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Local business owner named one of the best

By: Kaitlyn Foti, Staff Writer, The Globe

The Abington resident is busy; Raffel is president of her own company, landlord to others in her building and active in her community both in Abington and Jenkintown.

Because of these accomplishments, she was recently named by Gov. Ed Rendell as one of the "Best 50 Women in Business" in Pennsylvania.

In a press release, Rendell described the women on the list: "As part of their job, they help protect the environment, ensure people's health and safety, or otherwise help their friends and neighbors in a variety of ways. Pennsylvania and the communities in which these award winners work are better because of them, and I encourage Pennsylvania's young people to follow their lead."

Raffel's company, The Communications Solutions Group, was started as a one woman operation in the basement of Beaver Hill Condominiums 18 years ago. Now, her thriving full-service public relations firm has a total of 14 employees. Getting to this point was not easy for Raffel, however.

"I was working for another PR firm, and the checks started bouncing, and we were all under a lot of pressure. So I decided to start a new business," Raffel said.

"I did everything the way you're not supposed to do it. When I started, I didn't have a business plan or a business loan. At first I was broke. I had holes in my shoes and I was making $400 a month, and my rent was $360. But I finally got a little line of credit."

And so her firm started to grow. Six months in, she hired her first part-time employee. After six more months, that employee changed to full-time. Now Raffel has her own building at 200 Old York Road, and 14 employees.

"Eventually, we outgrew our space in Beaver Hill and had to move, and we were above the Berta Sawyer clothing store for 15 years and outgrew that space. My husband said I should buy a building. And so suddenly I became a landlord," Raffel said.

The Communications Solutions Group specializes in giving a voice to municipalities, school districts and nonprofit organizations.

Her clients include the American Society of Transplantations, The Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Wyncote Academy and Huntingdon Valley Bank. Raffel attributes her success to the relationship she has with her clients.

Organizing events and offering your officials to speak at them is another way to enhance public relations. For example, you might offer local officials to speak to the local Chamber of Commerce about how a revitalization plan will help encourage new business in your area. Another area to pursue might be to contact television cable channels or local radio stations to see if your officials could be interviewed for a story. Or, ask if public service announcements are a possibility.

Deciding who will carry out the public relations strategy depends on your agency. Evaluate the talent you have on staff, and whether or not you have the time and resources to devote someone to public relations full-time.

"We tend to treat every client like they are our only client. I think some of them think they are our only client. We are very involved in helping them achieve their goals. When they triumph, we triumph. We never feel like their agency, but part of their team," Raffel said.

Part of the consideration for being named to the elite list of Pennsylvania's Business Women, was being involved in the community as well as gaining personal success. Raffel is involved in the Jenkintown Community Alliance, she is a member the Eastern Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, and she is a trustee of the Meadowbrook School, where her 10-year-old son, Ilya, is a student. She also hesitantly admits to being the mascot for the school, the Meadowbrook Hawk.

Trying to balance her work in the community, her business and her family keeps her busy, but Raffel says that her volunteer activities are just as important as her professional priorities.

"I'm very hyper. I just do. I'm very good with time management, also. I just put my volunteer activities on my agenda with all of my work activities, and I cross them off the list just like everything else," Raffel said.

In May, Raffel will travel to Harrisburg to attend a lunch at the governor's residence and a dinner at the Harrisburg Hilton with the other businesswomen honorees. When she found out she would be named to the list, she wasn't sure what to think.

Trying to balance her work in the community, her business and her family keeps her busy, but Raffel says that her volunteer activities are just as important as her professional priorities.

"I came in over the weekend to check the mail and water the plants and I saw the letter. I thought it was a mistake. I was sure they had sent it to the wrong place. But when I realized it wasn't a mistake, I was really excited," Raffel said.

 


 

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