Amber: Hi I’m Amber Ambrose and this is BusinessMakers USA, brought to you by Insperity, inspiring business performance. Today my guest is Brenna Bolger of PRxDigital. Welcome to the show.
Brenna: Thank you.
Amber: So tell us about PRxDigital Brenna.
Brenna: Well we are a Marketing Communications firm in the classic sense and we’ve been in business now for about 40 years in Silicon Valley. Of course when we started it wasn’t called Silicon Valley, it was just called Santa Clara County. We have evolved over the years to providing a lot of different services that really weren’t in vogue that much years ago, so it’s been a real interesting opportunity to stay current and move into the different things that are so important now in terms of communicating.
Amber: So in 40 years you’ve seen a lot of change in the city and in your business. Let’s start with San Jose, what were some of the major things that kicked off the tech revolution here?
Brenna: Well I think we kicked it off with Hewlett Packard and all the things that just happened technologically. For a long time – many years ago and again recently people do a lot of analysis about well what’s so special about Silicon Valley. People all over the world have tried to create other Silicon Valleys. Usually the things that are pointed to are the tremendous universities that are here – between Santa Clara University, Stanford, Berkley and San Jose State – and then the weather because the climate is, as you’ve found in just a few days of being here, everything here is wonderful in terms of the weather.
Amber: Yeah, it feels great.
Brenna: You hear other people say but you have earthquakes; well for one thing they don’t last that long and they don’t create much havoc unless they’re really extreme. It’s not like you have tornadoes every year or hurricane season every year. And now the venture capitalists – well for many decades now the venture capitalists – that’s the third element of what makes Silicon Valley so special. And so it’s this nexus that has occurred and the people are coming here from all over the world. I mean we are truly the meaning of diversity throughout all of Silicon Valley.
Amber: How has the evolution of Silicon Valley affected PRxDigital?
Brenna: We’ve grown with the times and it’s been a wonderful experience because there’s such a range of opportunity in peoples whose stories you can tell. And I think that Silicon Valley has also been on the cutting edge of marketing communications and communications tools even though obviously we’re not New York, we’re not Madison Avenue but we are Silicon Valley and so we innovate. We make things happen in a way that really brings out the ingenuity in people. I think that our firm and probably all of Silicon Valley was one of the first to really promote the idea of storytelling as a way of communicating about your business. We do work both for individuals of high regard as well as for large and small businesses and to a person or a company a story being told is a magic way to get a point across and to market your business or yourself.
Amber: So what are your niches that you help? What industries? Because PRx obviously started I would assume in medical?
Brenna: Yes we did. The idea was to make it look like Rexall with the X as part of the R.
Amber: The prescription symbol?
Brenna: Exactly. And so it was going to be just medical and we had a couple of hospitals to start with and a storytelling aspect of the Santa Cara Valley Medical Association that we were doing article for every single week in the then San Jose Mercury News. And then all of a sudden within the first 2 months of being in business we started getting calls from other industries and so we started working for other people because I didn’t want to say no.
Amber: No I’m sorry, we want to turn down your business.
Brenna: Right and a lot of people that’s specialize in just one thing but I’ve tried to make our specialty and what we’ve evolved to and the team that we have is our specialty is do we think we can do a good job? Are we interested in what you’re doing? Is it going to turn us on as much as it’s going to be good for your company? Because it’s really a business where energy is the primary thing you have to bring to the table. You have to really like what you do and you have to have all kinds of energy because anybody who says that you can do it in a 40 hour week – that’s not possible.
Amber: One of the things that we were talking about before the interview started is just women in business, especially in this world of tech – but you were in it before it became that world, what has your journey been like as a woman?
Brenna: Well the beginning of the journey was I didn’t notice that I – it didn’t matter to me that I was a woman.
Amber: It wasn’t a thing?
Brenna: It never was. When I became aware of it and how women were not treated as well as they should be was early on when I was helping women hose offices I would go to to call on their male bosses and the women who had secretarial positions were college graduates. And that’s when I really started to feel it very strongly. I’ve always tried to help women get going and now of course you don’t have to help so much because they’re on their own and things are going well.
We still have to I think look for places there aren’t women and try to get women inserted but one of the few times I’ve ever had – and you asked me to talk about join venture Silicon Valley so I can tell a quick little female of the old version. I was on the board of the chamber and everyone during this horrid recession of around 1991 – it was a real bad recession – and we were trying to figure out what to do and I went away and I came back with a suggestion. I studied it all over the Christmas and New Year’s holiday and I said I think we have to start an organization and the organization has to bring in not just the types who are in the chamber, we have to bring in people from all walks of business and we have to get everybody around a table – unions, non-unions, everybody – and we have to say is it as bad for you as it is for these companies right now and we have to make it a joint venture.
And Silicon Valley had started this in the early 90s and there was only one other female on this board and she wasn’t there that day and there were about 25 people around the table and they were all male and nobody said a word when Brenna Bolger made the suggestion. And it was silent and I thought oh God. And then the then editor of the San Jose Mercury News spoke up and he said very quietly and very powerfully this is a good idea. And all of a sudden it became an okay and we took off from there.
Amber: Which is a great segue for us to talk about Joint Venture Silicon Valley.
Amber: It’s still in existence number one and it plays a major role in the community.
Brenna: Yes it does. And it has evolved over the years as well. The gentleman who is running it now has done just a phenomenal job of turning it into a very highly valued resource as a think tank. They study everything that’s going on. They know all the demographics, they know all the numbers. They know where it’s going, where it’s been, how it’s going to get where it’s going. They know the hills and the valleys and everything and it had become a major resource for corporations of all kinds, for venture capitalists; for everyone throughout the world. This is the go to place in Silicon Valley to get the information you need about anything you’re trying to do and he has just done a terrific job.
Amber: But the idea was yours.
Brenna: Well yeah but that’s so long ago.
Amber: It’s okay to claim it though Brenna.
Brenna: But I really want to emphasize that fact that the only that we do for it now and have for years is the video once a year at the annual event, but I’m not involved. I’m not on the board, it’s not a client.
Amber: Sure, you handed it off.
Brenna: Oh yeah, years ago. In fact it was the company that put the initial money in, that gave it life, was Applied Materials. And the woman who really brought it in to the full breadth and depth of what it would be was a former state senator whose name is Becky Morgan and she became the CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley and took it to the next level. She’s just done a terrific job and she retired years ago but the point is that it’s just a terrific organization today and has done so much for Silicon Valley.
Amber: Yeah it sounds like it.
Amber: Well Brenna thank you so much for giving us all this insight into Silicon Valley and to PRxDigital and just for your time today.
Brenna: Well thank you, it’s been delightful.
Amber: Delightful, I like that.
Brenna: Yeah it’s been great.
Amber: Thank you for joining us on this delightful episode of BusinessMakers USA. We’re coming to you from San Jose, California, thanks for watching.
To learn more about PRxDigital, visit their website: https://www.prxdigital.com
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