Lisa Cruz, Red Shoes PR, Inc.

IB Wisconsin's Professional of the Week is the premier way to meet the state's professionals. This week features Lisa Cruz, president and owner of Red Shoes PR, Inc.

Address: W6110 Aerotech Dr., Appleton, WI, 54913
Phone: 920-574-3253
Birthplace: Stevens Point, Wis.
Spouse/Partner’s Name: Stephen Cruz
Board Membership: Leaven Board of Directors
Organizations: Member of PRSA and IABC
Education: BA in communications

 Lisa, when was your company founded, and what’s your role?

We launched the company in June 2008. My present role includes wearing a lot of different hats as an entrepreneur. I oversee all client relationships, new business development, operations, internal professional development and training, crisis communications, client strategy, nonprofit work, and support. I also give quite a few presentations throughout the year on crisis communications, PR, and social media. And last but certainly not least, I pitch in with the client work however and whenever I can. It’s important to keep my skills fresh, especially because we may need to fill in for each other on a moment’s notice. For a small organization, it is very important to be able to do this.

Who would you say has influenced your career the most?

My father, who passed away this year.

In what way did he influence your business success?

He ran a number of businesses when I was growing up, and while I didn’t understand a lot of what was going on at the time, I do now. I remember conversations and certain situations that have been extremely helpful to me. His life lessons on living with integrity, honesty, and love have helped me along this journey of entrepreneurship. He also wrote a book about 20 years ago chronicling his journey as an entrepreneur. There was a lot in the book I didn’t understand when I read it the first time, but recently I picked it up again and it means so much more to me now that I am running a business.

What else do you read to help keep you current in your field or industry and/or what trade associations or training do you belong to that you would recommend?

I read anything and everything. It’s important in public relations to keep my finger on the pulse of international, national, regional, state, and local trends, so I read a variety of publications such as The Public Relations Strategist, Inc., Mashable, Fast Company, The New York Times, and Forbes. But I also use a lot of app news aggregators to read stories from a number of sources. Some of the apps I use are Pulse and Fluent News. For trade associations, I belong to the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and most recently, I joined the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

What was a personal high point in your career?

The day we opened our doors. We opened in June 2008 and then the economy crashed that fall. Despite all of the turmoil then and now, we continue to grow. Because of this turmoil, companies need to clearly and strategically communicate on a variety of platforms, but companies also need to take a different stance when it comes to this era of transparency and customers’ expectations of brands today.

What’s your strategy? Your goals?

There are two long-range goals I have. I want to help make the world a better place through communications. Take a look around: Every day we hear of another company or person making major mistakes in communications. In addition, I want to help as many women as I can to achieve their dreams. I am a firm believer that women should have the opportunity to explore entrepreneurship and establish financial independence. And between these two goals there are many synergies.

Let’s go back in time. Remember that first paycheck? How much, from where, and for what?

My first paycheck was from Thrifty Market, where I cashiered. I saved that first paycheck and many others to purchase my first car. I saved up half of the purchase price and took out a loan from a local credit union when I was 16. That was a great feeling of accomplishment.

Would you consider yourself to have been an entrepreneurial youngster?

I have always had a very curious mind, was extremely creative, independent, and absolutely loved continuous learning, so I think that feeds into my entrepreneurial spirit. I loved setting up lemonade stands and trying to sell my toys at the end of our road out in the country. Plus, whenever someone told me I couldn’t do something, I purposely would go and do it … and do it with success. The same applied when I said I wanted to start a PR agency in Appleton. There were a couple of people who laughed at me. Well, that spurred me on further!

Have you always resided in Wisconsin?

I was born and raised in Stevens Point. Then attended UW-SP, which is a great school, it really is the perfect size, not too big, not too small. Upon graduation, I moved down to Florida with a couple of other graduates. I needed to get out of the cold Wisconsin winters. Then I moved out to Southern California and began my PR career in one of the toughest markets, but it gave me great experience. When my husband was looking to get out of the military, we had one son and another baby on the way. We kept asking ourselves, “Where’s the best place to raise a family?” I knew without a doubt that it was Wisconsin. I have a renewed appreciation for this state and everything it offers.

As a business owner, what is your assessment of where the Wisconsin economy is headed?

There are a few areas I’d like to see improved upon. First, we need to identify our niche, what industry or strength can we own and excel at without comparison? For example, when I lived in California, people would often comment on the strong work ethic of people in Wisconsin. It was because of this perception that made it easier for me to get a job when I lived there. Sometimes I think we overlook the obvious on how others view us and we need to capitalize on what we already have … one of the best workforces in the country. Secondly, there are so many successful companies in Wisconsin but we need more of them to speak up and share their story. This would help attract other companies to take a second look at what Wisconsin has to offer. Third, we need to encourage and support creativity and innovation like never before. Our future depends on all of us getting out of our comfort zone and helping others to achieve their dreams.

Now that you’re back inside for long winters – ha! – what do you enjoy doing “beyond the office” that brings you happiness or relaxation?

I love to read. I curl up with my Kindle, read The New York Times and one of the hundreds of books I have stored on it. For works of fiction I loved Cutting for Stone and The Help. Right now I am reading the biography of Steve Jobs. I also love to cook, but I loosely use recipes. I like to cook by adding a dash of this, a glug of that … it makes cooking much more interesting. I make a killer Filipino egg roll, a to-die-for noodle dish called pancit, and out-of-this-world chocolate chip cookies.

Now that you’re back in the Midwest, do you still find time to travel?

We have traveled a few times to St. John in the Virgin Islands. Without a doubt it is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places we have ever traveled to. I love when you are flying to the islands, over all this beautiful turquoise water and then this lush, green island suddenly pops up and it looks like paradise. There are many remote beaches you have to hike to so there are not a lot of people to deal with. The restaurants are open to the outside and the people are friendly. It’s magical.

What character in any sport, book, movie, or play would you most like to be identified with, and why?

The working mother in I Don’t Know How She Does It. I get the comment all the time from people about my role as a mother to four boys and running a business. Seems fitting I think!

Anything you’d be willing to share about your family life?

My husband and I met on a beach in Mazatlan, Mexico. He was on spring break from his internship and I was in my senior year of college. It was a completely random meeting and we stayed in touch after he went back to Virginia and I returned to Wisconsin. Today, we have four boys, from 12 years old to 8 months! I often say I have my home family of all boys and then I have my work family of all women.

It’s a balancing act, eh?

My husband keeps me grounded. I’m kind of the free spirit and he is my rock. As a family, during the summer months on the weekends we spend as much time as we can in Eagle River at our cabin. It’s nothing fancy but it’s another place where we really feel like we can get away from it all. We fish, ski, swim, chop wood (yes, I chop wood!), make fires and eat s’mores pancakes. As we drive up I can literally feel the stress leave my shoulders the closer we get to the cabin.

This is a hard question for many folks, so we saved it for last. Can you list three words you think best describe you?

Driven, creative, and passionate.

IB thanks Lisa Cruz for her time and talents, and we invite you to share yours with our statewide audience as well! For consideration for an interview, please email today!