CEO Founder Story

CEO Founder Story

In this video, CEO Scott Bartnick tells us his startup founder story of now a seven figure company, Otter PR. An inspiring discussion with the Otter PR co-founder, Scott Bartnick. Scott discusses his modest upbringing, how he went from an engineering background to bootstrapping a multimillion-dollar public relations firm and how he applies his knowledge of processes to business applications.

Jack Shell 0:00
It’s the otter PR podcast jack shell with not Dr. Jay Feldman. It’s the other brain behind the Empire. The one the only Scott Bartnick. You’re joining me for a discussion today. Hi,

Scott Bartnick 0:12
Hey Jack. Thanks for having me.

Unknown Speaker 0:14
Why don’t you lean into the microphone. Is that better? Yeah, why don’t you move the microphone toward you

Scott Bartnick 0:18
awesome. First time in the studio guys.

Jack Shell 0:23
He’s an engineer. He’s not a broadcast professional. Come on. And that’s what we’re gonna talk a bit about today is Scott’s background and how it relates to how we began this here company honor public relations, one of the leading public relations firms in the United States, if not the world, we’re certainly one of the fastest growing, that’s for sure. And it’s my pleasure to work for these guys. It’s been a growing learning experience over the course of the last month or so. But I’ve been with the company, and I’m learning things every day. we’re educating our clients. We’re building relationships, we’re getting people out in the world of media, on TV, in magazines, and print publications. Am I talking too much, Scott? No, you’re doing a great job. Okay, so live on going? Oh, so anyway, this whole thing started out with a conversation in an apartment. And I want to backtrack a little bit because you spent the weekend with your co founder and chief Bellman in Orlando, at a big conference, where you got to hear the great Tony Robbins speak.

Scott Bartnick 1:26
Yeah, that was the first time I heard him speak the first time heard anyone speak like that. It probably isn’t the best speakers of our times. very motivational. I think that where we are now going to that conference is just kind of a dream come true. Being able to go there and already kind of hitting some of those goals that we had said, and really just being around the greats and looking at, you know, Jay, and I and otter were baby entrepreneurs. Were my background. I’m a true entrepreneur. I love operations. I just love building things. And right now My dream is out of PR and how to build that, but learning from those people who have already done it who are making not millions, but billions. And then listen to them. Tell us how they did it and how they coach people in their mindset through it was just opening eye opening.

Jack Shell 2:06
Yeah, you know, and every journey begins with the first step. It’s kind of a trite but true statement. And when you saw Tony Robbins, he certainly inspired you, as he inspire so many entrepreneurs worldwide. The guy’s been speaking engagements like this for 30 years or so. But what I want to do is set this discussion up as to maybe someone watching this, who is to be inspired by your story, and how you began this thing, because who knows, maybe in the next 10 years, we might be paying money to see Scott Bartnick or Dr. J. Philbin on one of these stages, talking to a roomful of people because they started this, this little company in a little apartment. Yeah,

Scott Bartnick 2:40
hopefully sooner. It’s one of my goals to be on the stage. Really motivation motivated by it. But I think one of the big things that most speakers had in common was the emotion. Part of sales. Part of building a story, building a brand is the emotion behind it the story, it’s very hard to look an entrepreneur who came bankrolled and just, you know, they made a billion dollars, but they were given five and a half million to start or 20 million to start. It’s very different. A lot of the people in the room were pretty much all the speakers bootstrapped it. And I think that’s one thing that’s important about our PR and where we started as a company, you had no handout, no handout, no real help except for each other. We were kind of at each other’s mentors. We used other mentors online, we read books, things like that. But there was there’s no gift as a matter of fact, we were in debt. We both own ecommerce business together Jays over half a million dollars in debt in student loans. I have my own personal debt. But we also had massive ecommerce debts. I was facing bankruptcy when we started auto PR, and just that story. And that kind of mentality was common through those entrepreneurs and learning how they had all failed, and then build themselves back up as a big part of successful people.

