Cultivating new friendships is a lot like dating. Such is the case with Ryan Beshel. I think we met on the event circuit but I couldn't be 100% sure. The first thing that stood out about him was his laugh. It was infectious. I think you can tell a lot about someone by their laugh...or if they don't laugh at all. Bad sign. And I heard that laugh from across the room at every event I went to. I didn't know who he was but I was pretty sure we needed to be friends. Superficially, he was a smart dresser, too. This is a rarity amongst men in Chicago. (do not get me started!)
As circles grew smaller, Ryan and I became part of a team on a restaurant project. Little did he know I was going to force the friendship come hell or high water! He was handling public relations and branding for the same client that we were executing social media for. As they say in dating...we hit it off. I felt like I could not only respect Ryan but confide in him, learn from him and just TALK with him. We both started our businesses around the same time and we are both on the path to evolution.
Not only has Ryan accepted my friendship but he's inspired me to work harder, laugh more and live authentically. You know those friendships that empower you to become a better human being? That's Ryan for me. Take a read to learn a bit more about my creative friend...he's a publicist, brand maker, photographer, writer, lover not a fighter, fashion enthusiast, foodie and a comedic force to be reckoned with. Most of all he's my fearless friend!
Tell us a little about SIX4 Creative and the mission of your company. How did you create the concept? How hard was it to get started?
SIX4 Creative is a collaboration, really. The company might have been LLC'ed by me, but every client that comes on and every human I collaborate with or bring on my team is SIX4 Creative. We represent an array of clients, supporting their creative process with public relations, photography, social media services -- in addition to thoughtful partnerships, inspiring introductions and/or caffeinated brainstorming sessions. To me, it's all about sharing the stories and time of humans who have developed a unique brand or have an innovative point of view. Always focusing on those who are doing what no one else is doing -- or doing so in a way that is an improvement on a less effective or outdated process or preparation.
I created the business out of necessity and as an outlet for my specific set of skills and experiences. I created the concept for the business as a play on my height and who I was. (A 6' 4" creative.) However -- it was truly all by accident. I never wanted to own my own company, ever. I found myself without work (I was fired) and put up a website to simply have as a bio page with info about myself, should any hypothetical boss go and look me up. When I shared the website, folks assumed I had started my own company. I started having conversations with humans I had met during my career in Chicago -- and that was 2.5 years and almost 40 clients ago.
It was NOT easy to get started -- the first year was the most rough. I had no idea what I was doing. (Spoiler: I never have had any idea what I was doing -- until I did it.) Learning how to discipline yourself and your schedule was very hard for me. A bit into my time freelancing (before SIX4 really was to be), I had friend (Michael Dolan) bring me in to meet the folks at Bridges Media/11 Dollar Bill -- a production company he was working for. We all hit it off and I ended up having a desk in that office -- to grow my own company. Having that chance to structure my day, in a 9-5 way, was really crucial to my launch and conditioning me as a professional who really has the flexibility to make an entire city an office -- depending on the day.
1. What was the moment you knew you wanted to be an entrepreneur let alone in the PR industry?
PR kind of happened to me. It takes a certain set of skills and contacts to do such a job -- and I was developing those, as I moved through different positions. I worked a bit with a publicist, right after I graduated. I assisted her and watched what she did and learned it myself. As my network grew, so did the reality that I was good at PR. I never wanted to be an entrepreneur -- I loved validating other humans, aka: a boss. Once I found myself in a position to HAVE to build the confidence to do it on my own -- I did. To me, you have to believe in yourself to start a business -- because people (whether they know it or not) will try to take you down. Building a network of support and industry contacts is essential to anyone -- and absolutely imperative to a career in public relations. I am so lucky to have been surrounded by inspiring, truthful, uplifting humans -- who always have my back (because I always have theirs.)
2. What one SIX4 client/project/moment are you the most proud of and why?
That is a hard question to answer, because I truly believe in my clients. Everything I do is to make them feel proud and to give them as much value as I can, to earn their dollar. Plus -- I really believe their stories and creations need to be seen. When I land a story -- big or small -- I could do a cartwheel.
Aside from that, I am most proud when I can pay someone else -- be it a good friend or freelancer or member of my team. Being able to financially contribute to anyone I care for and respect as an artist or creative or professional has been one of the best feelings I can imagine. Collaboration makes me very happy!
