Monmouth alumna Tara Ackaway, CEO and founder of Social Wise Communications, has been featured in ForbesWomen on Thursday, March 28.
At 22, Ackaway, a former communication student, founded Social Wise, a boutique public relations company, after graduating Monmouth. After four years, her team now works with small businesses, non-profit organizations, authors, entrepreneurs and celebrities. Her portfolio includes projects with Bravo, E! News and MTV.
Prior to the launch of Social Wise Communications, Ackaway was interning in the city balancing three high-profile entertainment public relations and social media gigs. When she was a senior at Monmouth, Ackaway got an internship with the Bravo series “The Real Housewives of New York City.”
“I was a student during all of this. I was going in and out of the city (NYC) almost daily,” she said. “Everyone wants immediate results. I knew working this amount of hours and this high stress pressured job would lead me to something. I didn’t know what it would be but I knew it would lead me to this bigger, amazing experience.”
“I did a lot of networking in the city. I talked with a lot of people. I made a business card with my name on it and I handed it out all over the place,” she continued.
Ackaway said, “It wasn’t all glamorous. And, I appreciated the work ethic required to complete those not-so-glamorous responsibilities.”
John Morano, a professor of journalism, had Ackaway as a student and her company now represents him as his publicist.
“She approached her education with purpose, took her internship to another level, and wound up with opportunities that enabled her to launch her own company,” Morano said. “Tara has never shied away from a challenge. And no one will ever accuse her of lacking motivation”
She said that her philosophy was and has still remained the same: success isn’t handed out, it’s earned. “Dream big, work hard and be willing to sacrifice a lot now… in order to live a life most will never have,” she said. “Bottom line, I was working with top industry professionals perfecting my craft each and every day.”
Ackaway said that Monmouth helped her prepare for these opportunities and encouraged her to embrace as many internship opportunities as she could. “I am extremely grateful for that support and encourage others to follow that same advice,” she said.
Morano also believes her accomplishments underscore the reality that if students embrace the opportunities and instruction available at Monmouth, with the addition of their own creative energy, the sky is the limit. “Tara is a testament to that,” he said.
Eventually, Ackaway explained, balancing what felt like three full-time jobs (four, including being a student) caught up to her. “I couldn’t possibly continue this routine for my final semester. And so, it was time to end a really exciting chapter of my life. I was drained. And quite frankly, had no desire to reside in New York City after graduation,” she said.
“Of course, the feeling was bittersweet. Still is. But, it was time to move on and I couldn’t be surer of that now,” Ackaway added.
However, during her final semester, Ackaway started to receive freelance requests from contacts she met during time interning in New York City. “I made an impression. Powerful people wanted to take a chance on me. It felt good. And so, I thought why not? Why can’t I pursue a business,” she said.
“At first, I didn’t realize what I was about to take on. I didn’t envision having a company. That was until several individuals came to me with freelance requests. Zero advertising dollars. No promotion. All referrals. And then, in that moment, the light bulb went on. I saw the vision, and now, it was time to act on it,” she continued.
In the beginning it was just her for a while, she explained. She juggled up to ten monthly paying clients at one time. Then, she began hiring on freelancers from Monmouth to assist her. But, it wasn’t enough.
“The demand was too high. My company was growing and is continuing to grow at a fast pace. Last year I hired my first employee, a fellow Monmouth University graduate. Then, I hired my second employee,” she said. “It’s a really special feeling to provide job security to anyone, especially a fellow Hawk.”
Ackaway said there is an unspoken bond between Monmouth alumni. “We can relate to one another. We’ve experienced the same educational opportunity and we’re the best in our industry because we’ve been taught by the best,” she said.
“We always look forward to learning of and celebrating the success of our alum,” said Amanda Klaus, Executive Director for Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving. “Seeing Tara use the connections and tools Monmouth provided her as an undergraduate in conjunction with her personal hard work and tenacity is a wonderful vote of confidence in the Monmouth education.”
“We look forward to keeping Tara connected to Monmouth in hopes to connect her to current students and celebrate a talented member of our alumni family,” said Klaus.
IMAGE TAKEN from Forbes