Jack Shell 3:46
So you decided randomly let’s just start a PR agency. It didn’t just happen like this. Obviously, Scott and Jay were also successful entrepreneurs in their own right, your background is in engineering. So I mean, how does that relate to public relations? Wait, let’s get to that in a second. You guys were successful entrepreneurs. You had your own little businesses, and they weren’t little businesses. You made money. You started a company called the five day startup. Am

Scott Bartnick 4:44
I correct? Yeah, that’s correct. So Jay and I both had our own businesses. I actually, I’ll give you a little more background to jump back there. So I have an engineering degree. I actually have two engineering degrees, operations and systems engineering. My background is optimization. Basically, I make things better. That’s my job. I don’t necessarily create That’s not how I was educated, how do I walk into a system and improve upon it. And so I’ve always kind of done that throughout business. Jay and I started our first business five years ago, it was ecommerce, we had product, we sold the majority through Amazon. And we had a lot of success in a small sense that we were working full time he was in school, I was working for a fortune 500 company and loving it at the time. So when we started off, we launched our product, we started doing about $2,000 a month in sales, which, hey, you know, I’ll take it 25% margins, not a lot to talk home, take home. But still, we learned and at that time, I thought it was a big success. Because my goal was small, it was $10 a day. And if that’s it, it was $10 a day, I just wanted to some side side hustle of some retirement fund, I wanted to potentially maybe buy a house with it or you know, put that straight to retirement or have that as my play money. Whatever it was, that was just kind of how it started off. But we just kept building from there. After about a year I quit my job. And I decide, right before I quit, I put a personal goal to have my own business that was making me a little bit of cash. That was another another $10 day goal. It was just, I wanted to have some cash flows coming in. So I could go abroad, I just read the four hour workweek by Tim Ferriss. And it stopped me in my tracks, it was kind of like, found Jesus moment I had where I just looked at life differently. And I had to change my life pretty much instantly, I had to make changes, I start my first business, I built that up. And then I started my own personal business without Jay. And that was kind of I was doing little bit of odds and ends as any entrepreneur would, I had to learn how to build a website, just to build a website. So then I was like, Well, let me sell websites, I can build websites now. So I built that for a little bit. And then I had to build a social media presence and do some marketing. And so I was like, Well, I’m pretty good at this. So let me sell this for a while. And so every step of the way, my goal was whatever I was focused on, become so good at it, that I could sell it as a service. And if I didn’t like it, or if it ended up not being that profitable sell, I would move on. And so I’ve continued to move on until I found things I like e commerce has been a branch throughout the entire process that I’ve loved. But I really found my calling with otter, and part of that comes from I’m gonna jump back a little bit again, when I did quit, I spent a year traveling. And that was I was working full time for myself for the five day startup doing kind of website development, social media marketing, building brands, helping people consulting using my operations background as well. I try to get into a little bit more what I was interested in was their business operations. But that’s a bit hard to sell, at least for me. But I did it all from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Australia,

Jack Shell 7:25
there’s not a place on the map you haven’t visited at this point. Actually, I’ve never been to you’re never been to Europe to Europe. I don’t know. I’ve been to Europe, but I haven’t been anywhere.

