It was the summer of 1990, and Christina Daves was planning her move to Germany. Having graduated from Virginia Tech in the spring of 1989 with a double major in Political Science and German, Christina was ready for this new life adventure. She grew up speaking German with her parents and often visited her grandparents in the country as a child. She felt confident knowing that she had a place to live and a new job waiting for her, and was completing the necessary documents for the move. In those moments of preparation Christina learned that her father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. At the time, there was very little known about this form of cancer and ways to treat it in the United States. Through research, Christina discovered that there was more known about esophageal cancer in Europe, but still a zero percent survival rate. So regardless of her excitement, Christina chose to stay in the United States knowing that if she went to Germany she may never see her father again. Her luggage, once packed for a European journey went with her to Florida where she could help care for her father.
Christina describes her father as having a strong work ethic, teaching her that it is a privilege to have a job and to work hard. She says, “He told me to never call in sick on a Monday or Friday. If you are sick, go into work and let them send you home.” Christina says that her relationship with her father was very close and she was a self-proclaimed “daddy’s girl.” “After losing my father at such a young age, I really did not know what to do,” Christina says. “My whole life I wanted to live in Europe and work doing something with international law and business, but after his passing I started a life of accidental entrepreneurship.”
At the same time that her father was nearing the end of his life, Christina’s beloved paternal grandmother passed away in January, 1991. Christina was given her grandmother’s Sterling Silver place wear set from Germany. This silverware set is most important for Christina because each time it is used, she is flooded by the fondest memories of her family trips to Germany. She says, “Whenever we would go to Berlin to visit my grandmother would use this set and I can still see the family members and smell the home cooking.” Because of Christina’s closeness with her father and grandmother, the silverware set is a continued reminder of those familial moments of togetherness.
Although grieving, Christina drew upon her father’s determined work ethic and began her professional career. Over time, Christina’s business knowledge matured through a vast array of experiences and now she is the President and Founder of PR for Anyone®. Christina works alongside entrepreneurs to broaden their networks and market their products. PR for Anyone® aims at serving business owners who need visibility and connections in the digital age. Christina explains, “The old PR style would say that there is an elite group and you should send out a press release to this exclusive list of contacts. Well now you can go on twitter and talk to anyone in the media. That is how I got on Fox News. I tweeted at the anchor!” She further explains that PR for Anyone® provides supportive guidance to those wanting to understand how to get into trade publications, use LinkedIn and other social media, and ultimately get in front of the right people and clientele.
PR for Anyone® was the result of an idea Christina was encouraged to explore after attending the 2013 Experts Academy. Christina was there talking with other business owners about the product she invented, CastMedic Designs and how she gained publicity. She found that many were impressed and curious about her skills and wanted to know more. Over dinner with colleagues she came up with the name PR for Anyone® and quickly bought the domain name. When she returned home, the reality settled in and Christina was hesitant to move forward believing no one would listen to her because she had no experience. However, Christina kept thinking and realized that in order for people to listen, she needed to become an expert in public relations and marketing. She reached out via email to everyone she knew in the PR community wanting to interview them about their success and challenges. Within days she received unanimous agreements from ten top names in public relations all agreeing to be interviewed. Christina went to New York City, where she hired film students to direct and film the videos. “I interviewed Oprah’s producer, the Senior Producer of the Rachael Ray Show, Martha Stewart’s PR Representative, Peter Shankman the Founder of Help A Reporter Out/HARO, and others,” Christina says. “We did all these interviews that were amazing and helped establish me as an expert in that field, which was the launching of PR for Anyone®. It gave me the credibility to be doing this work.”
Christina’s book, PR for Anyone®: 100+ Affordable Ways to Easily Create Buzz for Your Business has sold over three thousand copies and outlines the many ways businesses can improve their networking and marketing. Also, she is frequently hired by companies to consult with their marketing departments to determine ways to improve the company’s publicity. During these meetings, Christina collaborates with the teams to brainstorm a strategy for action. “One thing I always say during these meetings is that everyone needs to learn how to do this because if you are not doing it, your competitor is,” Christina says. PR for Anyone® also offers digital trainings and videos that are available online.
