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KELLY FOBAR DAVIS: Building a forward-thinking business



  • Author:
    Nancy Nilles
  • Published:
    Spring 2016

Throughout her childhood, Kelly Fobar Davis dreamed of being a teacher, rallying neighborhood kids to attend the summertime “school” she set up in her basement in Livonia. MSU, with an excellent education program located “the perfect distance” from home, was a natural choice.

But after two years and some classroom experience, Fobar Davis reached a difficult conclusion: “I didn’t have the patience that I thought I did,” she said.

She decided communications and public relations were a natural fit for her social, talkative personality.

It turned out to be a good choice. Fobar Davis now owns a growing public relations agency in New York City focused on beauty and wellness.

Just over a year ago, KFD Public Relations was Fobar Davis and her assistant working at her kitchen table. Now she has seven employees, whom she affectionately calls “my girls,” and 11 clients, with referrals coming in every week. Her clients, many of them successful startups, include Ipsy, Juice Beauty and Pressed Juicery.

Fobar Davis has built her career on nurturing connections. After graduation she worked as a personal assistant to national health and fitness guru Jim Karas in Chicago. Her parents thought it was a waste to be taking calls and fetching lunch, but Fobar Davis saw something more.

She made connections with the book editors, publicists and others in Karas’ media world, and especially with Karas himself. “He became a mentor and almost like a second father,” she said, helping her get into the competitive PR world in New York.

There, she went through several jobs, at agencies and at NARS Cosmetics, but nothing felt quite right.

She kept building connections, while clarifying her goals: She liked variety. She wanted to tell stories, not just “pitch product.” And she didn’t want to be left behind in the digital age.

In 2012 she began a consulting business, reaching out to connections to offer help. Projects lead to requests for representation and more clients. The growth has Fobar Davis, who had her first child in November, hustling to catch up—hiring an accountant, building a website (kfdpr.com) and designing a logo.

As she created the right job for herself, she noticed another improvement. “I found I was getting better press when I was in control,” she said.

She’s proud of running a “forward-thinking” business, and focused on keeping employees and clients happy. “People are looking for something different,” she said. She aims to be honest and transparent with clients, and accepts only those that she feels are a good fit.

Her employees share in this process, so they, too, feel a sense of control. “I try to remember what it was like when I was at an agency and build a more positive, collaborative, creative environment for my team,” she said. That includes an open vacation policy and work-from-home Fridays.

Like a lot of New Yorkers, Fobar Davis and her family make time to “just totally shut off” and recharge at their weekend home.

“It’s stressful, but I see everyone and how happy they are, and that makes me feel good.”