During their internship with the Virginia Lottery, the two gained public relations experience serving as ambassadors and attending special events.
“Our summer romance blossomed, and after 11 years of marriage, we now have three daughters,” Jonathan explained. “I won big with that job!”
“Yes, the lottery summer was quite the road trip,” Michele added. “Our team of six college students worked such glamorous Virginia events as the Pork Festival and the Fiddler’s Convention. Ah, the romance.”
Since the Virginia Lottery, Jonathan and Michele have come far in their careers. Each has earned a degree in the field of public relations and has worked several years in the industry.
Jonathan has worked for companies such as Oscar Mayer, Capital One, and Carter Ryley Thomas Public Relations, where he managed media relations for the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Countdown to Kitty Hawk, a centennial celebration of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight.
Michele has also worked for Carter Ryley Thomas Public Relations, as vice president of the firm’s 10-client corporate practice area. There, she served clients such as Capital One, Philip Morris USA, the Wireless Foundation, the National Center for State Courts, Hamilton Beach/Proctor-Silex, the Fort James Corporation, and the Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corporation. She has also done pro bono work for a nonprofit women’s Christian ministry called Sweet Monday, planning and executing the Guinness World Record-breaking world’s largest tea party with 7,150 people in attendance.
But now this husband-and-wife PR duo owns and runs a communications and marketing firm known as Rhudy & Co. Communications and Marketing, Inc. The small yet successful firm performs all varieties fo communications and public relations work for its clients, which include Philip Morris USA, and First Market Bank.
In May of 2003, Michele launched the company; she calls it “one of the single best decisions of my life.” In 2005, Jonathan left the company he was with and joined her.
“We proudly consult with several major corporations in our market and are enjoying every second of it,” Michele explained. “Our business has grown an average of 75% each year since its inception. We’re truly living a dream.”
The couple enjoys the flexibility that owning their own business provides them with.
“Starting a business was one of those ‘loose idles’ in my spirit that wouldn’t be quiet,” Michele explained. “It became too loud to ignore when our first daughter was born. Suddenly, what had once seemed like a risky daydream was something I simply had to do.”
“We purposely have kept our business small while our kids are small so that we can enjoy the quality of life and balance that we didn’t have before,” Jonathan said. “They’re only little once.”
While many spouses would find it difficult to work together daily, the Rhudys seem to thrive on it: they have won nearly 20 regional and national awards between the two of them for their public relations work.
“My wife and I have worked together now at the three different companies, but this time we believe we’ve found our calling,” said Jonathan. “Some people think we’re crazy for working together. The only downside is that we sometimes talk about work and clients too much. Usually one of our daughters will gently remind us.”
|Q. What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t working?
A. Jonathan: With three daughters, life is pretty busy. Outside of coaching my daughter’s soccer team and teaching a two-year-old Sunday school class, I love running. I try to run at least one marathon a year. I’ve finished 10 marathons, including ones in Richmond, Washington, DC, and New York City. Lately, TiVo is my greatest discovery. Why can’t everything be this efficient? Michele: As corny as it sounds, I just love to spend my free time with my family and friends. My three daughters are the lights of my life, and I like to be wherever they are.
Q. Who is your role model?
A. Jonathan: One is a client who lives by the Golden Rule in everything he does. He’s an inspiration to the community, his employees, and customers. He’s also a strong Christian. Michele: I’m blessed to know so many amazingly talented women who each inspire me in countless ways. I can’t name just one role model, but there are at least two dozen girlfriends who each are very special.
Q. What songs are on your iPod right now?
A. Jonathan: Anything by Jimmy Buffett. I’m a big fan, but I haven’t gone so far as to get the Jimmy Buffett fan club license plate that you can get in Virginia. Michele: I don’t even have an iPod! My daughters are into the Curious George movie soundtrack right now, so we listen to that more than I’d like.
Q. What was the last magazine that you read?
A. Jonathan: I’m a news junkie. Architectural Digest and Time. Michele: I’m currently on maternity leave, so I have time for luxuries like Parents and Working Mother right now. I’m almost embarrassed to share that we subscribe to nearly 25 magazines!
Michele explained that she enjoys working with her husband. “[It] comes easy for me. I respect his talent, and I simply don’t get tired of being around him.”
The couple works together on the same accounts, performing work for the same clients. They feel that this is beneficial to their work.
“We’re always up to speed on what the other one is doing, so we’re pretty interchangeable,” Michele said. “I like to think we’re good at what we do. We have complementary strengths, and we respect each other. We’re still laughing; life is good.”
The Rhudys offered this advice for students and professionals starting careers in public relations:
“Surround yourself with great people, and learn as much as you can from them,” Jonathan suggested. “Ask a lot of questions. If you’re a student, volunteer your time to help a nonprofit organization with their communication needs or find internships (either paid or unpaid) in the field.”
“I would only add that hard work - like everything in life - pays off,” Michele added. “If you are willing to work hard, anything is possible.”