Southerners pride themselves on their warm hospitality, and the ladies behind ByrdHouse PR in Charleston, S.C., are no exception! Annie Byrd Hamnett and Cat Taylor run this small but mighty firm, which focuses primarily on food and travel clients (think: colorful restaurants and hotels). They simultaneously foster and draw inspiration from Charleston’s unique hospitality community.
At ByrdHouse, staying up-to-date with the happenings of other local businesses is crucial—which is one of the reasons that Annie and Cat love working in a shared space. We popped in to see what’s taking flight with the flourishing company these days!
Tell us ByrdHouse’s story. How did the company get to where it is today?
ByrdHouse PR was started by Annie Byrd Hamnett in 2006. We started small, with just a handful of local clients who wanted a better positioning in their markets but didn’t have hefty budgets to pay big PR agencies. When we started, we were doing PR for businesses all across the board—dabbling in various industries and learning a lot, but not really becoming experts in any one field.
Somewhere along the way, Annie decided that she enjoyed the day-to-day work more when she was focusing on the things she loved most: food and travel! So, she started streamlining her clients and making conscious choices about companies to work with, which ended up being many of Charleston’s wonderful restaurants and hotels. This transition turned out to be great timing, as it coincided with Charleston’s hospitality boom. ByrdHouse was, by then, positioned to be a leader in the field.
Another major turning point came in 2015, when Annie brought on Cat Taylor as a partner. Cat had been an intern at ByrdHouse while she was studying at the College of Charleston, and she and Annie had hit it off instantly. Cat moved to Chicago after college to work for a big hospitality PR firm, and when she expressed an interest in returning to Charleston, Annie scooped her up and made her a partner at ByrdHouse. Combining two sets of skills, resources, connections and ideas has allowed Annie and Cat to offer their growing list of clients better service and bigger results.
Is your brand’s friendly, down-to-earth outlook influenced by Southern culture? How has Charleston contributed to your company’s identity?
We both identify with Southern culture in a big way. Annie was born and raised in North Carolina, and Cat attended college in Charleston. We’ve both been in the South for a long time and feel that it is truly home.
We’d like to think that we could apply our same business model to any mid-size market and be equally successful, but there’s absolutely no doubt that our success is in large part due to the fact that we’re in Charleston. The city has such an incredible and charming hospitality community; we’re inspired daily to work hard to maintain and elevate its unique personality.
We want our ByrdHouse branding to be straightforward and approachable, but also infused with our personalities (this particular business is so incredibly personal!). We love color, pattern, great fonts and pretty photography. We’re sticklers for good design—we preach the importance of it to our clients on a daily basis—so we knew that our brand needed to demonstrate the power of a good graphic designer. Our ByrdHouse branding was done by Stitch—the best in the biz!
Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere from magazines to Pinterest to music to interior design. We also get inspired by good branding, and we geek out when we find a great restaurant menu!
Annie has a background in interior design, so she’s got a real passion for décor. She has infused her sense of style into our office (with help from an awesome local company, Ruth Campbell Interior Styling). Cat loves to watch cooking shows and experiment in the kitchen. She loves picking her clients’ brains about techniques and flavors, and is always inspired when she gets the chance to spend time with chefs in the kitchen.
How has working in a shared space benefitted your business?
Being able to communicate on a daily basis with likeminded individuals—who are also dealing with the same work-related issues—has been a breath of fresh air after many years of working solo. (When you work alone for long periods of time, you just start talking to yourself after a while!) We love bouncing ideas off of each other, staying current with what’s happening in Charleston and beyond, and checking out the new lunch places that are popping up next to our office!
Can you tell us a bit about your signature annual event, the Lowcountry Field Feast?
Spill: What’s your favorite Charleston dish to indulge in?
This is a toughie! Well, since we are, after all, PR reps, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention some of our fave clients’ dishes: tuna tostadas at Cannon Green, tres leches cake at Zero Café + Bar, brisket with hatch green chili sauce at Lewis Barbecue and chilaquiles at Pancito & Lefty! And in non-client-related likes: The pickled shrimp atEdmund’s Oast and tomato tarte Tatin at FIG are sure to make any girl swoon.
What’s been your most exciting collaboration so far?
Collaborating is probably our favorite part of the job—besides taste-testing and traveling, of course! We consider ourselves very lucky to have worked with so many talented local business owners, from graphic designers to musicians to florists. One of our most recent and exciting collaborations is with interior designer Betsy Berry, who is designing two of our clients’ restaurants (Pancito & Lefty and Lewis Barbecue). We believe that the look and vibe of a restaurant is nearly as important as the food, and Betsy’s plans for both spaces are incredibly inspiring. It’s been fun to work alongside her as she creates a dining room that reflects a chef’s personality. It gives us another story to share and elevates the brand that much more.