I had the pleasure of meeting Megha Hamal at Cliquish’s “Life’s A Pitch” event this past January where she and I both sat on a panel. We met the day of before the panel began and I was instantly captivated by her warmth and kindness. After speaking with her, I had a feeling that she’d be someone I’d get to know better. And I’m glad I wasn’t wrong because over the last few months, Megha and I have become friends. She is someone whose opinion I seek and whose words of wisdom balance me.
Megha is the Founder and CEO of her own company, Megha Hamal PR & Branding, LLC, which is a Chicago-based boutique firm that specializes in personal branding and public relations. With more than 10 years of cross-sector PR experience, Megha understands the importance of storytelling to build a powerful and a lasting brand. Whether it’s a local, national or international client, Megha’s passion lies in helping her clients bring their unique stories to life. She helps position their stories in ways that convey their distinctive value proposition to their customers to set them up for both success and growth.
What’s fascinating about Megha is how her work in media relations and public relations has led to media placements in national and international print/online publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur Magazine, Fox News, Huff-Post, CEO World Magazine, Chicago Tribune and numerous other consumer trade publications. Megha is also a fellow writer like me and is currently the opinion columnist for CEO World Magazine! How cool is that?
What I love about Megha is not only is she passionate about what she does, but she believes in giving back. As a Nepalese American, she is passionate about causes that impact her community. She is currently the PR Chair for the Asian-American Coalition of Chicago, which organizes the largest Asian-American gala annually in the Midwest. She also sits as an associate board member for the Chinese Mutual Aid Association, a pan-Asian American organization in the Uptown neighborhood.
This woman is absolutely incredible and I cannot wait to share her story and wisdom with you!
Megha, so happy to have you part of the “Shine On” series. Can you please share your story and explain how you got to be where you are today in owning your own business?
I came to the U.S. in 2003 to pursue my higher education. At the time, my country was going through a civil war and the future of the youth was at a standstill. After coming here all by myself at the age of nineteen, I began my journey in the U.S. I received my undergraduate degree in Advertising from Minnesota State University and my masters degree in Mass Media with an emphasis in PR from the University of Illinois.
I started my career in the press office of the Illinois Department of Transportation. After doing public relations for some large statewide transportation projects for seven years, I decided to move to Chicago. I was offered the spokesperson job for the second largest pension fund in Illinois with $41 billion in assets. In this job, I did a lot of media relations work with national media and investment media. My work at IMRF resulted in coverage for the organization in the WSJ, Pensions & Investments, Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and many numerous media outlets.
After my pension job, I moved to the private sector, where I managed media relations for one of the largest for-profit higher-education providers in North America. In this role, I got to do a lot of thought leadership work for the C-suite executives, coupled with media relations work nationally and internationally. After working in this role for couple of years, I hit a wall. I wasn’t growing and I felt like my core values did not align with the direction that the company was taking. Therefore, I resigned and decided to start my own company, specializing in PR and personal branding.
I find from interviewing other entrepreneurs that usually something happened at a past company that sparked their interest in starting their own company. And it sounds like it was the same for you! So, how did you go about building your business and ensuring what you wanted to do was successful?
I took a calculated risk and talked with my family about it. Having some sort of support is crucial when you are getting out on your own. In the beginning, I was attending a lot of networking events and meeting a lot of new people. While I was doing that, I was also requesting contacts in my network to think of me for any PR related work. Sometimes, simply reaching out isn’t enough.
In order to get my name out there, I was doing a lot of writing on topics pertaining to PR and personal branding. Why? One may ask. Because expanding my thought leadership was key in getting my name out there. Therefore, I was writing for magazines like Entrepreneur and CEO World Business pertaining to personal branding and PR. By doing this, I was able to increase my visibility and position myself in ways that could get my company in front of people.
Building a business cannot be a one-prong approach. You have to do networking, connecting, asking questions, meeting other entrepreneurs, branding your business and being in charge of your own publicity. This is how I was able to get clients and grow.
That was beyond smart of you to think about thought leadership to help build your brand. What has been the most rewarding and most challenging part of starting and running your own business?
The most rewarding has been the fact that I am able to control my own schedule and spend time with my family. The most challenging is that owning your own business can sometimes get isolating. This is where I recommend you talk with other entrepreneurs and share your story. Because at the end of the day, we are all going through similar challenges.
That’s so true. And I’m curious, who would you say is your ideal client?
My ideal client is someone that’s truly passionate about what they do and are authentic and honest at the end of the day.
I’m all about authenticity and honesty so I can get behind that! Can you tell me what you love most about what you do?
I am a storyteller at heart. I love telling the stories of my clients to help them connect with their customers, stand out from their competitors and set them up for growth and success.
Storytelling is so key! How do you handle work/life balance being an entrepreneur?
I try not to work past 7pm on weekdays, unless it’s an emergency. I make it a point to devote a couple of hours during the weekend to spend with my husband, even if it means taking a stroll at a park. Finding that balance is so important.
Yes! I have to actively think about my time too and where to fit in time with my husband and family and friends. With everything going on in your life, what keeps you motivated?
Reminding myself of my journey from Nepal to the U.S. Remembering my roots gives me drive and motivation.
I love that that’s part of your story. What would you credit your success to?
My husband, my family and my drive.
I always like to ask women who inspires them. Who would you say inspires you?
Human resilience and stories of people who overcome adversity inspires me.
That’s such an amazing answer. And what does the future of your company ultimately look like?
I am positive about it. I just need to continue to give my 100%
I have faith in you! So, Lipstick & Ink is all about encouraging women to make their mark on their lives, the lives of others and on the world. What does “making your mark” mean to you?
Mentoring young women in the field of PR and communications is important to me. Success to me, is all about leaving a legacy.
If you had one piece of advice for women trying to make their mark, what would it be?
Always stand up for yourself and don’t ever let anyone tell you that you can’t do something!
Great advice, Megha! Thank you. As we wrap up this interview, do you have any parting thoughts?
I love how the L&I platform is bringing women together from all walks of life to talk about career, lifestyle and growth in the most positive manner.