Former chemical engineering majors don’t typically start their own public relations company and gain recognition as one of the top entrepreneurs to graduate from their university.
But Crystal Patriarche isn’t a typical alumna.
Patriarche is the founder and CEO of SparkPoint Studio, a public relations company that aims to amplify women’s voices through multiple storytelling platforms. She’s been named to ASU’s Sun Devil 100 list, which recognizes the top leaders and entrepreneurs among its alumni, for four consecutive years.
But running a public relations company stands in stark contrast to the original goals for her career.
Patriarche transferred from Purdue University to ASU to finish her chemical engineering degree. However, she discovered a new passion while working at the Paris Air Show as an intern for AlliedSignal, now known as Honeywell.
“I got to talk about the new business jet engine that AlliedSignal was launching. I loved talking to the media and raving about the product and the company, and I was really good at it,” Patriarche said.
When Patriarche returned from the trip, AlliedSignal suggested she pursue public relations, which led her to switch her major to journalism. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1998.
Patriarche credited the real-world experiences offered at ASU for providing a stepping stone for her public relations career.
“The great thing about ASU, especially the journalism school, is they give you that great hands-on experience,” she said. “The PR Lab is one of the most incredible programs. It was a little bit different when I was a student, but we still had the opportunity to be assigned a client. We had to meet with them, come up with a PR plan and strategy, and launch a new product.”
Patriarche began her career at global high-tech PR agencies Weber Shandwick and Brodeur Partners, where she led public relations strategy for Fortune 500 accounts and start-up software/tech companies.
One thing she noticed about working in public relations for high-tech agencies was that the industry was mostly dominated by men; so she gravitated toward helping women-led brands.
This effort and passion for supporting other women led to her assisting female writers, and that opened up new opportunities unintentionally.
“One of my engineering roommates said to me, ‘My girlfriend is writing a book, you’re the only PR person I know. Can you help?’ and I said, ‘I don’t know [anything] about book PR,’” Patriarche said.
Even though she didn’t know that side of the industry, her love for books and writing, and her passion for helping other women inspired her to help promote that book, which opened the door for the next step in her career.
“After I launched that book, I had other authors contacting me and it very quickly went from knowing nothing about book PR, and doing high-tech PR, to suddenly having a roster of authors who were interested in what I could do for them,” she said. “It was a fluke, but it started snowballing and that helped me launch my own agency.”
That agency, SparkPoint Studio, has blossomed into more than just a public relations company as they provide social media strategies, branding and graphic design, event planning and marketing, content management, digital presence strategies, and book publishing and promotion.
SparkPoint serves big-name companies and brands such as Peacock, Netflix and Toyota.
In addition to her successful company and illustrious professional career, Patriarche continues to partner with ASU by hiring interns and serving as a guest speaker for various events.
“I’m so glad we could partner with ASU when we give students the opportunity to come in,” she said. “Our interns get real hands-on experience just like the PR Lab because I want them to come away from it with those skills.”
She also had advice for current ASU students as well.
“I think failure is your friend,” she said. “Those opportunities where a door opens, maybe it’s a little scary or not in your wheelhouse, those are the things to say ‘yes’ to because you never know where they’re going to lead.”