Calling all ’PRENEURS

Oh, where to begin talking about fireball Sabina Ptacin, chief excitement officer and one of the founders of ’PRENEUR, a self-described showcase and resource for small businesses and independent brands.

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How about here?

“If entrepreneurship was a drug, I’d be a pusher,” Ptacin told me in our recent interview.

Or here?

“I’ve never had a doubt this is what I’m supposed to be doing.”

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Or maybe here?

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“Education is my favorite part of what I do,” Ptacin said. “It’s leveling the playing field. Where else are they going to learn this?”

Yes, that’s the one. Let’s drill down.

By “they,” Ptacin means the entrepreneurs who comprise her company’s membership and extended community and by “this” she means a host of things like how to create a customized public relations plan or how to do QuickBooks. ’PRENEUR – flipped two months ago from a similar company she and Katie Hellmuth Martin founded in 2008 – is now run by Ptacin, Hellmuth Martin (chief experience officer) and another partner, Melissa Wildstein (community engagement officer).

“I continually learn from my partners,” Ptacin said. “They make me a better person.”

The learning has come fast and furious for this former high school teacher whose first challenge out of the University of Michigan was a job on Chicago’s South Side. She taught ninth and 12th grade history at Tilden Career Community Academy High School and did so without the help of a chalkboard or textbooks.

“I loved it,” Ptacin said. “The kids were amazing. They deserved to learn.”

Which is why she made a habit of dropping by Kinko’s at 6 a.m. on her way to school to talk them into giving her rolls of paper that she would then hang around the room and use to instruct. Her parents gave her an overhead projector as a present at one point, but it was later stolen. After three years it started to take an emotional toll so Ptacin switched to the Bill Gates Charter School, complete with chalkboard, textbooks and a white board.

“I had a really wonderful time there as well,” she said.

But what was supposed to be one year of teaching out of college turned into five and she knew it wasn’t forever. One night in 2005 she was out with a friend who said, “You really need your New York chapter.” She resigned from her teaching position and six weeks later was living in New York. With no job.

“I figured it would work out and it did,” she said.

Here’s why. Ptacin is one of those people whose story personifies two of the major points espoused by life coaches:

~ Your strengths and passions can often be used in a variety of ways.

~ Working your tail off and being pleasant can get you far.

What she knew from her teaching challenges was this -- take what you’re given and make it work. A friend got her an interview at Escada in the public relations department and she acted like she had PR experience. From there she went to an agency and learned how to handle multiple clients. When she took to it, her parents, both entrepreneurs, told her to do her own thing and so she co-founded Red Branch Public Relations (where she is still the chief brand strategist).

Soon she met Hellmuth Martin and Wildstein, both entrepreneurs in their own right, at a networking event and was instantly struck.

“I’m an overachiever and they’re better than me,” Ptacin said.

The women saw a void that would break down barriers, what Ptacin describes as kind of an Etsy.com that would include services as well as products. ’PRENEUR is a reflection of that vision and sports the tagline, “A person who turns ideas into action.”

Ptacin directs the PR team and brings unyielding energy as well as a slammin’ Rolodex. She writes articles for the site that teach, i.e., “How to Pitch and Get on Daily Candy, and Prepare for the Placement.”

“It’s the most-read thing on the site,” Ptacin said. “People find us from all over the world because of it.”

’PRENEUR has thousands engaged in their free content and hundreds who are full members. It’s $25 a month or $250 per year to join and members receive such benefits as exposure on Twitter and Facebook, the opportunity to list in the business marketplace or events calendar and prime SEO. About eighty percent of their members work virtually and 20 percent in an office with a team. The split of women to men is about 80/20.

“People love that we Tweet and Facebook for them,” Ptacin said. “Especially people who are afraid to Tweet because they think it’s going to be on their tombstone.”

There is so much more coming from the tireless trio at ’PRENEUR. A fun new regular blog feature gives members a chance to share Monday morning playlists of their favorite music. The “Buy Entrepreneur” movement is about to have its own app.

“Sometimes we’re geeking out over a new tool we’ve created,” she said with a laugh.

Ptacin admits the hours can be long and that it has been a huge life change, but loves that she is working for herself and her company.

“It combines teaching and my love of PR, educating small business owners how to run campaigns,” she said.

Sometimes when she walks down the street in Brooklyn and sees all the small businesses, she thinks about what an integral part they played in how this country started. Kind of full circle for a history buff.

“I’m still Facebooked by students I taught,” she said. “Some have become history teachers. It blows my mind.”

And the education continues.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.

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