Christina’s passion for helping others become successful in their business is evident. She says, “I do what I do because I see what a difference it makes for businesses and their credibility.” She proudly proclaims that she is a cheerleader for her clients saying, “I get excited when a client is featured in U.S. News & World Report because of what I taught them. I love to help them because I know what the visibility will do for their business.” She also engages with large audiences during trainings and presentations. Christina has been a speaker for the INPEX, inventors trade show on two occasions. She said that following her second presentation a man approached her saying that he had seen her two years prior. “He said I do not remember anything from before, but today you were remarkable. What happened?” Christina says, “It’s confidence, because the more people you work with and see that they become successful the more you know what you’re doing really works.”
For Christina, the significance of hard work began during her childhood. Christina was born and raised locally in Vienna, Virginia along with her younger sister. Christina recalls her parents getting divorced when she was very young and her father moving to Florida and later remarrying. “My parents made the divorce smooth and because my father’s wife was a flight attendant he would come visit often,” she explains. Before moving to Florida, Christina’s father worked for Petroleum Marketing opening gas stations in the Northern Virginia area. She describes her home being filled with candy and bubble gum and attending the grand opening for these new gas stations. Christina’s mother worked for the German Agriculture Marketing Board doing trade shows. “I cannot remember if there was ever a time that my mother did not work,” Christina says. “She would often work several jobs to take care of our needs.” Christina’s mother remarried when Christina was in high school and she says that her father’s sister also lived in the area. “I remember having family dinners and events where we all got together,” she says. “Everyone had a really good relationship.”
Christina remembers her childhood summers fondly saying, “Growing up I would play with my friends from the neighborhood in the creek near our house. We would pretend that we lived there using pots and pans to cook mud and stones. We would play all day in the woods.” She says, “My parents were both born in Germany, but met in Texas. So I grew up speaking German in the house and English with my friends.” Christina’s paternal grandmother would also visit every summer to spend time with them. “She truly loved her grandchildren,” she says. Christina remarks that today she looks back on her grandmother’s strength with awe. She explains that her grandmother came from a wealthy family in Russia, but had to move to Berlin leaving everything behind. The war started shortly after she met Christina’s grandfather. However, her grandmother was Jewish, living in Nazi Germany, which was an incredibly difficult time. Christina reflects on these stories saying, “My father was born in a bathtub in the basement of a hospital because they would not let a Jewish woman in. Still when the war ended my grandmother forgave every single person she knew who was a Nazi. I wish I could tell her now how much strength I get from her.”
During the school year, Christina says she was a latch key kid. She explains that her friends thought she would have been very athletic, but because she had limited transportation she was not able to play sports after school. “I raised myself in many ways, but that is how it was back then,” Christina says. “My mother was working hard to provide for us and coming from a divorced family, we did not have much.” As soon as Christina could begin working she did by babysitting children in the neighborhood. She knew that if she wanted extra spending money she would have to work, so she held a job at the Chesapeake Bay Seafood House throughout high school.
In high school, Christina followed her friends as they planned for futures going to college. She explains, “I majored in Political Science because I loved my 12th grade Government Teacher, Mr. Ward.” Christina went to Virginia Tech, and paid her way through school working during the summers in traffic court, processing traffic tickets and violations. When she graduated, Christina wanted to go to law school and eventually work her way into a job doing international business and law. “When I got back after graduation with law school as the goal I took the LSAT twice and applied to several schools,” Christina says. “After being rejected from two schools I determined that going to Germany would be the best idea.”
At this time Christina was working at a law firm doing clerical work while the practice was going through a transition. After her father’s death, Christina got her real estate license and worked with a friend until another friend proposed a new business venture to her. “Kevin wanted me to partner with him on an Event Planning business, and so I did,” she says. “We would mail 20,000 post cards announcing an event and coordinated with sponsors to have these elaborate events and trips. I met Steve, my husband, during a ski trip we planned.” Once Christina was married she quickly realized that the event planning lifestyle would no longer work with the life she wanted. Then she worked for Kevin’s father who was an eminent domain expert and eventually started her own business doing feasibility studies.
It was during this time that Christina and her neighbor and friend decided that they wanted to do something different. Living in Prince William County, they realized that shopping for gifts and other fun items required a long drive to Tyson’s Corner. Thus, Christina and her neighbor decided to open their own retail shop, selling home décor, clothes, jewelry, purses, and other gifts. The shop was opened in a renovated historic home in Haymarket, Virginia in 2002. After several years in the retail business missing family holidays and events, Christina’s daughter asked her why they had never baked Christmas cookies. “That was a defining moment for me because I realized how much time I was spending away from my family,” she says. “So my partner bought me out of the business and I took some time off,” Christina says.
