District Boss Interview: Cori Sue Morris
You follow her on Instagram and you've probably seen her at brunch, now meet Cori Sue Morris, co-founder of Bitches Who Brunch, and founder and principal of Citrus Media.
From styled fashion shots to boozy DC brunches and jet-setting around the world, you've certainly come across Cori Sue's glamorous and exciting photos on social media. But what you don't see is the late nights, grueling deadlines, client meetings and self-care face masks that go into producing creative content for yourself and for others. Cori Sue supports small businesses through marketing and brand strategy. She has become a resource to local DC businesses and a friend to their owners.
1. Tell us about your business!
I’m the founder & principal of Citrus Media, a boutique marketing & branding agency for businesses in Washington, D.C. and New York. We provide brand strategy, social media, press, marketing, and events support to about ten clients.
2. What lead you to where you are today?
I studied journalism at UNC-Chapel Hill and I began my career in magazine journalism. While working in Washington as a tech writer, speech writer, communications manager, etc., I started a blog, Bitches Who Brunch, which grew and evolved into a lifestyle website and business. We cover brunch, fashion, events and culture content in New York, Washington, and Chicago. Over the years, I learned a lot about small business, management, content marketing and the tools you need to run a small media company.
Using those skills and my relationships in the community, I started Citrus Media because I saw a market gap: there were plenty of PR firms and ad agencies, but not a lot of options for small businesses who needed strategic marketing support. So, I whipped up a proposal following the request of a restaurant and I added another LLC to my belt.
3. What brings you the most joy when strategizing with your clients and creating content?
I’m an extrovert and a problem-solver—so I enjoy ideating with clients about how to market a product or how to get the word out. Sitting down with a client, I feel energized by their knowledge on their business, and their insight and ideas into what might work for their growth. When a client comes up with a great idea on their own for you to implement—that’s always exciting. They’re teaching me more about their industry or trade, and they’re learning about marketing from me in the process. Washington is a very difficult environment for small business, so it’s great to help any way I can.
4. What’s the best part of being an entrepreneur? The most difficult part?
The best part of being an entrepreneur is the ability to manage my own schedule. I batch work (e-mail days, writing days, invoice/accounting days) and I work on things when I’m feeling inspired. It has immense positive impacts on the quality of work and the amount of projects I can take on.
The most difficult part is the lack of understanding from non-entrepreneurs about the all-encompassing nature of self-employment—I literally work, all the time. I’m in a building stage and I don’t have much of a work-life balance.
I don’t expect people to care about how much I work—why should they? But, there are those moments where a stranger takes offense when I decline to “meet for coffee,” an acquaintance makes a snide remark, or a friend is hurt because you missed a party. These sorts of things usually happen at the worst times—you receive that snide comment at the end of brutally long day.
The other day I politely declined an invitation to a concert from a local PR gal—I had never heard of the band(s) and I said I was so sorry, but it was a particularly stressful time for me with work. She replied something snarky to the effect of: “I can tell you’re really working hard from your Instagram.” It was simply unnecessary—and I don’t know why she’d think that would make me want to come to her venue. (I won’t be.)
We all need to stop apologizing or feeling guilty for how we choose to spend our time.
5. How do you stay motivated and continue to grow, personally and professionally?
Self motivation is a driving factor in who I am as a person—so that’s not a place where I struggle. That said, I believe self-awareness and the ability to respond to constructive criticism are skills that need to be practiced—muscles that need to be trained, not a singular attribute you either possess or you do not. The ability to accept feedback without offense and to choose to grow is not something most enjoy doing, but it’s essential if you want to grow as a person and succeed in your field.
6. What’s your nighttime routine?
I’m a night owl, so I am usually working late. I usually work until about 11:45 p.m. and I’ll be fast asleep by midnight—it’s more of a collapse than a peaceful transition. I am diligent about flossing and skincare—I swear by Caudalie anti-aging serums, Kiehl’s night creams, and these fancy Japanese anti-aging masks my boyfriend brought me from Tokyo, which I use once a week.
My mornings are much more organized and civilized. I’ll wake up, drink a cup of black coffee, and tackle the most important three things on my to-do-list. Later, I’ll make a green protein smoothie and I’ll start responding to e-mail and to social media. I usually take a noon workout class—SoulCycle and SolidCore in Washington, and Tone House when I’m in New York. (I love intense workout classes.) Shortly thereafter, my clients will come online, the last-minute requests will roll in, and my afternoon and evening will fly by. If I’m working from home, I’ll open a bottle of red wine around 7 p.m. and keep working—or catch an 8 p.m. dinner with friends before a few more hours of work.
Self-care is important to me—I am constantly drinking water, I exercise 5-7 times a week, I take care/of vitamins daily, and I avoid gluten, dairy, and processed foods whenever possible.
7. What’s one piece of advice you would give to other entrepreneurs in the marketing industry?
First up: don’t market a product you don’t believe in. We all want to say “yes” to new opportunities, but then you’re stuck with a client with a bad product or service. As a marketing consultant, I have limited input on the operations of my clients’ companies, and I don’t want my marketing to fail because the product is bad. It’s the opportunities you decline that will define your business and determine your ultimate success.
Second: marketing is a tool kit—social, email, grassroots, etc.—and what works for one business won’t necessarily work for the next. Get creative, explore all options, and pick the best ones for that situation—don’t be afraid to get creative and above all don’t get lazy.
Lastly: ideas are cheap—it’s the execution that’s the hard part.