opportunity to step out on her own, forming Thought Bubble Communications, a boutique agency with a focus in multicultural PR.
Over the last decade since opening up shop, Meredith has moved her headquarters to New York, partnered with several large agencies and had the opportunity to work on major campaigns for brands like Toyota, Coca-Cola and the National Black MBA Association as well as some startups in the real estate and tech spaces.
When she’s not helping small businesses find their voice and grow their reach, you might find her on the mat as a practicing yoga instructor or helping expectant mothers as a certified doula.
From staff member to solopreneur
After powering her way through a few roles in which she wore a lot of hats, Meredith knew she wanted to focus her energy fully on public relations.
“I had my degree in public relations, but I was working in a marketing-based role,” she explains. “I was reporting to marketing people and, although there are some similarities between marketing and PR, they are not the same.”
Aside from being able to work on projects and functions that aligned better with her career goals, opening up her own business also gave her a chance to represent other minority women working in the field.
“I knew I wanted to step out and do my own thing,” she says. “But more than that, I wanted other young women who look like me, other minority women in public relations and communications, to be able to see themselves in a leadership position.”
Despite her extensive experience working both in-house and at an agency doing PR and marketing, Meredith admits there were some challenges in making the shift from full-time employee to owner and operator of an agency.
One of the key differentiating factors Meredith immediately noticed being on the agency side was the need for project and account management skills. While working in-house, communicators tend to be very well-versed in the organization’s needs and messaging strategy, while at an agency you may be juggling several different, very unique clients all in one day.
“Everything is different and you have to be able to manage and understand the needs of all the different businesses,” she says. “You need to know how they communicate, what their business goals are and how to attack them with different strategies. You have to act like an account executive, no matter what your role is, to prove your value.”
Learning the ins and outs of business development became a major focus for Meredith after opening Thought Bubble, because it was something she had little past experience doing. It’s something she continues to put energy into today, having just recently completed an accelerator program geared towards women in business.
“There’s the business component of running a firm, and just how you’re going to keep your business going,” she says. “And then as a solo, I’m also the account team, right? So you have to get good at managing both ends.”
The foundation of Thought Bubble Communications
One of the major benefits of running your own business is the freedom to tailor it directly to the type of work you want to do, what you value and the types of clientele you want to work with.
Creating the ideal culture and client list has been one of Meredith’s favorite parts about founding Thought Bubble, explaining that being able to offer the experience and quality of work of a large agency while providing one-on-one account management to clients is one of her core values.
“Many times when companies sign on with a larger agency, they may feel like they’re just Client X on a list of 100+ other clients,” she says. “But with Thought Bubble, I’m able to give them the big agency expertise while catering to their needs so clients don’t feel ignored.”
In fact, the name of her agency finds its roots in Meredith’s innate desire to help others reach their goals.
“I’m always thinking about what’s next and what I could possibly do to help promote my clients,” she says. “I’m constantly thinking, like I have this thought bubble over my head. That’s where [the name] came from.”
Kindling a passion for building up others in business
While it can be challenging to turn away potential business, reframing who she works with has helped to make Meredith’s experience as a solo PR pro that much more meaningful.
Where she used to cater to any small businesses out there who needed her assistance, she now gears herself towards women and BIPOC owners of small-to-medium sized businesses.
“I want to be able to work with people I can identify with,” she says. “And I also feel that women and BIPOC owned businesses are often overlooked. As a PR professional, I want to come in and help position them and give them what they need to be successful.”
Aside from seeking out clients that align with her passions, Meredith is also on the board of directors of the New York chapter of the PRSA and serves as the senior director for their 15 Under 35 Awards, an award she herself received not long ago.
Having experienced the feeling of recognition and the opportunities that go along with the award, Meredith says she wanted to pay it forward and create more opportunities to help other up-and-coming PR professionals, citing the importance of community and networking.
“The Solo PR Pro group has just been a tremendous help,” she says. “It’s a group that I just love to go in, ask questions and talk to other professionals who have had similar experiences. And I know there’s a handful of people in there who will always respond and are willing to share those experiences.
Her love of connection and shared experiences extends even beyond her solo work. Meredith recently trained and completed her certification to be a doula, providing another — and more personal — avenue for her to continue advocating for women.
Meredith’s advice for other solopreneurs
Like any solopreneur, Meredith has seen her share of ups and downs. Between 2016 and 2018, her business was in a state of flux as she made the move from Atlanta, where the majority of her clients were, to New York.
The combination of losing a few clients due to the change in location, transitioning into a totally new PR environment in New York and moving her then two-year-old twins out of state left her feeling vulnerable.
To find inner peace and comfort she found herself back on the yoga mat, using the practice as a way to clear her mind and brainstorm new ideas.
Meredith became a certified yoga instructor in 2018 so she could show others how yoga can help them in their daily lives as well.
She encourages other solopreneurs to find their own ways to take a step back from what is consuming them at work.
“I think the biggest thing I’ve had to tell myself is, ‘it’s okay to reset.’ I have my goals and my to-do lists, and maybe only one or two things get done that day. Instead of beating myself up about it, I’ve learned to find gratitude for what I did accomplish,” she says. “You can look at every morning as a chance to start over again, focusing on what works best for you professionally and personally.”