Celebrating Padilla Agency HERstories

In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re paying tribute to a few of the founders, leaders and trailblazing women who helped shape the agency that is now Padilla throughout our 60-year history.  

Lynn joined Brum & Anderson as an account executive in 1983, which merged with Padilla and Speer in 1986. Rising through the ranks, she become Padilla’s third CEO in 2001 and first woman to helm the agency.

Under Lynn’s leadership, the company experienced tremendous growth – including the acquisition of Richmond, Va.-based CRT/tanaka in 2013 – nearly doubling its size. Other major deals included the acquisitions of SMS Research Advisors, FoodMinds and Joe Smith brand consultancy, all now divisions of Padilla. The agency was acquired by AVENIR GLOBAL in 2018, at which point Lynn transitioned to the role of Padilla chair before retiring at the end of 2019.

Throughout her career, Lynn served on several nonprofit boards and was active in many business and civic organizations, which she continues to do in retirement.

Lynn also amassed numerous career accolades including being named to the Twin Cities Business Minnesota Business Hall of Fame and the PRWeek U.S. Hall of Fame.

Lynn has always been known as a true servant leader.

“Servant leaders carry the team forward without drawing attention to themselves. They wouldn’t think of asking others to do something they wouldn’t do themselves,” she said before her retirement. “They are determined, resilient and have healthy egos – trying not to let them get in the way … I try to live that philosophy every day.”

Matt Kucharski, Padilla president, reported to Lynn for his entire career at Padilla – except for one year – until she retired.

“One of many lessons that I learned from Lynn is to take advantage of every moment that you have available to you,” he said.

“I remember one time we were finishing a meeting in New York. We had about a half hour before we really needed to go to the airport. I thought we’d just go to the airport early. Lynn said, ‘No, no. Let’s take a walk down to the New York Public Library.’ It was 95 degrees. It was ridiculously humid. But we walked in, and it was amazing. Just taking advantage of that 30 minutes was a big lesson for me to take advantage of every moment.”

A native of Hawaii, Patrice fulfilled a life-long dream of moving to New York City in 1979. There she joined Jessica Dee Communications, a PR agency she helped to build, which was acquired by Chiat/Day Advertising in 1987. In 1990, she led a management buyback of a group of 11 colleagues to co-found Patrice Tanaka & Company, Inc. (PT&Co.) and served as the PR agency’s CEO and chief creative officer. In 2005, Patrice and her co-founders sold PT&Co. to Richmond, Va.-based Carter Ryley Thomas (CRT) to form CRT/tanaka, before it was acquired by Padilla in 2013. Patrice left the agency in 2015 to begin her career coaching company Joyful Planet. For her creativity and altruism, she has received multiple PR industry honors including the PRSA Foundation Paladin Award and the PRWeek U.S. Hall of Fame Award.

“I believe that if we are living our life’s purpose, leveraging our greatest talent, expertise and passion in service of other people and our planet, this is how we, as individuals and collectively, can contribute to creating a more joyful planet for all,” said Patrice during the 2016 PRWeek Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

With a typewriter, card table and $2,000 in-hand, Lou and Sally formed one of the industry’s earliest woman-owned agencies, Brum & Anderson, in 1978. In 1984, Brum & Anderson became the founding member of the Public Relations Exchange, an association of independent PR firms, which later became IPREX.

Lou and Sally’s partnership was built on strong business management skills, a shared vision for a new workplace culture and a spirit of inclusiveness.

“The big PR firms in town at the time were headed by men who’d always done business the traditional way,” Lou explained. “They networked and had their connections from various club memberships. Those clubs didn’t allow women. And they were missing the boat.”

She shared that “one of our most validating compliments came from Don Braman of Don Braman & Associates, one of the top PR firms at the time. He said, ‘Lou and Sally forced all of us to change because they recognized the corporate world was changing and that you had to be more professional in your approach. You couldn’t just count on the good-ol’-boy network anymore.’”

Tom Jollie, Padilla senior vice president, joined Brum & Anderson fresh out of college and worked with Lou and Sally.

“Lou is a born leader with an innate business sense. Going from nothing to the second largest PR firm in a few years was an incredibly wild and exciting ride – and Lou had the vision and drive to do it. She revolutionized the PR industry, bringing a new way of doing business. She brought a higher level of business acumen, professionalism and accountability to the entire profession.”

Looking back at the early days, Sally at the time remembered, “We wanted to build a different kind of an agency – one with a powerful emphasis on quality of work. Alongside that, we wanted to make it a really good place to work. We were sensitive to the emerging issues of women in the workplace, and we wanted to eliminate those problems from our company.”

Of Sally, Tom fondly said: “She was incredibly intelligent, creative and empathetic – the heart and soul of our rapidly growing enterprise. She was an exceptional coach and mentor to many, sharing words of wisdom that I still remember today and continue to pass along to others.”

Following Brum & Anderson’s runaway hit opening of Canterbury Downs, merger talks began between competitors Padilla and Speer and Brum & Anderson (Twin Cities’ No. 1 and No. 2 PR firms, respectively). In 1986, Brum & Anderson merged with Padilla and Speer to form Padilla, Speer, Burdick & Beardsley (the region’s largest PR firm at the time) – which eventually became Padilla Speer Beardsley, now Padilla.

Anita put her home economist degree to good use when she joined Lewis & Neale in 1954 as a test kitchen assistant. She eagerly became the “runner,” making food media deliveries to editors throughout New York where she developed relationships and built trust. This led to travel around the country, meeting with newspaper editors and making television appearances for clients. She excelled and worked her way up through the ranks to eventually become president and sole owner of Lewis & Neale, opting to keep the name she helped build into a leader in food marketing.

When Lewis & Neale began, it was not typical for a PR agency to have home economists on staff and a test kitchen in the office – but today, Anita’s food communications and culinary contributions are legendary – and honored in Padilla’s The Cookery culinary studio.

Lewis & Neale was acquired by CRT/tanaka in 2009, which later became part of Padilla.

Anita was a constant teacher and mentor until her passing in 2020 at 87.

In a 2019 article in The Produce News, Emiliano Escobedo, executive director of the Hass Avocado Board, called Anita a legend and a “Brooklyn foodie” who understood what it took to change public opinion about food across America.

“A self-made woman who built a very successful business around the principles of working hard, giving it your best, upholding your values and reputation, and always doing what is best for the client and your partners — as my first boss out of college, I still carry with me the lessons I learned from her,” Escobedo said. “Anita’s genuine value for human relationships, humor, character, creative spirit, integrity, charisma and do what is right no matter who, what or why attitude makes her an incredible woman, a trusted mentor and most importantly a life-long family friend.”

Thank you Lynn, Patrice, Lou, Sally and Anita for paving the way for women leaders in the PR and communications field and leaving a lasting legacy for our agency. We are Padilla Proud.

[This post includes excerpts from The Buzz Bin archives and The Padilla Speer Beardsley story.]

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