Jo Swann started Chocolate PR to amplify the voices of women in business. Time and time again she found female entrepreneurs were achieving incredible things, but no one was telling their story. Her Leeds, United Kingdom-based PR firm focuses on jus that; sharing the incredible stories and achievements of women in business. Today she’s going into her 14th year in business and is looking to expand her firm globally.
Swann’s story, as told to The Story Exchange 1,000+ Stories Project:
I set up Chocolate PR to challenge the industry and to rebel against the agencies I didn’t feel were offering a good value service to their clients. Often PR agencies are in it for the big boys – the big retainers, the projects that churn out corporate lines again and again – and I wanted to use my skills in a different way, offering flexible, accessible PR to small businesses and entrepreneurs, empowering them through teaching them how PR actually works. My passion for working with female entrepreneurs and sharing their story came after hearing time after time over a glass of wine, these amazing achievements from women who were just skimming over them. They were not taking ownership of how awesome they were, they were not sharing their story to inspire or motivate others – they were just sat on it, getting on with their day. This frustrated me to the core – but I discovered it came down to fear and lack of knowledge of the industry, and from then on I’ve been working to help fix this!
Having recently re-evaluated my direction, after working vigorously to ‘climb the ladder’ and secure large corporate clients over the last 15 years or so I have changed direction. For me back then success was about proving myself and proving that I could support large corporates, that I could work alongside MDs who had been working in the industry my entire life, and having the brand names people recognized on my portfolio. More recently I have decided that is not actually what matters to me anymore and my definition of success has changed dramatically – what success means to be me now is making more of a personal impact. Working with small businesses and female entrepreneurs enables me to directly impact their business, through helping them find and tell their story and gain credibility and visibility as fabulous foundations for business growth. My definition of success is now their success – and we’ve seen clients fly from being recognized in national and international media.
My biggest success to date is a very recent one. I was recently involved in contributing to and promoting a business book for female entrepreneurs, called She Who Dares. Alongside 23 other women I shared my career story and business advice with the aim of inspiring others who are not happy in their current career, business, to take action and to find what makes them happy. The book became a best-seller on release day, knocking a New York Times best-seller off the hotspot and saw us sat in the same category as Sir Richard Branson. Being able to help share the stories of the other amazing women in this book has been so rewarding for me, through the book launch activity and the feedback we’ve had has been immense, with readers informing us they have been inspired to take action to find their own version of success.
“My goals for the business are to empower more female entrepreneurs globally to tell their story, so they can benefit from the advantages this brings.”
– Jo Swann, Founder of Chocolate PR
My goals for the business are to empower more female entrepreneurs globally to tell their story, so they can benefit from the advantages this brings. To do this I need to scale the business, and create more online services to support this audience, as I can’t serve all 121. I have already achieved best-selling author status as part of a collaboration book but would love to write my own book too and I’ve love to be speaking on the international stage, sharing my knowledge to help empower more female entrepreneurs. I want to become the ‘go to’ PR coach for female entrepreneurs so my goal is to increase my reach and brand awareness globally to enable me to have this credibility and visibility. I am looking to grow the team worldwide to also help me facilitate serving more women across the globe.
My top challenge has been running the business solo – because while I have a team I am the sole Director and the one in charge of strategic growth. I have struggled focusing on growing the business in amongst running the business and all growth has been organic rather than business plan driven. I have had various mentors but none ever truly impacted me to achieve the next level of success but recently I joined Female Success Network and their mastermind of 20 or so women and all of a sudden the future direction has become much more strategic and focused. It most definitely helps being aligned with other like minded women and this combined with the mentor support I have received has really shown me what I can achieve, and excited me for the future. This last year I have been able to scale the business, systemise it, bring in passive income and develop in my niche- all thanks to the support, knowledge and passion of these other fantastic women. Stressful personal situations and ill health of loved ones made me re-evaluate what I was spending my time doing. I also changed how I viewed work once I became a mum. I love to work, but realized that I needed to channel all that time and energy into something more worthwhile, with more impact.
To be honest I don’t tend to look up at what others are doing in my industry. In terms of women in business I do respect many who have made a name for themselves but my ultimate business role model has to be Sir Richard Branson – for so many reasons but all coming back to his brand authenticity and commitment to ooze brand character, his guts and his drive, and his integrity. On a day to day level though my clients truly inspire me – I am in a very privileged situation to be able to dig deep into their stories, to help them share them, and so many times I am totally blown away by what they have achieved, and often what adversity they have overcome – and it is these stories, and their strength as well as their honesty, that truly inspires me and motivates me to make an impact with my work.