It’s been 10 years since three public relations agency co-workers decided to put their talents and hard work to the test when they “stepped out on faith” and founded Mosaic Communications, a full service, award-winning public relations company. In those first 10 years, Mosaic has built a solid client base, survived a major economic downturn, managed the retirement of one founding partner and navigated an “ill timed” expansion into a new market. Mosaic now has locations in both Milwaukee and Charlotte, North Carolina, and a client list that includes the City of Milwaukee, the City of Charlotte, Mecklenberg County North Carolina and the American Cancer Society, along with a host of other local, regional and national companies. In addition, the firm recently launched Milwaukee Small Business Week through a partnership with the Milwaukee Office of Small Business Development. Milwaukee Small Business Week held its third annual celebration in June.

To what do they attribute their success? Founding partners and Milwaukee natives Nepherterra Estrada and Johanna Scott, agree that relationships played a critical part in their success. Estrada oversees the satellite office in Charlotte and Scott runs the corporate office in Milwaukee.

In order to successfully expand as the market was crashing, Mosaic relied on its network and quickly “learned the value of forming strong strategic partnerships.” While she was a student at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte Estrada took an internship with publisher Pride Magazine and made a strong impression on the magazine’s publisher Dee Dixon. The two kept in touch over the years and in 2008, Mosaic and Pride joined forces to serve the Charlotte market. Mosaic fills the public relations gap while Pride focuses on publishing the magazine and producing the publication’s large-scale events. It is a tactical alliance that pays dividends all around.

“For the most part, this partnership has proven to be a win-win,” Scott said. “Each company brings talent, resources and relationships to the table. There isn’t any duplication and there’s a tremendous amount of synergy. That’s why it works.”

Looking back, Estrada points out that the company embarked upon an expansion in the midst of a bad economy – which she considers the firm’s “biggest hurdle” - however the experience validated the importance of building strong strategic partnerships. The company was able to leverage the relationship with Pride for shared office space in uptown Charlotte, as well as joint usage of equipment, talent and operational systems. Ultimately, as the market crashed and some of the agency’s clients slashed their communications budgets, Mosaic minimized all possible costs associated with expansion, which has ultimately contributed to Mosaic’s strength and longevity in both markets.

Both Estrada and Scott identify SCORE as a valued resource they utilized when they started the company in 2004. “We had a business plan filled with hopes and dreams,” Estrada says, “but SCORE put the meat on the bones. They looked at our business plan and asked us ‘how will you support yourselves?’ They made us really think about how we would make money, what kind of clients we wanted to target and how we would accomplish that. We gained incredible insight through this process.”

The women are both dedicated to serving their communities and to supporting other small businesses in their networking efforts, hence their role in creating Milwaukee Small Business Week, an event that “celebrates the contributions and achievements of small business owners by offering a series of educational and networking events designed to inspire, educate and connect the members of our business community.” It was at the 2014 event that Estrada reconnected with SCORE. “We thought of SCORE as a start-up resource but it is so much more,” she said. “They can help us re-energize and plan for the future and also help us focus on how we can build a strong team and grow our business and our resources in a sustainable way.”

SCORE workshops and free professional mentoring are sure-fire ways to get on the right track when you’re starting out and to re-energize and re-focus as the business grows.

 

How SCORE Helped: 

Both Estrada and Scott identify SCORE as a valued resource they utilized when they started the company in 2004. “We had a business plan filled with hopes and dreams,” Estrada says, “but SCORE put the meat on the bones. They looked at our business plan and asked us ‘how will you support yourselves?’ They made us really think about how we would make money, what kind of clients we wanted to target and how we would accomplish that. We gained incredible insight through this process.”

Mosiac