Q&A: Priya Chopra, founder and CEO 1Milk2Sugars, built a PR firm that’s one of Canada’s fastest growing companies.
Here’s how she managed her business through the pandemic.
Priya Chopra is the founder and CEO of 1Milk2Sugars, a bilingual communications agency specializing in digital marketing and public relations for lifestyle brands. Launched in 2012, the award winning agency now has hubs in Montreal and Toronto, and has grown by over 200% in the last two years alone. An outspoken advocate for equality, in November 2020, Priya launched her most purpose-driven initiative yet: double shot, a talent management division aimed at amplifying BIPOC and underrepresented voices in lifestyle marketing.
How have you managed your business finances through the pandemic?
The pandemic has demonstrated the need for businesses to prepare for various financial scenarios — and 1Milk2Sugars is no exception.
With guidance from our financial partners, we routinely examine our goals and undertake financial forecasting to help us allocate our resources. This process, together with our annual budget, provides a holistic view of our finances and tells us how we’re trending versus our estimates.
Notably, we also secured affordable financing which has greatly increased our working capital. Being secure financially is key to us taking on more clients, executing on campaigns and bridging the periods between remuneration. It was also critical in helping us launch our newest venture, double shot, knowing we were on solid financial ground. Maintaining a stable source of capital will remain a priority for 1Milk2Sugars throughout the pandemic and beyond.
Has your approach to sales and marketing changed?
We have a reputation for unmatched client service in the industry. The level of care we provide to our clients and the results we deliver has fueled word-of-mouth marketing to the point that our business is now primarily based on referral. Whereas we were once making sales calls to promote our business, clients are now coming to us!
Still, we don’t take our success for granted. We practice what we preach and employ a lot of the same brand-building techniques that we employ for our clients. For example, we have a dedicated PR lead to generate coverage about our agencies in lifestyle, business, and trade media. Moreover, we pursue thought leadership opportunities that highlight our expertise in brand communications.
To further reinforce our reputation and standing among our target clientele, we regularly apply for awards that shine a spotlight on our business and showcase our work. Notably, our agency was named one of Canada’s Fastest-Growing Companies by the 2020 Growth List and we are Great Place to Work-certified. We’ve been recognized with industry accolades, including a CPRS ACE Award acknowledging our achievements in promoting diversity and inclusion, and a PR Daily award recognizing excellence in brand journalism and content creation. On a personal note, I was recently named Inspirational Leader of the Year by a leading Canadian business magazine.
Further to our marketing strategy, we actively update our blog, “No Filter”, with useful insights and perspectives about the world of brand communications. We also distribute two subscriber-based newsletters, one for 1Milk2Sugars and one for double shot, and maintain robust social media profiles for both agencies.
All these factors work in tandem to help make the case for 1Milk2Sugars as the premier digital marketing and public relations agency to serve our clients’ needs.
How has technology played a role in your business during this time?
As a digital marketing agency, technology is core to our business in everything from media monitoring and analytics to content management and news distribution. These software systems enable us to optimize our services and streamline our workflows to ensure our clients are getting the most for their marketing budget.
In the last year alone, we unveiled a suite of new digital services including e-commerce and web development, email marketing, paid search advertising and SEO consulting to help our clients bring their online presences up to speed. Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve kept our content creation active by having our photographer work alone in the studio and transmit content digitally to the account team for pre-client approvals.
Additionally, we launched a digital showroom to help our brands maximize their PR in the absence of in-person launch events or deskside interviews during the pandemic. This new platform, which was the first of its kind in Canada, enables the media to seamlessly access hi-res images, press releases, product pricing, product availability, and credit details for our clients on-demand and 24/7.
Lastly, our team quickly pivoted to the world of virtual event planning amid the pandemic. From online hair tutorials with celebrity hairstylists to virtual yoga sessions, we leveraged technology and creativity to execute some truly memorable brand experiences for our clients and their target audiences.
How have you managed your mindset (and that of your team)?
If there was a silver lining to this pandemic, it’s that it put health in the spotlight and forced executives to reexamine their commitments to workplace wellness.
Even though we’ve long prioritized work-life balance at 1Milk2Sugars, the COVID-19 crisis had us doubling-down on these assurances like never before. Within the last 18 months, we’ve instituted several initiatives aimed at bringing our team together even as we worked apart. Some activities, like weekly guided meditation sessions, were more lighthearted in nature while others, like video roundtables, were aimed at promoting productivity and peer-to-peer collaboration.
We’ve also instituted a new “weekly wins” newsletter to spread positivity and update everyone on the agency’s achievements like new business acquisitions, renewed contracts or positive media coverage for our clients and the agency. On a more peer-to-peer level, we created the “appreciation hot seat” where one member of the team would sit in the ‘hot seat’ and every employee would take a turn saying what they love and admire about that person. It was our way of spreading positivity during an otherwise stressful and worrying time.
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all entrepreneurs in your industry today?
The one piece of advice I’d offer my fellow entrepreneurs is to spend time (and resources, if necessary) defining your agency’s mission statement. Don’t treat it as an afterthought; it’s the North Star that will guide your decision making on everything from new business to recruitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Not only will your mission statement provide transparency to employees and customers about what your company is about, but it will clarify your priorities when unforeseen events, like the pandemic, strike out of the blue. I can’t stress enough the importance of a well thought out mission statement in managing a team and running a successful business.