In an area teeming with personality and character, we will be featuring 10 select influencers that are leaving their mark on the Northern Virginia region. Spotlights will be featured on a weekly basis and will range in industry from authors and performers, to tech giants and unique business owners.
Normally, being in the middle of maternity leave and a nationwide recession would not seem like the best time to go out on your own to start a business.
But that’s just what Maurisa Potts did in 2008 when she founded her own marketing and PR firm, Spotted MP (the “MP” stands primarily for marketing and PR, but conveniently also happens to be her own initials).
Unlike most marketing/PR firms, Potts has what she calls “the personal touch,” asking about the kids, talking about hobbies or a recent vacation. “People don’t understand, regardless if you’re in marketing or communications or anything like that, you have to continue to court a relationship. … That’s something that has always been key to me, getting to know individuals first before you do business,” she says.
This intimate approach is in part due to the “small yet mighty” nature of Spotted MP—and that’s not just because of Potts’ 4-foot 11-inch stature. “I’m African-American and female, so sometimes they look at you like you’re not smart; you’re too short; you know what I mean? [I’m] having to constantly prove myself to the point where … I officially get a seat at the table.”
“I’m not a big agency,” Potts continues. “I am able to handle a lot, so when [clients] bring me on as the firm of choice, they authentically and holistically get me.”
As the head of a firm that offers marketing, PR and event services, Potts wears many hats in Spotted MP. But the most enjoyable field remains marketing, which she studied during her college years at Virginia Tech. “I really love sitting down and figuring out the strategy for a business. And also identifying what channels they need to focus on, what channels they shouldn’t,” Potts says. “I take pride in helping them with their marketing strategy, because a lot of times they’re so focused on the operational that when it comes to marketing, they’re like a deer in the headlights.”
Bringing this sort of experience to a business also means being unafraid to push back. “I challenge my clients to really think out of the box. It’s OK to say ‘No, this is not going to work, and this is why’ … it’s definitely a push-pull, challenging my clients to think differently but also having the grit to have a tough conversation with [them] so you’re not just a ‘yes’ person all the time.”
Several local businesses seem to wholeheartedly agree with her work ethic. Since the conception of Spotted MP, she’s maintained longstanding working relationships with clients like Visit Alexandria, Old Town Boutique District and the Alexandria Economic Development Partnership. Potts is also the event and programming producer for Alexandria’s King Street Corridor Initiative, which seeks to revitalize the King Street area and activate the new park along the waterfront in the coming year.
But Potts is also passionate about her nonprofit work, namely with the Colorectal Cancer Alliance. With them, she has led a variety of marketing campaigns and PR strategies to raise awareness about the disease that is rapidly affecting more and more people. “Working with them and raising awareness about a disease that is also personally important to me is very fulfilling,” Potts says.
Being a woman in the business world is no easy feat, and Potts will be the first to say so. But in her 10-plus years in the industry, she has learned a thing or two about what determines true success. First is the importance of a supportive, cohesive work environment, especially among women. “There is no competition. There should be no feeling of competition … women have to help women at this day in age,” she says.
And second? “You are never too busy, you are never too young, you are never too old to say thank you. I didn’t get here by myself. … None of us are successful on our own. People help you along the way.” Whether it’s through thoughtful thank-you notes or simply uttering the words, Potts seeks to incorporate “the business of gratitude” into her everyday work.
After all that Potts has learned on her own, there remains a philosophy she’s held since she first started working, one that she believes can apply to any profession. “If I’m in [a] business where I’m just maintaining and not creating, that’s not my style,” Potts says. “If I’m not having fun with what I’m doing as my job and what I do for my clients, it’s time to just stop. If it’s a grind, a drag or whatever, it’s time to stop the entrepreneur roadshow.”
But rest assured, she is far from finished. “Always find an opportunity to have that blank canvas, regardless of whatever you do to create. Every day is different. My clients are different, every day is different. And that’s what I thrive on.” // maurisapotts.com