Scott Bartnick 7:35
I was just it’s not on my list. I mean, it will be I’m going it’s on the list. It just wasn’t at the time. Europe for me was just a almost a road trip away. All my college friends went to Europe, everyone vacations in Europe, it’s a shorter flight six hours, you’re like, instead I’ll go to Egypt. Yeah, I’ve been to Egypt. Yeah, it was awesome. It was amazing. But the whole point was, I could work and build my business while I was traveling. So I would spend more time working than I did party. But it was really cool. Because I could go have lunch, instead of having lunch, you know, down the street, I’d go have lunch at a crazy ruin, and do it with travelers and I’d stay in hostels and still live that lifestyle. And what I did was I tried to relearn what life meant. as dumb as that sounds, I had always come from a middle class family, I had what I needed. College was paid for at a free ride on top of that. So I was always comfortable. I never looked poor, I’d always kind of had a car when I turned 16. That that simple, but great. So I never lived poor, I’d never lived on a couple of dollars a day, I never forced myself to go outside my comfort zone. And so one of the interesting things was when I quit someone who was very wealthy, it asked me well, who’s funding this trip? Like who’s paying for this? Yeah, who’s paying for exactly. And for me, it was like, well, I am, I am and I’m gonna live poor, and I’m gonna live different. And I’m going to realize that money doesn’t matter, and that I need to enjoy the process. And so that that to jump back a little bit, that kind of tells you how auto was built in the sense that I had experimented so many different times, and never really tried to win in any of those things, just trying to learn and trying to look at different perspectives. Then, fast forward a year later, I come back actually move in with Jay, my business partner and we start working on auto we had our ecommerce had actually gone from 2000 a month to about 45 $50,000 a month, seasonally. And so we were having a lot of success there. Cash Flow still wasn’t really what I wanted to kind of maintain a life because you have to buy inventory, you have to market it. If you want a whole new product you’re taking, it’s expensive, you take all your profits, and then you go double that another product right and to scale that continues to continue to double down on other product. But we had success there. I think 40 $50,000 everyone will consider that a success. And what we saw was we were both really good at marketing and really good at public relations. We had some very successful PR campaigns. Jay and I were both in the media and people kept that How are you doing this? How are you doing this? How are you doing this? and Jay and I were doing it separately, we were just looked at each other. It’s like, well, Jay, your skill sets here. My scopes are really scaling and operations and optimization, you go build the base, and I’ll, I’ll take that, and I’ll triple it. And so that’s kind of where we started with autoware. Pr was almost more Jays dream, a, I just want to be part of something that I think is great. And I think that what we built with otter is great. And the team that we have is awesome. And the results that we’re getting people are on Forbes, New York Times, Inc, daily Fox Business, and actually I just got a sales call with someone from Fox Business. And they’re like, yeah, we can put a crown on there for $40,000. I was like, Oh, well, we can just pitch it for free. $40,000 $40,000 we’ve had multiple clients on Fox Business for, for free. Yeah, right. And we don’t, we don’t buy that spot we storytelling. And so to me to see the value of what we’re doing for our clients that could be resold and used at just our cost of working with the publicist is amazing to see that true value and kind of have that impact and know that we’re helping businesses.

Jack Shell 11:05
You know, you said you had a humble beginning, you started being a bootstrap this whole thing. Let’s go back to where you got the idea to do this. You’re sitting around your apartment to eat ramen noodles, sitting on the couch and go, you know, we’ve learned a lot about this PR thing with our little businesses here. Can we do it ourselves? Yeah,

Scott Bartnick 11:26
so we were definitely experiment phase still. Ecommerce was killing it for us, again, not the best cash winner. And it was really Jay, it was Jays idea. Jay was like, I love PR, I’m really passionate about it. I had a couple ideas. Mine was Amazon consulting, I was doing Amazon consulting, that’s where I was taking my business really focused on the operations. I think that that’s my niche. My niche is building, optimizing, improving scaling, looking at systems and changing them.

Jack Shell 11:52
I’ve seen this guy work. He’s constantly molding and shaping things over and over again and refining. It’s something else. My brain doesn’t work that way. So I’m fascinated by people who

Scott Bartnick 12:01
do yeah, a lot of my job is just organization at a corporate structure where I have to go into other people’s brains. This makes no sense. We have to structure this we have to clit set clear priorities, and we have to execute a specific time and day. That’s part of my degree, in a sense, is kind of just how my mind is trained. Yeah. So it was Jay’s baby. And it was his dream. And he just says Scott, like, I don’t want to do Amazon consulting with you. It’s not my dream. I love PR and I was like, Okay, fine. I love building things. So perfect. We’ll we’ll follow your dream. You think you can sell it? I told him I was like, Listen, you make the first 10 sales. I’m 5050 I’m not gonna do anything. If you make those first 10 sales I’m in about a week later. He’s like, Scott, I made 10 sales come help me.

Jack Shell 12:43
That’s incredible. I mean, how many people are listening to this right now thinking themselves? Gosh, I want to start my own business. How do I do it? And then how do I get people to know about my business? Once I’ve got it started? I guess you come here, don’t you?

