When Sarah Cichy was a private school girl in Melbourne, her friends didn’t know what she did on a Friday night. After catching the train one and a half hours home, she would change out of her school uniform, have dinner and get ready for work. From 6pm to midnight, she would join her father, who was a teacher, and clean office buildings to help pay for her and her sisters’ private schooling.
“After working on a Friday night, my dad would reward us girls with a 30 cent ice cream from McDonalds. It was our most cherished bonding time with him,” says Cichy. “I was so ashamed of it back then, but it propelled me to reach for better heights and create the life that I always wanted to live.”
Cichy, now 36, is living her dream. She founded Piccolo PR three and a half years ago after working in the industry for more than a decade - and the boutique agency is now one of the most well-regarded in the country.
Founding a PR empire wasn’t an easy task for someone who had “pennies in the bank.” Cichy asked a friend to buy her a $300 desk from Ikea and she worked from home with an old laptop. Her “office” hours were 6am to 5:30pm each day and they weren’t negotiable.
“I was breathtakingly innocent and fiercely determined,” she says. “I just took a leap of faith and backed myself.”
Since that leap of faith, Piccolo PR has gone on to employ five staff members and have 15 clients in the pillars of home, kids and personal branding. Cichy literally runs to work every day in excitement, “I just love it.”
The PR industry isn’t all glitz, glam and air kisses though. “It can be quite repetitive. It’s sitting at a desk all day. It’s sending pitches to media and not getting a response back. It can be really frustrating,” she says of the reality of working in public relations.
Whether she’s in the office or at an exclusive red carpet event, Cichy pinches herself everyday. Her biggest achievement? “The very first client I signed is still one of my clients.” It’s that loyalty that Cichy built her business on - and what makes her dad proud.
“This sounds like a rags to riches story,” she says with a laugh. And she’s not wrong! Here’s how to turn your rags into riches…
Secret to success: Don’t chase money, chase opportunity.
Breakfast of champions: I’m working on the whole brekky thing. I usually have a coffee and a piece of fruit. Or just a coffee.
Best advice: Be happy with what you have while working towards what you want.
Hardest lesson: It can be lonely at times. Business can subconsciously consume your mind, your energy and your everything day and night. It can be brutal. But it’s brilliant.
Top interview tip: Prepare for it like it’s an exam and study the business. Never presume it’s going to be a ‘casual’ chat.
Coffee order: A skinny cap with 1.5 sugars, an inch of chocolate and extra hot. Baristas love me!
Wind down: I’m a runner, so I hit the track. And then I hit the wine.