(Windsor, Ontario) – St. Clair Public Relations grad Cierra Bray says she keeps waiting for someone to wake her up because she definitely feels like she's living a dream. The 22-year-old graduated from the PR program in June, but even before walking across the stage, she had started her own business, acquired half a dozen clients, and hired a fellow PR grad.
"I struggled for years to find what I truly loved to do, but when I came across the PR program at St. Clair, something just clicked," says Bray. "The Public Relations program at St. Clair College is one of the best things that has happened to me."
Prior to attending St. Clair College, Bray took a year of Fashion Management at George Brown College and was a licensed insurance broker for a year at a local company. But then she discovered her passion for public relations and pursued a career in this field.
"I would definitely recommend St. Clair's PR program to others. Not only are you getting hands-on, relevant experiences, you are able to obtain insight on the industry when interning," explains Bray. "There are so many opportunities to get involved and the amount of PR jobs in Canada is constantly increasing. Or you could be like me and start your own business!"
Bray's business is called CGal Media and was established in May. She describes it as a social enterprise that works closely with organizations that believe in making a positive impact in the community.
"CGal Media provides social media marketing, event planning, media relations and creative strategy consulting," she explains.
She currently has six clients, including a business based in Boston, and one employee – fellow PR grad Jenna Seguin.
Bray was definitely not at a loss of words when asked how she feels about her successful start in the world of PR.
"To have just graduated and be working in PR feels amazing, wonderful, thrilling, fantastic, blissful and crazy," exclaims Bray.
Bray says she loves so much about public relations, especially the variety of prospects in the field.
"You could really work in any industry as a PR professional," she states. "Yes, even farmers need social media."
St. Clair's two-year PR program helped her develop communication and writing skills that Bray says she never knew she had.
"I have strengthened and polished existing skills like public speaking, social media management and event planning," explains Bray. "Ultimately, two things that have made my experiences fantastic at St. Clair were the faculty and the number of opportunities the program provided."
During the two-year program at St. Clair, Bray interned for TLC Animal Aid as a social media coordinator and website development, as well as for Windsor-Essex Compassionate Community Care as their social media liaison.
"Interning is so important," states Bray. "You learn firsthand what you will be doing once you graduate. Personally, I learned that I love social media and helping organizations succeed who want to make a change in the community."
In April, Bray applied to the University of Windsor's Epic Founder Program, which she explains employs students and graduates from St. Clair and the University of Windsor for 12 weeks to help them validate their business idea.
"After an intense application and pitch process, I was a successful candidate and started working on my business in May," explains Bray.
A week later, Bray signed her first client without even having a website up and running yet.
"I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty proud of myself for signing six clients before walking the stage to graduate," states Bray. Since then, Bray has registered CGal Media, hired an employee, launched her website and received outside funding for start-up costs.
"To be in PR you have to be willing to jump outside of you comfort zone and do things that might make you uncomfortable," says Bray. "You have to market yourself as a professional and get out into the community, networking your way to success, and St. Clair has shown me this."
Bray says she made sure to join everything she could on campus as a student.
"I was director of the Student Representative Council, the President of the Public Relations Club, I blogged for Student Health 101, planned events for the Genesis Entrepreneurship Centre and tried to say yes to every opportunity offered to me at the MediaPlex," states Bray, adding that she was also very involved with organizations outside of St. Clair as well.
During her time at St. Clair, Bray was honoured with several program awards, including first place for both Entrepreneurial Spirit and Presentations/Public Speaking, second place for PR Student of the Year and third place for Visual Communications. She also won the Leadership Award for St. Clair Graduating Student in PR, the Lucas Works Scholarship and the Student Council Scholarship.
Bray appreciates the fact that her St. Clair instructors are all working in the field, have a lot of experience to bring to the plate and pass on to their students real-world, first-person knowledge from the industry.
"Not only are they inspiring individuals, they are willing to share the good, the bad and the ugly," says Bray.
Bray says she's grateful to the many faculty and staff members who have helped her become a success through supporting her along the way and pushing her to be her best, including: Veronique Mandal, Dan MacDonald, Lori Newton, Laura Tucker, Karen Mingay, Rebecca Wright, Yvonne Pilon, Jo Lynn Sheane, Shelley Haggerty, Larry Forsyth and Dave Harrison. She adds that she's also thankful for Chris Ryan, Bryan Bailey Lauren Nantau at the Genesis Entrepreneurship Centre who especially inspired her to start my own business.
For aspiring PR professional or anyone passionate about leadership and entrepreneurship, Bray says it's important to believe in yourself, take risks, only do things that you're passionate about and make you happy and to always remember that anything is possible.
"I've had many failures in my life and more are coming, but you have to embrace the negative and keep pushing. I promise bigger and better things are coming your way."