Scott Bartnick 12:56
Yeah, I mean, every journey is different. I think that listening to other people speak and listen to people’s ideas. There’s no bad idea in business. I mean, there are not so good ideas, but and I can shoot holes in ideas all day and so can anyone but you can make and sell pretty much any product as long as you’re passionate about it and you find a way to reach an audience. I think that that’s the biggest thing is Who are you helping? So what is the problem? A lot of people try to start backwards. They’re like I have this solution. Let me sell it but are you solving the problem. So look, especially service wise, as you just need a way to get in front of a person and tell them hey, I can make this better for you. I can improve this I can solve your pain points or I can help you grow. That’s it. That’s that’s really as simple as that. There’s a

Jack Shell 13:35
lot of people that come to us that don’t know how to do what we know how to do. That’s me. That’s basically what any business is about, really, at the end of the day. Not everybody knows how to make an iPhone. So you go to Apple to get the iPhone, whatever. But we know how to get the coverage. We know how to get your product cameras, we know how to get you the ink that you deserve and that you desire and to get your name out. And by Gosh, these guys have figured it out. And it’s it’s mind blowing to watch this thing grow. And to see how fast it has come to fruition. This stream you guys have assembled here at RPR. You started from two guys on a couch. He added Colleen and we got dead 3637 employees now we’re adding a bunch more to Yeah, offices. Orlando in St. Petersburg.

Scott Bartnick 14:16
I’m really excited. I actually just got a call that Orlando office at capacity, we’re looking to expand. We’re hiring 15 new people in the next two weeks. We’re gonna continue to grow. And I think the coolest thing for me specifically is looking at a business and looking at a startup versus a business that’s in the growth or scaling phase. startups are confused. Startups don’t know where to go. They don’t know if I put $1 in what do I gain get out? I think what’s really cool about otter is we’ve in a year and a half, two years. I think we’re already in the growth phase. We have many startups inside here where we’re trying different projects or looking at different things but our media relations is amazing are so key for that the nuts and bolts of what we do your relationships. That’s what we do. We get people in the press and our team is awesome and we are able to bring new people in them, have leadership have an organization structure and scale it. So for me, I can look at it as a math problem. Now if I can hire 15, people who are good and can follow our process, we can grow, I can sell it, I know I can sell it, Jake and sell it and it’s done.

Jack Shell 15:13
And the key word you just use there is process. We’re not like every other PR agency in the world, we have a specific way that we do things, this goes to your engineering and managerial background, you’ve come up with a process and a unique, proprietary system for how we do it.

Scott Bartnick 15:30
Oh, yeah, we’re very structured. So one of the advantages of working with us is that Jay and I didn’t have PR backgrounds. So the first thing we did is obviously interview people with VR backgrounds.

We’re not just winging it over here. We’re not winging it.

brought in the experts. I actually for the first month, I was a publicist that bombed miserably.

Jack Shell 15:49
I somehow can see that. But that’s only because I know how hyper focus you get on other things.

Scott Bartnick 15:55
Yeah, I’m more of a strategy guy. I can talk strategy about PR all day, but to actually have me do the outreach was not. Now I have a black book goes as long as you can imagine, get covered anywhere. But I wasn’t a publicist. My, what I do now is I help. It’s like I said, process. So when you came on, you do weeks of training, you have that org structure, you have a mentor ship, there’s checklists and different steps that you have to make. Now we have guides and process, it’s just all built for you. So and we’re doing things differently. We’re guaranteeing results. We’re pitching the media, and we’re actually focused on media relations, not just the strategy behind it. I’m not just taking a business owner and saying, hey, well, if you did this, this and this maybe would have gotten you published, like, what does that do for you? That’s not what you hired me, right? my job, my team’s job is to actually get your publishers to get you to do those things, or to figure out how to work with what we have to get that person published,

Jack Shell 16:47
follow the process, and then work with the other details. While you’re within that. Absolutely. You know, and I have a client I’m working with right now who we’re getting the ink, we’re getting the coverage, we’re getting the podcast, these are all happening right now, as we speak, got about another podcast today, got another article today, this stuff happened. It’s like three things within this week. But at the same time, I’m trying to encourage this guy to open up his social media channels, so people know who he is. Because when you go to these bigger outlets, they’re going well. Nice guy, but 100 followers on Instagram is not going to cut it with us.

