Tarrin McGhee usually shies away from talking about herself. As the owner of Pique Public Relations, a full-service communications agency, the PR powerhouse would much rather talk about her clients. And she’s good at doing just that. The UofM graduate has worked with a host of clients from large corporations to social justice organizations, helping each expand their impact through communications.
Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Tarrin comes from a lineage of entrepreneurs. Her father owned a printing company, and her great-grandparents were well-known restaurant owners. Knowing that she had a knack for communications, Tarrin decided to follow in her family members’ footsteps in 2009, combining her years of experience in writing, public relations and community organizing to become a dynamic business owner in her own right.
This year, Tarrin will celebrate Pique’s 10-year anniversary. In fact, the celebratory occasion is possibly the only reason the usually modest, self-proclaimed introvert doesn’t mind opening up about her successes. Here, Tarrin reflects on her entrepreneurial journey and shares what she loves most about the city she now calls home.
You launched Pique Public Relations in 2009. What made you decide to start your own company?
Prior to starting Pique in 2009, I was juggling four jobs: I was a PR/media analyst at Methodist Healthcare; a copywriter for skirt! Magazine, a former niche publication of the Commercial Appeal; a program director for Common Ground; and a freelancer. At the same time, I was community-organizing and volunteering, and I was actively involved in so many organizations, from the Memphis Urban League to the Junior League. I had little time to think or just be. At 26 years old, I was anxious about finding my path and eager to figure this career and life thing out fast, just like everyone else.
I was also becoming burned out by it all. So, before my annual year-end, holiday trip home to Nebraska in 2008, I had decided that at the start of the New Year I would save my sanity and future well-being by accepting and beginning a new, full-time job offer that I had received from a different, local PR agency. But prior to traveling that year, with encouragement and support from friends, I had also begun to think about the possibility of turning my freelance writing and promotional and community work into a legit business. During that trip, I talked to my mom about the idea. Although she was initially concerned about my instability in the city that I had chosen as my new home, she ultimately gave me her blessing by saying, “Well if it doesn’t work out, you can always get a job or come back and stay with me.” I am truly blessed to say that 10 years later, I haven’t had to do either.
You also come from a family of entrepreneurs.
My father was an entrepreneur. Before he passed at the age of 35, he owned a printing business while also working a full-time job. It is my dream to one day open a printing company, which will be called Encore Printing, and carry out his legacy. Also, my maternal great-grandparents were business owners. They owned a restaurant called The Booker T in the historic Rondo community of St. Paul, Minnesota.
You’ve worked with a bevy of clients, from government entities to artists. Why do you think you’ve been able to attract such a diverse clientele?
Overall, Pique’s top business value is to support people who are doing good work that has the potential to have a positive impact on the community and in the lives of others. I am intentional about accepting opportunities that align with that value, and because there are so many different ways to accomplish the mission, it’s natural for us to work with various types of clients. There is always more than one way to solve a problem, and I like to think that by supporting individuals, organizations, and entities that are offering unique solutions, we are helping to maximize collective impact. Many of the clients with whom I have worked have become long-term collaborators and friends through our shared and ongoing attempts to make a difference in the city we call home.
What do you love most about public relations and owning your own agency?
I enjoy combining various interests, skill, and passion into a career that supports myself and others. I gain great pleasure from simply helping people — whether it’s by serving as a thought or strategic partner, introducing an idea, devising strategies and plans to pique interest, communicating more effectively, building awareness and support, overcoming a crisis, or just being a great listener.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
Self-discipline, sleep deprivation, feelings of isolation and anxiety, and constant pressure to keep it all together have been some of the challenges I’ve faced. The first three to five years were pretty rough on my mental, emotional, and physical health, and I had to learn to prioritize self-care, quiet the negative self-defeating thoughts and fears, and shift from a scarcity to an abundance mindset.
What about Memphis has attracted you to stay and make it your home?
People are genuine, steadfast, and determined. Collectively, there is a great sense of hope for the future and an unwavering desire and effort to drive progression against all odds that I deeply respect and admire. I also love that Memphis’ story is authentic, layered, and intriguing.
Where do you take out-of-towners in Memphis?
Soulsville for the culture, National Civil Rights Museum for the history, the Riverfront & Harbor Town for the beauty and serenity, the Greenline and Shelby Farms for the unique sights to see and trails to wander. Being a foodie, restaurants are big on my list as well. I absolutely love Cozy Corner, The Four Way, Café 1912, Brother Juniper’s, Sunrise, Robata, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, The Little Tea Shop, The Pocket (which is a recent favorite), and so many others.
Let’s talk style. How would you describe your personal style?
My style is generally laid-back, no fuss, no fluff. Most days are business-casual and #BlazerLife! But there are other days when my style is all-the-way live. I love and treasure handmade, one-of-a-kind, vintage and African pieces the most.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received and from whom?
“A great PR person stays behind the scenes.” I received this advice from Tonya Meeks.
Being the president of the introverts’ club, I appreciated receiving this sensible and sound advice that fit nicely within my comfort zone as Pique was just getting started. In general, I am a woman of few words unless I’m writing or speaking on behalf of someone else. And I choose to not share much, for my own peace of mind, so accepting and following Tonya’s advice was easy.
Over the years and to this day, that one statement has stayed with me and held so many benefits. It reminds and guides me to always remain focused on the main goal of our work — garnering recognition and support for clients, and not myself. Although I do recognize how self-promotion can sometimes contribute to more rapid or robust growth and advancement, that’s just not my style.
Besides faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Books & words, candles & incense, and my 10-year-old Rottweiler, Nino “Honey” Brown.
Thanks for chatting with us, Tarrin! And thanks to Elizabeth Looney of Elizabeth Looney Photography for these fabulous images of Tarrin!
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