This article was originally published in WhatcomTalk. Some details have been updated to reflect recent changes.
“I quickly went from being a girl working in my family’s bakery after school to a young woman working in a high rise in Seattle,” says Patti Rowlson as she tells the story behind the evolution of her life, careers and current business.
Patti Rowlson, owner of Bellingham PR and Communications, a company that provides marketing services to Whatcom County businesses, has continued to make that evolution a part of her life and her business.
A strong work ethic and true passion of helping small businesses grow have made Bellingham PR and Communications one of the most trusted marketing firms in the area.
“My dad taught me the importance of trust and what it means to have a strong work ethic. Those values have helped me succeed in business.”
The level of trust that her clients have in her is not something Patti takes lightly. She knows they are trusting her with their brand, their company’s reputation and — ultimately — their life’s work.
Patti’s ability to work with businesses began with her own early introduction to the ins and outs of operating a small business.
At the age of 12, she began working after school in her family’s bakery in Sedro Woolley. She served customers and eventually was trained to be a cake decorator. Her career path, as she saw it at the time, was to be a cake decorator in her family’s business.
And then life changed. Patti’s father, who managed the baking operation, was diagnosed with cancer and passed away a month later–she was just 16 years old.
Her family worked hard to keep the business going but eventually had to sell it and Patti had to come up with a new plan for her future.
“Going to college was not an option for me. The death of my father, followed by a tragic accident involving my only sibling, put our family in survival mode so I did what I knew how to do—I put my head down and went to work.”
Patti moved to the Seattle area and went to work for a national grocery chain. After a short time there, she decided a change was needed. She went through a training program where she learned computer skills and medical terminology. Shortly after completing the program she was hired to do administrative work for a large hospital. It was there that she had her first taste of marketing and promotion.
From there, she transitioned to a property management company in Downtown Seattle. While with that company, Patti furthered her marketing education by learning customer relations and company representation. She was often told she had a talent for connecting with people.
Each time she made a change, Patti evolved and prepared for the next phase of her career and job. With each new job, she continued to learn and build her knowledge in areas where she knew she could make a difference.
During this period of professional growth and self-discovery, Patti married, started a family and put her career on hold.
“I was able to be a mom during an important time in their lives and I truly loved every minute of it,” she says. “For that, I feel really lucky.”
As her two children grew, Patti’s need for a creative outlet continued so she operated a seasonal plant nursery in Everson for 12 years. As an avid gardener, Patti would propagate and sell a variety of perennials, shrubs and trees. It was this adventure that launched her into the world of small business marketing as she looked to build a customer base for her plant sale. She created a website and started managing her first Facebook page.
“I’m a hands-on learner and I value continuing education. When I need to know how to do something I research, test and practice,” says Patti.
In 2005 Patti reentered the workforce. Her career quickly evolved to include administrative work, management and operations, customer relations and most importantly, marketing.
In the middle of 2009 a small business owner said, “I see what you’ve done for that business, can you help my business too?” Bellingham PR and Communications was launched shortly after and it’s been evolving and growing ever since.
In addition to Patti, who serves as marketing director, Bellingham PR and Communications currently employs Matthew Anderson as a content strategist and editor and Samantha Sacry as a marketing/social media coordinator.
“We have assembled a team of truly experienced marketing pros. Together we help Bellingham PR and Communication clients be strategic and consistent with their marketing efforts. We help them shine a light on their products and services on and off-line.”
Patti spends her time these days not just making sure her clients have what they need, but also ensuring that she keeps up with the latest in social media and content marketing practices.
“The tools and best practices in our industry change quickly. Marketers and social media managers have to keep up or they quickly become irrelevant,” she says.
Today Bellingham PR and Communications is hired by small to mid-size companies that need help setting up and maintaining a variety of marketing programs, including social media management and blogging.
The business also hosts educational workshops to the public and offers free resources to DIY marketers. The resources on Bellingham PR and Communications website — and included in their monthly newsletter — provide local marketers information on the latest marketing tools.
When asked what resources have inspired her, Patti says the book “Work the Pond” really spoke to her because of its approach toward positive networking, practicing kindness and valuing everyone you meet.
“I’ve met the nicest people by simply showing up, practicing positive networking and being approachable. Some of those people have turned into customers and others I’ve been able to refer business to. Some have turned into friends and even employees in real life. I love that!”