Scott Bartnick 17:22
Yep. And I call it the ladder of success. So I do this, especially in the thought leadership category. When we’re working directly with CEOs who want to build their personal brand, there’s a lot of success, you’re not going to come in day one, if you have no background, very little business success and be a New York Times, it’s just not it. When I started my PR campaign, they were all made low tier, I even start with medium. And that was the first thing I was on with a free site to post on. Sure. But you have to build that presence. Now. I’m an entrepreneur.com. contributor, I’ve been hosted over 150 times. I have, I’m verified in all social media accounts, I have 50,000 followers. So I’m not a big fish yet. But it’s really easy to pitch me to most outlets, even those larger outlets, because I have enough checkmarks that they’re like, Okay, this guy has an audience. And that’s a big part of it is having that audience, but also as a voice. And that’s the other part of it. So you have to help build and show that just having that voice alone with no audience doesn’t do anything and know what an audience with no voice doesn’t do anything. You need both. And so that just comes over time. I mean, I’ve been running my own PR for almost two years now or the team has I don’t remember who you are. But it increases the opportunities that I get get better every day as my business grows, as there’s more presence out there as I do more speaking engagements. And it just continues to follow the path. And my goals change daily. And now I want to be speaker you mentioned Tony Robbins. Yeah, that’s, that’s my next goal. I don’t need maybe an audience of 3000 or 10,000 or 100,000. But we’re actually playing our first conference. We’re going to do a conference in November. Yeah. So it’ll be a very small conference. But that’s step one. And I think at that conference, one of the big things that the great said was, don’t look at what I’m doing 40 years down the road and look yourself as a failure. Just keep building towards that dream, because I’ve been doing for 40 years. Why would you be as good as me?

Jack Shell 19:07
Right? Right, exactly. So you know, you’re watching this or listening to this right now. And I’m sitting in this room and who knows who could be going. I’ve never seen a little Scott Bartnick on that little podcast on YouTube and look in now. That’s really an incredible goal and I was not aware of your conference. I think that’s really cool, man. Yeah, yeah, so good luck with that. Yeah, the success we’re having here at the otter PR is really really incredible and if you haven’t spent too much time on our website, I highly encourage you to do so at otter PR comm check out our social media channels to our YouTube videos are amazing and shoot this guy was just in the office yesterday morning going I need to make a video Please make a video what I’m making video about. So we’re constantly making videos and showing people what we can do and how to do it better and and we’re constantly evolving to as a startup company, we have to constantly learn and Bro and like I said, we’re not winging it here we do have pros on our team that we work with and consult with. And we also learn a lot from our clients too at the same time, you know, because you guys tell us what you need and we we go the extra mile for you, you know. So that’s that’s what it’s all about here. It’s it’s relating, and it’s relations and it’s public relations in the pool. I’ll tell you and Nobody does it better than our fantastic team at auto PR. Scott Bartnick. Thank you for your time today. JACK, thanks so much for having me. Oh, this is really an incredible experience. And really if you need to PR top shelf PR we got it for you Media Relations want to get for the cameras. You want to get into AIG you want to get on the Forbes councils and not for nor calm leadership councils. We have the keys to your success, and it’s as simple as clicking otter PR calm and reaching out to us and Scott Bartnick j Feldman, they’ll talk to you and they’ll set you up. But we have an incredible sales staff, with Gabby and Shannon and Dan and everybody else here in our team and we will show you the way to success here without our PR. What’s gonna happen next week? Are we gonna hang out again? Or, or is this gonna gonna be the Jay Feldman show? We’re getting ready to have you both in here.

Scott Bartnick 21:02
Maybe we’ll get both of us. That’d be fun.

Jack Shell 21:04
We still need a name for this.

Scott Bartnick 21:06
We don’t have a name yet.

Jack Shell 21:07
No, we keep calling it the otter PR podcast and Vario designand. Marketing, shout me some ideas. And j said no. I thought about her father, but nobody wants to ask. Scott, do you have any ideas? Oh, man,

Scott Bartnick 21:21
I’m not the ideas guy.

Jack Shell 21:22
You’re not the ideas guy.

Scott Bartnick 21:23
Give me an idea. I’ll prove on it.

Jack Shell 21:24
Okay, okay, well, let’s go ahead and pencil this name for next week. And maybe he’ll improve upon our ideas between now and then. But thank you for hanging out with us today for Scott Bartnick and Jay Feldman. I’m jack shell and we’ll talk to you next time.

Tags: media relations, PR, Public relations

Meet The Host

Jack Shell

Jack Shell

Jack Shell is a seasoned media professional with over twenty years of experience writing and has been an air personality on some of America’s biggest radio stations. He is a creative mind, a voice-over talent, a writer, a gourmet cook, and daddy to two cats.

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