Karen J. Kessler

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Location: Warren, NJ
Founded: 1993
Industry: PR/Communications

Karen J. Kessler
President

Evergreen Partners

In 1993, Karen J. Kessler was on maternity leave from a corporate job in New York and was helping out on a political campaign in New Jersey. “That was right after the year when about 25 women were elected to Congress. I watched all those women get elected and I thought, ‘If there’s ever a time for me to leave corporate life and be my own boss, now is the time,’” says Kessler.

Quick Tip: “I read four newspapers in the morning and expect everyone to walk into the office knowing what’s gone on in the world.”

At the same time, watching those elections showed Kessler how many people handle the media spotlight poorly. “So many individuals were being interviewed, and often the responses of people quoted in media reports sounded just tortured,” she says. “There seemed to be a very contentious relationship between the media and a lot of people in both the public and the private arena.” Believing she could help, Kessler launched Evergreen Partners, a communications firm specializing in reputation management and event planning.

One of the challenges Kessler faces in leading Evergreen Partners is that the company’s work gets done in a high-pressure environment. “You’re helping people sometimes who really believe that their career is hanging in the balance,” says Kessler. “I find that when we hire staff, it’s a real sink-or-swim kind of situation. People either take to it and love it and learn how to counsel people at a place in their life where they need a lot of hand-holding, or they just fall apart.”