20 Questions: A Vision for Success

Sarah Compo poses for a portrait at the Flower Memorial Library in Watertown.

For Sarah Compo time management and vision have led to a successful career as a journalist, entrepreneur and strong woman in politics. NNY Business sat down with Ms. Compo to talk about how she began her career, where it has taken her and what her vision for the future is.

NNYB: You’ve accomplished so much as a young professional, from starting your own business to working in politics, and I’m sure no one can forget your time with Channel 7. But where did you get your start in the professional world?

COMPO: My start in the professional world, I would have to say, was an internship that I had with the NBC’s Today Show. I spent a semester there when I was in college, I lived in the New York City area, and interned there just as I was an employee there five days a week. And that is what actually led me to my first job, which was with the Today Show’s financial editor Jean Chatzky.

NNYB: Let’s go back to Channel 7. When did your passion for journalism start?

COMPO: My passion for news started ahead of college. I had always been interested in journalism and in college I decided to pursue communications and there I was part of the newspaper and the television station at SUNY Geneseo and that’s where everything started.

NNYB: What was the most rewarding aspect of being a news reporter?

COMPO: I think that the most rewarding part of being a reporter to me was when I was able to shed light on any issues or people in need in our community. There is a really great way to do that through the media, and that is truly one of the things I found most rewarding.   

NNYB: How did the transition from being a news reporter into working with Senator Patty Ritchie start?

COMPO: I had known Senator Ritchie just from being a reporter and interviewing her. So when she had an opening in her office for a communications director I received a call from one of her staff members indicating that they would be interested in hiring me. To be honest, I never thought that I would leave the journalism field but there were a lot of parallels; a lot of the same skills would be used in both jobs – a lot of writing, a lot of research, a lot of working with people in the community – so I saw the opportunity, was grateful and took it.

NNYB: What did or have you learned from working with Senator Ritchie?

COMPO: I have learned a great deal from her; she is a great role model. I always tell people that she is not your normal politician, or what most people think a politician should be; she’s extremely honest and hardworking. She’s just a great mentor and role model.

NNYB: You have recently been appointed to sit on Watertown City Council. Did your work with the senator inspire you to accept the position or was this something that you had always been interested in pursuing?

COMPO: Public service has always been important to me. I was born and raised in Watertown so I’ve always had a passion for making the community better. I would have to say though that being in Senator Ritchie’s office gave me a first-hand glimpse of the impact that a politician can have on making peoples’ lives better. So, that did have a big role on the decision to pursue the position with Watertown City Council.

NNYB: What are some of your goals for being on City Council?

COMPO: One of my top goals is continuing the momentum that we have seen downtown. I think that we have seen a lot of great new businesses locate there, a lot of people who enjoy spending time at those businesses. We have clearly seen popular places pop up, like Spokes, and certainly think there is a need for more of that, and that goes hand-in-hand with trying to attract more young people to our region. I personally never thought that I would return home to live in Watertown and, after living in the New York City area for a couple years, I really felt the desire to part of a smaller community. I think that a lot of other young people are feeling that way, too, and it is just a matter of showing them that our area has a lot to offer.

NNYB: What are some concerns or key issues that you bring to City Council?

COMPO: I think I would have to go back to not only continuing the momentum downtown but also in our area there is a need to create jobs and bring businesses into our area. That is one thing that I would like to see council focus on. I’d also like to see council focus on seeing if there are different ways to create efficiencies. When it comes to government, I purchased my first home several years ago and I know what it is like to pay taxes and I know how expensive it can be, especially for a young person. So I’d like to work to see that we can decrease the burden on the taxpayers, if at all possible, while still providing the services that we need to.

NNYB: Do you think you will pursue running for a full term?

COMPO: Yes, I intend to.

NNYB: What has been the public response to your appointment as interim council member in Watertown with your current work with Senator Ritchie?

COMPO: I think that, overall, the feedback that I have received has been very positive. I was really encouraged beforehand by a lot of people to pursue the position and I think a lot people know that I have Watertown’s best interest at heart; they know I am a hard worker and that I will do the best for the city.

NNYB: Not only are you well-rounded in local politics, but you have started your own business all while working other positions. When did you start your business Soiree NNY and why?

COMPO: I launched Soirée NNY in 2014. The reason behind it was I had been going to a number of weddings around that time period and one of the common themes was my friends who were getting married needed someone extra to help pull off the day and make it run smoothly. I had experience organizing events through Senator Ritchie’s office, so I saw an opportunity to fill that void. 

NNYB: What services do you offer?

COMPO: Soiree NNY is a day-of coordinating business where people will hire me for the day of their event to basically do everything from setting up their decorations and chairs, to making sure the caterer knows when to serve dinner. So really anything and everything you need the day of an event.

NNYB: Have those services changed over the years as your company has grown?

COMPO: Yes, they have. When I first launched my business I intended to do the day-of coordinating and full-scale event planning. I really have seen that the need is the day-of coordinating, so throughout the years I have made that my focus and now it is exclusively day-of coordinating.

NNYB: Was it difficult to balance work and becoming an entrepreneur?

COMPO: No, I really think that time management is one of my strong suits and the nice thing about this type of business is I have control over how busy I am and how many clients I take on each year.

NNYB: What small business resources, if any, did you utilize to begin the process of starting Soiree?

COMPO: For me the internet was the biggest tool that I used. I just did a lot of research online, not only about the basics of how to get a DBA, but also looking at other day-of coordinating businesses in other parts of the country. That really helped me lay a foundation for starting a business. 

NNYB: What are some barriers, if any, that people face when starting their own business, face in your opinion?

COMPO: Speaking from my own personal experience I didn’t encounter any barriers. Really the only barriers that I think a young professional would encounter would be money and time. It takes money to start a small business, it takes a lot of time, and most people when they start a small business, they are doing so on the side. So, there is a balancing act of managing your time wisely and getting your regular day-to-day job done as well. That can be challenging for some people. 

NNYB: Social media marketing has blown up over the last few years. How do you use social media marketing as a tool to promote your business?

COMPO: Social media is one of the things that over the past year I have really made a priority. I’ve always had a Facebook page, but I decided to also launch an Instagram page which has been really great. It allowed me to not only connect with potential clients but also with different vendors all over the place and get ideas and network with them. As far as Facebook, I have seen a lot of growth there and have tried to use different sorts of tactics to gain followers and gain new prospective clients, whether it is collaborating with our local businesses for giveaways and contests to attract new people or simply just using Facebook advertising. It’s a great tool for anyone trying to make a small business successful.

NNYB: What advice do you have for other women in NNY that have an idea or passion and want to execute it into a small business?

COMPO: I’d have to say just don’t be afraid to just go for it. A lot of times people will have a great idea, they will have plans for launching their business, but they hesitate for one reason or another. If you can’t give 100 percent right out of the gate, make a plan that helps you achieve a little bit every day to get to your ultimate goal of launching the business and you will get there.

NNYB: Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

COMPO: To be honest with you I am really happy where I am right now. I have had a great year not only with my career and growing my business, being appointed to City Council. I would like to see myself continue to grow in all those areas.

NNYB: With all the positions that you have held, what has been your favorite and why?

COMPO: That’s a tough question. I would have to say, while each position that I have had has had its strong points, probably my most enjoyable has been working in the Senator’s office. I have been there for seven years and, like I said, I never thought that I would be able to move home to Watertown and build the career I have been able to, and I am very grateful for that. 

~Interview conducted by Holly Boname. Edited for clarity and length to fit this space.