Thank you to Rusty Foster, owner of Bow Tie Strategies, for answering a few questions with us!
Where were you born and raised and, if it was someplace else, when and why did you come to Loudoun?
I was born and raised in Leesburg, VA and am the ninth generation to call Loudoun County home.
Loudoun is the perfect place to live, work and play. There are not too many places in this country where a person can have a meeting with a Fortune 500 company, enjoy a meal at a five star restaurant, and take in spectacular views from a winery or brewery, all within a 30 minute drive. I’m proud to call Loudoun “home.” The small town charm with large city conveniences is what makes Loudoun unique and full of opportunities.
When did you launch your first business and how did you get into your current line of work?
In September 2012, I launched Bow Tie Strategies, a public relations and event management firm. We assist businesses, both small and large and everything in between, in finding their voices and using the right mediums to tell their story. Since 2012, The Washington Business Journal has named Bow Tie a Top LGBTQ-Owned Company, a Top Event Management Company, and a Top Public Relations Firm. In addition, Bow Tie is a Certified LGBT Business Enterprise by the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.
I’ve been in public relations and events for 20 years. I guess you could say I’ve been “doing” public relations and marketing since middle school, but I really didn’t know what it was at the time. However, I’ve officially been in public relations and events since college.
Have you had any special mentors or inspirations that influenced your career?
Two people have significantly influenced my life and journey as a business owner.
Ray Bottom, a trustee-emeritus at my alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College, took me under his wing while I was a student. On several occasions, Ray would say to me “if in life you’re blessed with certain talents, resources or abilities, make sure to give back to your community, alma mater, fraternity, hospital, etc. because people who came before you made sacrifices so you could have what you have today.” Ray owned a newspaper, television station and a couple radio stations during his time. He passed away in February 2018.
The other person that significantly influenced me is my mother, Patricia Foster. Growing up, Mom would consistently say to me “never wonder what if” and “always be willing to fail.” Those are two lessons I have carried with me in life and they’re the two lessons I heard in my head when I had the opportunity to start Bow Tie Strategies. Mom has always been my constant role model and cheerleader. I was raised in a single-parent household – to this day, I don’t see how she did it all – she’s a true superhero.
What is the best part of your job and why?
Every business or person has a story. Helping them find their voice, so they can tell their story, is the best part of my job. Seeing my clients tell the story of why they started their business, nonprofit, initiative, etc. brings a huge smile to my face and is the biggest reward. Yes, having a client interviewed on the TODAY Show or CBS This Morning is nice for the company, but helping a client discover their voice is the biggest win. In addition, helping a client execute their vision of an event and seeing it come to fruition is another rewarding part of my job. The live concerts and community events Bow Tie manages are such adrenaline rushes, if you’re in events, then you understand.
What is it like owning/running a business in Loudoun?
Loudoun has a very tight-knit small business community. Each business within this network, thanks to the Loudoun Chamber, is willing to step up to assist a business in need or is willing to partner to help a business grow. There have been a handful of times over the years that I’ve needed help in my business. There’s no business owner handbook or blueprint to follow, but there are other business owners with whom we can lean on or vent to that have gone through similar challenges along the way.
What does LGBTQ Pride Month mean to you?
Pride Month is an opportunity to celebrate being a part of the LGBTQ community, to honor those that broke the glass ceiling, if you will, and to bring attention to a community that is doing the same remarkable things each day as the straight community. We have a long way to go to truly be considered equal in our country, but I’m hopeful for the day when people won’t have to “come out.” They can just be themselves without living in fear.
What are some of your favorite things to do when you are not working?
If I’m not working, you’ll find me hanging out with my two dogs, Dixie and Sophie. These two are my kids and add so much joy to my days. Or you’ll find me at Loudoun Brewing Company enjoying a pale ale or a saison.