April 20, 2021
Katie Brunelle and Maggie Knowles
We’re excited to announce the $10,000 March Amber Grant recipient. Congratulations to Katie Brunelle and Maggie Knowles, Co-Founders of Muse Relations. Muse Relations is a PR and marketing agency that focuses on strategic storytelling and relationship building.
Katie and Maggie are the fourth qualifiers for the 2021 year-end Amber Grant ($25,000).
Recently, WomensNet Advisory Board member Marcia Layton Turner sat down with both ladies for an exclusive (virtual) interview. You can watch that conversation right here or find the transcript listed below.
WomensNet: Welcome everyone to a chat with two of this month’s WomensNet’s winners of the Amber Grant. Today, we’re speaking with Katie Brunelle and Maggie Knowles of Muse Relations, who with their business partner, Victoria Furman, are the Amber Grant winners for March, 2021. I’m Marcia Layton Turner, and I’m one of the members of the WomensNet Advisory Board.
So, Katie and Maggie, why don’t we start by just getting a little bit of background. Tell us about your company, beginning with why you started it.
Muse: Absolutely. Thanks for talking to us, Marcia. We started a PR and marketing agency initially, in January of 2020, and we came together with our own skills. We had a really successful restaurant opening pop-up that we came together for, and we sold a hundred tickets in five days. It was a huge success. So we decided to start our own company together. I gave the full-time clients that I was working with a timeline to be done with them by March 2020…so very timely, we had our own company… right when the pandemic started. We did lose some clients that were non-essential businesses that had to shut down at the time. So we used that word ‘pivot,’ and we ended up finding a lot of people looking for production, which we also had experience with: TV, commercials, YouTube channels, local TV.
So we transitioned from Muse Relations into more Muse Media. That’s kind of the evolution of us.
One of our first big commercial clients wanted to create really great content that showed different people outside of their normal hunting/fishing group. So we brought in women who are fly fishers and hikers. We really worked with them to enhance their existing audience and to attract more people into the outdoors while we couldn’t do anything else during the pandemic.
WomensNet: So what do you think has been the secret to success so far?
Muse: We are dedicated. We have drive. We check in all the time with each other. Whatever project we’re working on, everybody is all hands in. But we’re also human and we allow ourselves and our team to be human. So if [someone’s] kid is sick, if you’re having an off day [we understand]. We are both single moms. So, well, three of us, we’re all single moms. So we have a family first ethos. We’re at home. We’re trying to be teachers, we’re still trying to work. So if someone’s having a crisis, we’re not going to force them to jump on a Zoom call with us. You take care of your kids and then we’ll regroup. We’ll get back together when things are common on the homefront. That balance really makes the work side of things work out better.
WomensNet: And how big is your team there? The three founders, then how many other contractors and employees do you have?
Muse: We work with quite a few videographers, editors, graphic designers, developers. We’ve worked with 20+ other people on different projects. We do have a film crew that we are bringing with us on a couple of projects.
WomensNet: What made you decide to apply for an Amber Grant? Did you have a particular need? How did you find it?
Muse: Probably a year ago was the first time we heard about you. And we’ve been following along. But this project that we applied for specifically — which we can talk about in a second — we felt like we had narrowed down exactly what we needed the money for. And we had a tangible product, something that we already knew we could accomplish and put a great product forward. I think that’s why the Amber Grant felt like a really good fit at this time.
WomensNet: Tell us about how you’re going to use the $10,000. You did have a very specific plan for that.
Muse: Yes. One of the projects that we are just wrapping up right now is a local TV show. It was the third season and they asked us to come in and help host and produce for this season only. We quadrupled sponsorship and boosted the viewership on a Saturday night at 7:30 PM. We have a thousand viewers in Maine. So it was really successful. We get so many compliments all the time on the work that we did with that show that we were inspired to create our own show. And it’s really specific. We’re pretty passionate about this project because I really believe it’s going to help our entire state and with the pandemic. We’re really looking toward our food industry, but not just the restaurants. We want to find our farmers and our lobstermen and growers, and everyone who’s actually producing that food that then goes into Maine’s restaurant industry. Maine is known for going farm to table.
Muse: So we have a lot of farmers and people that we are excited to interview. So it’s not just a typical cooking show. I’ll start interviewing one of these growers, these farmers, getting their story, really figuring out what they’re passionate about and any pivots that they’ve had to make coming out of this odd time in history. Really getting into what makes their farm, or whatever they do, special. And then we’ll be getting some seasonal ingredients from them, taking it back to an incredible award-winning local chef here who will show all the beautiful things that he’ll do with the food. What we really love is that then he’ll wrap up with what to do with the leftovers, because I think people are so much more aware now of waste, and being sustainable. And then having that leftover piece, I think will be an extra fun tidbit.
Another piece is that when the chef is cooking, when it’s done, we’re going to gather at a table with the farmer who helped bring the food and some other local people who have something to do with the topic that we’ll discuss. So we’re calling the show, Grown and Gathered. It’s going to be a New England, come-and-we’ll-feed-you, and that’s how we show we love you type of show.
So the grant we applied for because we wanted to get started on production. So we’ve already done our sizzle reel. We did all of our graphic work today and we’re getting ready to do our first full two episodes. So thanks to you, that was able to happen pretty quickly.
WomensNet: Tell us about the future plans for your company. Where are you going to go from here?
Muse: We have had more interest in our public relations and marketing side of things. So we’re going to grow both sides of the company. Maggie is going to steer Muse Media. She’s going to be a creative director, and I’ll [Katie] be directing the PR side. We have so many more ideas, especially with media, that we’re really excited about, and pitching even wider nationally. We have some big plans, because the model of the show can be taken anywhere. Every state has a beautiful story with their food, their heritage, their seasons, and then what can be done with that. So we’re excited to someday take it on the road.
WomensNet: Do you have any advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs? Anything that you’ve learned along the way that you think might be helpful for them?
Muse: I think women tend to really give themselves a hard time if they’re not doing everything 100% perfectly. Give yourself the permission to be good at whatever you’re doing in that moment. We’d all go crazy and would never sleep if we were a perfect mom, a perfect business person, etc. So allow yourself to be in the moment, whether it’s 12% or 80%. And be okay with that. You’re doing the best you can in that time and let yourself be in your creative space, or your parenting space, or whatever that looks like. That’s what you’re supposed to be and be proud of yourself because you’re amazing.
I would say say stick with it. There were certainly times when we thought, ‘Oh my gosh, what are we doing? Shouldn’t we be applying for jobs somewhere?’ And we really feel like we’ve hit our stride and it’s coming together. So I would say sticking with it and believing in what you have is really important. And being grateful — always be grateful. We start many team meetings with gratitude.
WomensNet: Awesome. Well, Katie and Maggie, thank you so much for taking a few minutes to share your story with the WomensNet community. Congratulations on being our latest winners.