Jennifer Jones and Cynthia Hornig are a team like no other. After kicking butt in all things PR at a leading American jewelry company, they decided to open their very own PR agency, OUTHOUSE PR. In the midst of this marketing work came questions about how women are portrayed in the media–specifically, why is so much of the attention inherently negative, and what can be done to remedy this problem? The duo took years of industry experience (and some major life lessons) and founded Women You Should Know, an editorial platform that aims to change the way women are perceived in media and beyond. We spoke with Cynthia about the history behind the company, their favorite charity to give back to, and the biggest triumphs she and Jennifer have experienced.
Jennifer is on the left and Cynthia is on the right! (Image courtesy of Women You Should Know)
How did you two meet, and how did you decide to create Women You Should Know?
After having very accomplished but separate careers, we eventually started working together at one of the biggest American jewelry companies as the brand's two-woman, in-house PR team. In a very short time and for many different reasons, we decided to venture out and start our own PR and event marketing firm. Plans were in motion, we were set to open our doors on September 11, 2001. Our phone lines were scheduled to be installed at 1:00pm that afternoon in our new office, one block south of the World Trade Center…the rest of that story is an entirely different interview, in and of itself.
But it was the first phase of what has now been an almost 17 year adventure in serial entrepreneurship and in our evolution as business owners. 10 years after building OUTHOUSE into an award-winning agency, we launched Women You Should Know® (September 2011), an editorial-based brand centered on female empowerment. The mission behind it rose organically from our PR work –consuming as much media as we were required to for our jobs, we wanted to change and elevate the way women were being spoken to and about. Traditional outlets typically categorize “women’s content” to areas like kids, fashion and beauty…but there are more dimensions to each of us than just those.
Also, being PR pros meant we were out-and-about all the time, and we constantly met kick-ass women who inspired us who were doing cool things and building their own self-made futures. In most cases, however, no one knew who they were or what they were doing because they didn’t get the media attention they deserved. Their stories weren't necessarily “headline-worthy” in a traditional sense, but from our perspective…yes, they absolutely were! So we decided to build our own editorial platform where we could tell those untold stories, and shine a spotlight on women who are making things happen in the world. While inspiration through storytelling is still the primary focus of WYSK, the scope of topics and subject matter we cover has expanded tremendously over the last seven years, and includes fearless girls you should know.
(Image courtesy of Cynthia Hornig)
What has been each of your biggest personal triumphs so far with WYSK?
We’ve had so many standout successes over the years, and we’ve been humbled by the recognition we’ve received. But one of the top five highlights was being featured by the Ms. Foundation For Women in their #MyFeminismIs campaign alongside other leading advocates, activists, and influencers. We’re also incredibly proud of the fact that over the last 17 years as business partners, we’ve taken three different ideas–now four, if you count our (em)POWER Laces–and turned them into thriving brands through our own hard work, determination… and lack of proper sleep. Check out the (em)POWER Laces below.
What's your main goal with WYSK?
We're driving an important conversation about women’s and girls’ empowerment, making an impact every single day, and growing a community that believes in the power of women supporting women. It’s soul-filling work and it’s all the motivation we need to keep doing what we do.
Can you tell us more about your Women You Should Fund section of your site?
She’s not a section–she’s her very own badass platform. So think of Women You Should Know as the powerful big sister and Women You Should Fund® as the equally powerful little sister that work together to support women in a very specific and direct way.
Women You Should Fund is our rewards-based crowdfunding platform that recognizes the value of female-powered ideas to change the world in big and small ways. She launched in March 2017 and is designed to help women and women-led, gender-diverse teams make their products, projects, and ventures a reality. In the platform's first 12 months live, the women who ran campaigns with us (including a 16-year-old filmmaker) collectively raised nearly a quarter million dollars for their respective projects.
So where does the big sis/lil’ sis support come in? We put Women You Should Fund campaigns and/or the stories of the woman(en) behind them in front of our Women You Should Know community, which automatically increases exposure, and the circle of potential backers, bringing success that much closer.
What are some of your favorite charities that support women?
There are so many, but there’s one in particular that deserves more credit and focus than it gets– the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center. According to their statistics, “three American women per day are murdered by intimate partners.” But this catastrophic reality is inexplicably not part of our country’s national dialogue and is being largely ignored by mainstream media. For 35 years, the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center has assisted families in crisis due to domestic violence and is leading the conversation surrounding this national epidemic, while leading the fight to end domestic violence homicide. They are saving women's lives.