3. How would you describe a typical day? What's your morning to evening routine?
It's never the same day to day -- unless it is Thursday -- when I meet in-person with my entire team @ 10am: Jennifer Wisniewski, Director of Operations + Andrea Racine, Creative Assistant + Omar Diaz, Stylist + Photography Assistant. I usually am up by 7/8am. The first thing I do is call Jen and we catch up on the evening before or the day to come or complain about men or just laugh our asses off for 30 minutes -- whatever comes up, but we rarely miss a morning talk. I then check all my notifications (small red number icons give me major anxiety) and any open emails (I respond asap to everything I can), feed my fish (I have three tanks) and my turtle, Henry (he's rad) and then I get a coffee. I just moved to Old Irving Park and haven't really packed yet -- so Dunkin Donuts is the closest (medium Dunk-uccino and two blueberry glazed cake donuts, please!), until I get myself together at home. I check my meetings for the day, shower (or not -- don't judge) and get out the door to the first place. It could be a new client meeting, a current client, a person I want to have coffee with, a shoot (I started shooting most of my client imagery, if I can), a client news segment, a lunch, etc., and then end the day at a dinner or drinks or at home to try to do laundry. My days are long and my work never ends -- so I am working on prioritizing and seeing friends as much as I can, when I am not in meetings or on the computer.
4. How do you describe your personal aesthetic?
Day to day, I have begun to dress more casual -- a good t-shirt (fine: tank top) and shorts, with socks and chucks -- is my go-to for summer. I am quite tattooed, and I don't like to hide them. Plus, I despise heat (YES: I love fall and winter), so I dress to stay cool. (My 1996 RAV4's AC is currently MIA.) For dressier events and such, I always go for a well-fit suit jacket/blazer, black denim, a bowtie and killer shoes. I like a clean, classic look -- not a lot of pattern -- and I live in black, gray, navy blue and white (the colors of my first "RMB" logo, that I used right out of college.)
5. What individuals, tastemakers, celebrities, entrepreneurs, public figures inspire you?
Tom Ford is definitely on the list -- he's a lot of things I am not and I respect his sense of perfection and complete confidence in every move he makes. It's inspiring to watch him move through industries -- art, film, fashion. Alexander McQueen is another. He represents the true pain of an artist -- how the stories of the past/youth influence the way we do things as adults. His mind was so, so beautiful and dark -- yet so incredibly bright. Also, I recently saw the Robert Mapplethorp documentary that has really opened my eyes and taught me some important history. Photography is a practice/art that I have recently found a very deep love for. Shooting gives me joy -- and watching his story was mind-blowing.
6. If you weren't in the PR industry...and could be anything else...what would it be?
A photographer, an aquarium store owner or something working with kids.
7. It's creative time...what's on your music playlist? What inspires you?
I obsess over one or two albums at a time -- and listen to them for months, before I move on. Currently, I have one playlist I can't stop with -- it has Beyonce's "Lemonade", Ray LaMontange's "God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise", Years & Years' "Communion", Disclosure's "Caracal" and two Wild Belle albums.
I'm inspired by the people that I meet and the friends that I have in my life. I keep social with a large group of amazing creatives and I keep personal time for a small amount of humans that I have known for many years (most over 10 years.) My niece and nephews make me want to be the best human I can -- and my sisters make sure that they get to see what I'm up to, just as much as I see what they're doing. (Thank you, SnapChat + Facebook!)
8. Favorite restaurant on a Friday night + why?
I am biased, yes -- but I have had a couple incredible meals at Mott St lately. The food is stellar and the service is seamless. It's a delicious shared meal with friends, good music and perfectly balanced cocktails. (For lunch? Go for NAHA and try Chef Carrie Nahabedian's work. It's a very special menu.)
9. Wine or classic cocktail?
Classic. Well, either a whiskey/ginger ale -- or vodka/water/lemon, as of late. I don't really drink wine, ever.
10. Favorite weekend getaway destination?
I grew up camping in Wisconsin at a campground called "Tuck-A-Way" -- it is always my top spot to go, if I can. Though, it has been a while. I also love to go visit one of my best friends, Katie, in Oak Creek, WI (and her husband Josh, who does all my tattoos) -- for a weekend away from the craziness of the city.
11. Bonus question - 5 must-have apps that you need in your life to function?
The Social Apps (FB, IG, SnapChat - because: duh), Pandora (HOUSE MUSIC, allllll dayyyyy), Snapseed (for quick photo edits), Park Chicago (takes all my money), OkCupid (don't judge), and the FujiFilm camera remote app (I can transfer photos from my camera to my phone in seconds after I take them).
12. What's next for SIX4 and Ryan?
Growth and evolution, always: personally and professionally. I try not to make too many static plans for SIX4. I just try to do the best work I can, with the most inspiring and supportive humans I know. The rest works itself out -- or, it has for me. (Ok -- so, I also may have a few things up my sleeve. You'll just have to stay tuned.)