Being Brazen with Kelly O’Malley

When will YOU get that entrepreneurial itch? When it hits, will you take it and run with it? Will you decide to do things your way? Read about Kelly O’Malley’s Brazen Moment full of thrills, risks, successes, and bootstrapping below. 

Photo Credit: Jonathan Veith

In 1995 I had been working in public relations for nearly 20 years – first at a small agency, then a Fortune 500, and finally at a global agency.  I was a leader in that organization working with the biggest brands in the world, but I started thinking about how I might run things differently, how I might I do things better. That’s a fairly cocky thing to say – it was and still is a highly regarded organization — but as a 20+ year pro, I had the confidence I could be successful on my own.


It was just months before my 40th birthday and my best friend sent me a Fortune article, “No Fear” about women and our aversion to risk. Women don’t take chances. At the time, I was working a lot and spending less and less time doing what I love: being creative and working with clients. I had that entrepreneurial itch – what if I created a business that would deliver high-quality work product and outstanding client results in a more nimble, creative and entrepreneurial organization?


I ended up launching my business from a temporary workspace in my sunroom by sending a persuasive email to my future business partner, Todd Hansen, asking him to join my new venture.


We’ve come a long way from that sunroom. The agency has flourished, with an enviable client roster of marquee brands, innovative start-ups, and worthy nonprofits. The long-tenured team drives the entrepreneurial spirit of the agency, innovative thinking, and business results for our clients across multiple touchpoints. The agency experienced a healthy 23% growth in 2016.

“It didn’t feel like work. I was building a brand and an organization exactly how I envisioned it. I took the best of the three organizations I had worked for and left the rest.”


2016 was a career high point with the acquisition of Alpaytac Public Relations, our second acquisition in two years. The integration of Alpaytac gave us expanded consumer and digital media offerings, a stronger team and broader client portfolio including housewares powerhouse SharkNinja.


When I launched my own firm, I definitely had a good mix of scared and excited emotions.  Scared? I was contributing financially to support our young family (kids 5, 3 and 2). I couldn’t take my time to be profitable. I needed revenue immediately.


Excited? Absolutely. It didn’t feel like work. I was building a brand and an organization exactly how I envisioned it. I took the best of the three organizations I had worked for and left the rest. It was thrilling to hire the team we wanted to hire. To create a workplace culture that would attract the best team. To bring on new clients in new industries and wow them. To win awards even when competing against the biggest agencies.


I have three pieces of advice for other women entrepreneurs who might be thinking about starting out on their own:

1. Know your craft. Soak up everything you can in your current position. Be intellectually curious.  Be the best practitioner. Figure out what you don’t know.

2. Do your research. Talk to others who are doing it. People are incredibly generous with their time and expertise when you ask. Ask about the best parts of entrepreneurial life. Ask about the downsides, the mistakes entrepreneurs have made. Go in with your eyes wide open.

3. Be ready. Be ready when opportunity knocks or be ready to put your plan in place when it doesn’t. Only you know when the time is right but getting ready can start today.


Follow Kelly and O’Malley Hansen Communications on Facebook and Twitter @omalleyhansen and visit their website at


O’Malley Hansen Communications is an award-winning integrated communications agency located in in St. Louis, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. The agency provides consistent brand communications working across core disciplines of corporate reputation, marketing communications, social/digital communications, influencer outreach and employee engagement.  Current clients include Tyson, Hanesbrands, Barclaycard, Charter, Fortune Brands and SharkNinja. Through its membership in ECCO, an international network of public relations and marketing firms, additional clients are based around the globe with particular expertise in Latin America.