Heather Whaling (@prTini) is founder and president of Geben Communication. An avid Twitter user, Heather can trace the majority of Geben’s business back to relationships that began online. This ability to turn social networking into business outcomes illustrates Geben’s contemporary approach to traditional and digital PR.
Whaling demonstrates her forward thinking beliefs in all that she does. Whaling demonstrates her forward thinking and community initiatives in all that she does. From offering her employees paid maternal and paternal leave, to supporting community initiatives like Aunt Flow, Heather has positioned Geben as a powerful force in the community and a strong supporter of Aunt Flow. The following is a quick interview with Heather…
1. HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO START YOUR COMPANY?
In 2009, I was living in Orlando and wanted to move back to Columbus. (I’m from Westerville.) It was the height of the recession, so I had to decide if I could find a job or if I should create my own. I decided to give it a whirl and launched Geben in December 2009.
2. DID YOU EVER IMAGINE THAT GEBEN WOULD BE AS LARGE AS IT IS TODAY?
NOPE! I thought it would be cool if someday I had 2 or 3 people who worked for me. I hit that in year 2. We’re currently at 26. Clearly, I wasn’t aiming high enough!
3. HOW IS GEBEN MAKING AN IMPACT IN THE COMMUNITY?
The more we give, the more we grow. And, the more we grow, the more we give.
Interestingly, the thing about Geben that unites all of us is more than a love for communication. It’s the shared belief in doing well by doing good. It’s what pushes us through the frustrating days, and refuses to let us get complacent. It’s what motivates us to embrace the crazy, innovate best practices, build unmatched client relationships, and take calculated risks.
We don’t just want to be successful. We want to be impactful. That’s why we’re actively support The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, ROX (Ruling Our Experiences), Gladden Community House and other efforts/orgs in Franklinton, Girls on the Run, Peletonia, United Way of Central Ohio, CHOICES, Healing Broken Circles (amazing programs in prison!), Ronald McDonald House of Central Ohio … the list could go on and on.
4. DO YOU HAVE ANY PASSION PROJECTS?
I’m particularly interested in giving a voice to the voiceless and supporting women entrepreneurship. I’m a trustee for Kiva Zip, a new program launching in Columbus. My involvement there will focus on helping women entrepreneurs secure microloans to launch and/or grow their business. More successful women entrepreneurs will create more opportunities for women throughout the community to be economically self-sufficient, which is something I’m really focused on.
The “voice to the voiceless” part is why I’m interested in prison programs, supporting Franklinton and advocating on behalf of women and girls as a board member of The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio.
5. WHAT CHALLENGES HAVE YOU FACED AS A WOMAN BUSINESS OWNER?
When I was pregnant, people kept asking me when I’d slow down, how I’d balance motherhood and entrepreneurship. No one asks men these questions. There’s an expectation that women should take a step back. That wasn’t an option for me. It’s really important for me to show my son that you can have ambitious career goals AND be a good parent. So, I had to learn to ignore the (not so) subtle comments from people who wanted to offer me “advice.”
6. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST PERK OF BEING A WOMAN BUSINESS OWNER?
This isn’t necessarily about being a woman business owner, more about being a business owner. I love that I can impact policy. We recently rolled out our “Geben Loves Family” policy — 10 weeks of paid leave for new moms AND new dads. The policy has sparked important dialogue and let us be part of the broader conversation about paid leave. As small business owners, we don’t have to wait for the government to mandate a policy or follow the lead of bigger corporations. We can make policy and impact change by leading the way on important issues like paid leave.
7. THE MAJORITY OF YOUR EMPLOYEES ARE FEMALE; IS IT STILL AWKWARD TO TALK ABOUT TAMPONS IN THE OFFICE?
Unfortunately, it is! If one of the ladies in the office needs a tampon, there are IMs (instant messages) and whispers.
8. WHY DID GEBEN DECIDE TO SPONSOR AUNT FLOW?
Two reasons: I love supporting women entrepreneurs, and Claire is a force. I can’t wait to see how she leads this movement. Also, there’s a need for this. Poor women often lack access to feminine hygiene. I was shocked to learn that women in a homeless shelter receive two tampons per month. What good does that actually do?! With the subscription service, Aunt Flow will make women’s lives easier … and the BOGO component helps those in need. Who wouldn’t want to get behind that?!
BOGO component helps those in need. Who wouldn’t want to get behind that?!