Photography by JESSICA TURNERAmber LaFrance had bedbugs in her $450-a-month apartment in Austin.
Otherwise, she might’ve never come back to Dallas, where she’s now one of the most boss public relations mavens in town. Her clients include Deep Vellum Books’ La Reunion imprint, publisher of the long-awaited repress of The Accommodation, and artists such as Jeremiah Onifadé and Mariell Guzman. Her firm has represented clients from fashion designer Venny Etienne to locally owned retail boutiques and major hotels and commercial real estate developments.
The 33-year-old is marking her 10-year anniversary of working in the PR business, as well as the eighth year in business for her firm, CultureHype.
Her dad helped her move out of that apartment in the middle of the night, leaving a note for the neglectful landlord, and she moved into her dad’s house in her hometown, Plano.
By then, she’d put herself through college working in retail and graduated with a degree in marketing and a minor in business from Texas State University. She’d also worked her way from volunteer intern to paid publicist for Heather Wagner Reed of Juice Consulting in Austin.
Back in Dallas, she was still working for Reed as needed but realized she didn’t know anyone in PR here. She took another unpaid internship with the bargain that she would be exempt from intern work, like stuffing bags, and get to do client work instead.
That’s how she met Jarrod Fresquez, the account executive whose biggest client at the time was the Hilton Anatole. Eventually, Fresquez and LaFrance started their own firm, with him as the face of the operation and LaFrance doing behind-the-scenes PR work.
They added Red Bull as a client, and their second event was Dallas Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware’s birthday party at the W Hotel.
She had student debt and no savings, and she made about $14,000 the first year.
“But we aggressively networked,” LaFrance says.
They did over 30 events that first year. She lugged her laptop everywhere and always had a change of clothes in her car for nighttime networking. She forced herself into extroversion with a goal of getting 10 business cards at events and learned networking techniques by watching her business partner in action.
After about a year, Fresquez went to work for his family’s financial firm, and LaFrance took over the business and rebranded.
She now has four employees, two of whom she trained up from interns. She lives in the Bishop Arts neighborhood and offices at the Common Desk on West Davis.
Her first clients
We kept the Hilton Anatole, and we had Red Bull and Hard Night Good Morning, D’Andra Simmons’ skincare line. She was a friend of Jarrod’s mother, so she became our client, and I was doing press all over the nation for her. It was a little out of my comfort zone at the time, but I ended up getting her in the Wall Street Journal and a lot of national press. She was really my first big client.
Music industry PR
Musicians weren’t hiring PR at that time, and it was a boys’ club, so I had to educate them on what PR is, why you need to invest in it, what I charge and why I charge that much. So I did this PR stunt, one of my favorite things I’ve done. We planned a circus-themed album release for a band, Goodnight Ned, at Trees. They wanted a “janky circus,” so we made all these circus games in my dad’s backyard. They wanted to be taken seriously by festivals and booking and make more money. We used that as an example, and we blew that party out. There were like 450 people. Then they started to get booked for all the festivals and get good press and all of that.
Keeping it fun
Our clients represent what we’re personally into. I have four employees, and they all do business development. They’ll pick clients they want to work with, and they’ll sign them and get that account. It’s really fun.
Not just PR
I expanded my services a few years ago because I was doing a lot of marketing for my PR clients. We do event planning, music booking, influencer marketing and programming for the W, WFAA and the Virgin Hotel.