Almost a year later, Christina and her family took a trip to Canada where Christina broke her foot during a boating accident. Christina says, “My doctor put me in this big ugly medical boot. I knew Steve and I were going to New York, the fashion capital of the world and I was miserable at the thought of going with this boot.” On the train Christina started looking for anything that could improve the look of her medical boot, but found nothing. “When I could not find anything Steve looked at me and could see the light bulbs go off in my head,” Christina said. After some research, Christina found that her idea for medical boot accessories could be a viable business. “I wanted to turn injuries from a negative to a positive. Everybody loved it including doctors and focus groups.” However, Christina explains that she created a whole new space in the market. She had no money for advertising or publicity so she learned all about free publicity. “I went to the library and tried to learn everything I could about marketing and PR and eventually I became really good at it,” she says. In January of 2010 Christina launched her product calling it CastMedic Designs, now known as MediFashions.
In April of 2010, Christina took her designs to Shark Tank making it through the first rounds. When she did not make it to the show, Christina was devastated. She persisted over the next several months, but was turned down by every contact. Then, in October Christina received an email from the Steve Harvey Show requesting a video about CastMedic Designs. Once submitted Christina waited for the next call, which she received during a booster club meeting at her son’s school. Christina says, “I got the call and they said they needed me in Chicago the next day. I looked at Steve and he said, just go.” Once in Chicago, reality set in and Christina began to panic, calling her friend and hypnotist for support. “I asked him to hypnotize me, but instead he gave me the best advice. He told me that no one there wanted to see me fail and that everyone there was excited for me,” Christina says.
These encouraging moments continued when Christina got into the limo on the way to the show. As she talked to her driver he mentioned the book, The Secret asking if she knew about it. Christina exclaimed, “I live by that book.” Then the driver said that he had just driven the book’s publisher to an interview with Oprah Winfrey.” For Christina, this connection was not a coincidence and she continued believing that something great would happen. When she arrived on the set of the show Christina met the other competitors, all vying for a $20,000 prize for their invention. She remembers feeling nervous, but confident about her product. She says, “When I stepped on stage I scanned the audience and there was an older woman in a red sweater. Her eyes smiled at me and I remember thinking, “I can do this!” In the end, CastMedic Designs won the competition which became a major moment for Christina and her future as an entrepreneur.
Christina lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, Steve, and their two children. She credits part of her success to the support that her family has given her over the years. Christina explains, “Steve’s support has evolved over time. He was hesitant when I started the retail store because he wanted me to stay at home, but now he realizes that is just not me.” Another defining moment for Christina was becoming a mother. She says, “On the day I became a mom all of a sudden everything was about my children. All I want is to make sure my kids are happy, healthy, and have every opportunity to live a successful life.” Christina and her family are active in the community and often contribute to causes that are impacting friends and family such as the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, and Diabetes research. Christina also serves on the Marketing Mentoring Board for Virginia Tech and recently participated in the Virginia Tech Remembrance Walk.
Christina has received many accolades for her accomplishments with CastMedic and PR for Anyone®. She was the first winner of the Entrepreneurial Rule Breaker of the Year sponsored by Microsoft for CastMedic Designs. PR for Anyone® was also awarded New Business of the Year from the Prince William County Chamber of Commerce. Christina says, “One of my greatest accomplishments was getting to interview Hoda Kotb. After the interview she told me that it was one of the best interviews she had ever done, which coming from her meant everything.”
Another great accomplishment for Christina is seeing those who she has mentored become successful. Christina believes that mentoring is not only important for the mentee, but it gives the mentor a new perspective for growth and learning. “When I am talking to young entrepreneurs I always tell them to just ask for what they want and have the confidence to get there,” she says. “Many young adults today do not have confidence in themselves and I tell them that they really need to love what they do.” Currently, Christina is working towards publishing another book about having a positive mindset and reaching your goals. Through her successful interviews and flourishing business, it is clear that Christina has mastered the art of the ask. She continues to inquire about new connections and welcomes opportunities.