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Meet Sheila Estaniel of Dilatation Agency in East Valley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheila Estaniel.

Sheila, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Dilatation Agency is a marketing and public relations startup, and I founded it after more than a decade in my industry. I’ve worked with Fortune 500 companies, collaborated with fashion weeks and film festivals, and ran campaigns with various partners from Project Runway, the Food Network, and even the Trade Commission of Peru.

I struggled with prenatal depression and then postpartum depression and anxiety after I became a first-time mom. I had days when I literally stared at the wall and cried for hours at a time. The way I got through some of the low points was turning to support groups and focusing on things that excited me. I felt like death, so I tried to cling to what made me feel more alive. I looked at art. I planned nature trips. I listed classes I wanted to take.

Since I wasn’t working, I also spent many quiet moments in our home office creating an imaginary business. Because I was completely in charge, I could come up with interesting projects and think about creative partnerships. I could make it be whatever I wanted. It ended up being so fun that after a while, I wanted to see if I could pursue it in real life.

For my day job, I helped employers create marketing plans, raise brand awareness, oversee public relations, manage social media accounts, write blog articles, and pitch editors to secure positive media coverage. I sometimes did the same for my friends who owned businesses. At one point, these friends referred other friends to see if I could help or serve as a consultant.

The more I thought about becoming an entrepreneur, the more I realized I already had the network, the know-how, and even the clients to try and launch my agency for real. When a former boss contacted me to see if I’d be interested in working with a company he wanted to connect me with, I took it as a sign.

I’m so fortunate to have a supportive partner and family who encouraged me to do this. Since launching, we’ve secured clients in Arizona and California. We’re also working on expanding our specialization to include the sustainability space.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It takes time and energy to build a business, especially when I’m also learning how to be a mom to my son. I struggled with physical and mental exhaustion, and still do at times, but I’ve found planning things in advance and taking lots of micro breaks helps me avoid burnout. When I start feeling overwhelmed by thoughts like, “What am I even doing? Why do I think I’ll succeed at this? Who the heck am I to dare do this?” then I’ve learned I need to walk away, clear my head, nourish my mind with better thoughts, and then focus on what I can control. Someone said meditation is like saying “thank you, next” to your thoughts. That’s what I try to do when I start doubting myself.

The loneliness is challenging, and so is the pressure to constantly be “on”, but they’ve taught me the importance of having a strong support system. I’m active with professional associations because they offer valuable resources and help me solve problems. I also have a clipboard with a daily to-do list, and one of the line items is to write which family or friend I reached out to that day, even if all I did was text hi. It reminds me to nurture relationships that are important to me, especially because I tend to isolate myself when I’m having a hard time and need to connect with others most.

On the same list, I have another line item to mark how many cups of water I drank and if I did some type of exercise. As an entrepreneur, I find it difficult to fully unplug because I feel like there’s so much I can and should be doing to develop the business and better serve my clients. Why go to bed early when I can stay up 30 minutes later and read up on industry trends? Who has the time to cook fresh food when whipping up something in the microwave will let me knock out a few more pitches and proposals? I realize I need to balance my professional life with my personal needs because there will always be something or another to do, and I won’t have anything more to give if my cup is empty.

One of my clients is a hot yoga teacher, and she taught me that when you take care of yourself physically then you’re in a better space mentally, which then allows for greater creativity.

Dilatation Agency – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from others?
We help brands tell their story, increase media visibility, and get customers.

We help them reach business goals by combining inbound and outbound marketing, as well as removing boundaries that normally exist between marketing and public relations. For example, public relations helps raise awareness and gets people to visit your website. Marketing converts them into customers once they get there. We double the impact by combining both. Think digital press releases that keep SEO in mind so you resonate with human beings but also appear higher on search engines.

With Dilatation Agency, I wanted to make marketing and PR services that are available to big companies also accessible to small business owners. I wanted to keep it affordable and not break the bank. The agency can do this by keeping overhead low, leveraging technology, customizing account teams, and scaling up or down based on specific client needs.

Right now, we’re focused on the food, fashion, lifestyle, and wellness sectors. We’re also working with a lot of women entrepreneurs. As part of our outreach, we’re collaborating with various coworking spaces to host seminars and workshops.

The agency is proud to give back to our community by offering, on an application basis, pro bono services to local nonprofits. This quarter, we’re raising awareness for more sustainable food systems by helping an Arizona-based organization that’s partially funded by the United Nations create several social media and press outreach campaigns.

Tell us about your favorite and least favorites things about our city.
I’m a big fan of the outdoors. I love the hiking trails, and I love seeing the saguaros at sunset. I also like the cute cafes and shops in downtown Chandler, Gilbert, and Mesa that I can explore for hours.

My least favorite thing about the city? I moved here from Los Angeles, and we don’t have scorpions there. I freaked out the first time I saw one in my hallway. They are definitely not my favorite!

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Getting in touch: VoyagePhoenix is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Erna Anne Lowe

    July 22, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    I am extremely proud of you Sheila! You are a beautiful person inside and out. Keep up the good work and keep in touch. Love you.

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