Interview by Dayna Brownfield
Kate Finley moved to Columbus in fall of 2009 after marrying her husband. Originally from the Akron/Cleveland area, Finley is the millennial founder and CEO of Belle Communications, an award-winning PR and social media firm based in Columbus. Finley launched her agency at age 28 with the vision to empower meaningful work and thriving relationships. Belle connects PR to business goals through a smart, scrappy approach. Serving the restaurant, food and beverage, tourism, and business service industries, Finley and her team partner with brands like Piada Italian Street Food, Nestle, Dublin Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Risk Institute at The Ohio State University.
How did you get started on your career path?
I have worked in a range of marketing and PR roles as a Director of Events and Outreach for a nonprofit, a Media Relations Specialist at an advertising agency, and a Marketing Director at Chick-fil-A.
What advice has helped guide you along the way?
It doesn’t hurt to ask. This advice is straight from my mom and it’s GOLD. What separates a success from a failure? Fear of rejection and fear of embarrassment (so basically just fear). What’s the worst that can happen? Someone can tell you no. OK. Move on and try again.
What inspires you?
My faith and the belief that the possibilities truly are limitless. I believe we can all be better, smarter, stronger, and more creative if we put the effort in and help others do the same. I’m inspired by the opportunity to support other women and build into others on a daily basis.
Tell us about your role as Founder & CEO like at Belle Communications:
Belle Communications is an award-winning PR and social media firm based in Columbus, OH. When I started the agency five years ago, I had no funding and no experience running a business. But I had a vision I believed in – a PR agency built on a commitment to meaningful work and authentic connections – empowering both employees and clients to thrive. I am so proud of our team’s success and grateful to be able to lead an agency with the purpose to “empower meaningful work and thriving relationships.” In the day-to-day my primary role, in addition to business development, is really to champion the vision and growth of the company, while also empowering our team to carry out our company vision and ensuring that our culture remains a priority.
What’s the coolest thing about your industry right now?
The public relations industry is becoming more digital with technology, removing traditional barriers like having a physical office, which allows us to work more easily with clients internationally. There is less “red tape” in our industry due to chapters like the Public Relations Society of America’s Counselors Academy (of which I am a board member), which champions younger agency leadership and increased diversity. As an industry, we are seeing more women in leadership roles, the need for more diverse teams to produce the best ideas, and outcomes for the success of our clients and agencies.
Which organizations are you involved with around the community?
I am a member of the Board of Directors for Columbus’s anti-human-trafficking organization Freedom a la Cart, and co-chair for its annual 300-person event, Eat Up! Columbus. I also founded Boss Society, a professional organization for millennial female CEOs in Central Ohio.
What is an upcoming initiative that you’re passionate about?
I am very excited to be involved with the new Columbus chapter of Conscious Capitalism, an organization that promotes an ethical, noble, and values-based approach to business. It aligns so well with our vision at Belle Communications, and with my own belief as an entrepreneur that work can (and should) be purpose-driven and meaningful.
What are some of your work-life balance challenges & how do you address them?
Staying out of my inbox is a constant struggle, but I’m most at peace when I’m able to do this. I don’t think work and life need to exist in separate silos, so I aim for healthy work-life integration. I make sure I have time to spend with my husband, care for my plants, keep my house in order, prepare meals, and exercise. But even more than accomplishing all of the tactical things, for me it’s all part of a healthy mindset to choose to take care of myself.
Where do you go to unwind?
The beach! I try to go to the beach as often as possible because it’s the most rejuvenating place on earth, as far as I’m concerned. In Columbus, I like to unwind at The W Nail Bar and Replenish Spa.
What might someone be surprised to know about you?
I sing. I am really low-key about it, but I enjoy singing and come from a family full of singers. My mom was a traveling vocal artist and we all inherited her gift of singing. I also love playing games, particularly poker and Scrabble.
What super power would you choose?
Flight. Hands down.
When you were a kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a figure skater. In fact, I may pick lessons back up this summer.
What are among the top places you’d recommend to someone who is visiting or new to Columbus?
For a weekend trip, I’d recommend this agenda: stay at Le Meridien The Joseph, visit the Short North for shopping, kayak the Scioto River or a walk along the Scioto Mile trails. Take a day-trip to Dublin to visit waterfalls and cap the night at VASO Rooftop Lounge in Dublin for a cocktail. Also, you cannot visit Columbus without a trip to Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams for a scoop of the vegan chocolate ice cream.
What’s the most exciting thing about Columbus right now?
I love all the great restaurant options we have popping up in Columbus. I also take a lot of pride in how restaurants in Columbus are scaling nationally like Condado Tacos, Piada, and City Barbeque.
What is something that you wish Columbus had?
One thing I love are the open container laws like there are in Savannah, GA. I would love to walk around German Village with a cocktail.
If someone were to ask you what the “pulse” of Columbus is, what would you tell them?
Columbus is full of the entrepreneurial spirit. With so many smart and creative people and businesses, there is a thriving culture of innovation, and an abundance of opportunities for meaningful connection.