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Dani Cordaro: The Spunky Entrepreneur
Jenny, how much did you love Dani?
I love her. She’s the cutest, sweetest, most vibrant person.
She is wonderful, smart, sharp and such an entrepreneur badass woman.
I love her and I love all the different things that she tried until finding her special place.
She never gave up and she’s so open about not having children. There’s this vulnerable part of her life that she opened up about. She was so clear about it.
She’s so clear and positive about it. For her, it’s, “I don’t want them but I love being a part of other people’s children and being an aunt and being an auntie to my friend’s kids.”
Being a mama dog to two or three dogs. She’s wonderful. I hope you enjoy it.
I love her too. Piccolo PR.
Hi, Dani Cordaro. It’s so good to have you.
Thank you for having me. This is exciting.
Thank you for doing this.We always start at the bottom and work our way up. Click To Tweet
It’s my pleasure.
We’re happy to have you. Dani, you own a boutique PR firm, Piccolo. You’ve been doing this for the last few years.
I started the company a few years ago. About two or three years before that is when I got into PR. It’s been a number of years since I’ve been on the PR route.
Were you at a big firm before you had your own?
I was in a small one. I started off with the boutique one in Manhattan Beach. It was several career changes before I found this little firm. I didn’t have any experience so I started off with someone. It wasn’t a very good fit and so I said, “I’m going to try this on my own.”
What gave you that courage?
I don’t know if it was courage or if it was you get to the point of unhappiness. The only thing that’s going to change is me. I needed to do something about it. At that time, my husband was traveling a lot for work. I was like, “I’m not going to see him if I’m working for someone.” That makes sense. I wanted to be able to have that luxury in his career. He may travel a lot and I wanted something that I could do the same.
Can you take us back to those first few months of starting your own PR firm from scratch? What was that like?
It’s scary. I hate mornings and I used to have to get up super early and get to the office. When I started my own firm, I was able to have a little bit more leeway because I was working from home. I had an office there and I still have a home office. I was able to more or less roll out of bed, throw on something comfy, have a great cup of coffee and then get to work without having someone looking over your shoulders or that hustle and bustle. For me, that was such a huge change and lovely. I was happy not to have to get up in the morning. With the work, it was slow at the beginning. It had to try to build my clientele and figure out what I was doing but I was excited.
How did you do that? Did you take anybody from your old firm?
When I left and I was like, “I can’t be here anymore, this isn’t a good fit,” I had some clients. They ended up coming over and saying, “We want to work with someone else. We’ve enjoyed working with you. Would you accept us?” I was hesitant at first because I didn’t want to steal this person.
Did that create animosity?
A little bit.
That’s honest because that’s true.
I felt that’s just the way business is. I felt very bad at first, but I knew that this is how it was going to start. I call these clients. They’re still my angels and they’re part of my family.
Are they still your client?
Yes, absolutely. Producers, they’re still my client. They know me. They were at my wedding. They are like family. I call them my brother and sister. It’s lovely.
How have you sustained that relationship with clients that you’ve had for many years while building new clients?
It’s still a boutique even after a few years because I wanted to dedicate time to my clients. I didn’t want to send an assistant or someone else out there with them. At that time, I was dealing mostly with entertainment and it’s very personal. Entertainment is their business but it’s such a fine line. I felt like I wanted to be there for them for everything. I wanted to be at every event and every red carpet and everything that we’re doing. I find that that’s the most important. That’s why my clients have sustained and that’s why I have those relationships with them. For me, it’s having that Jerry Maguire take on it. That’s fewer clients, more face time, and more connection. I want them to be my friends and my family. If you can work with people you like and love, it’s a dream. It’s so much easier to wake up in the morning. You’re traveling with these clients. You see their every ins and outs.
Do you travel with them?
Yeah, I travel with a lot of my clients.
What do you do if there are conflicts in schedule and you have to be in two places? How do you pick?What's great with entertainment is a lot of the times your clients aren't always on. They're all on hiatus. Click To Tweet
I haven’t had that so far and I’ve made it work when it has. I’ve been honest with my clients like, “I need to be here. Are you comfortable with this?” It’s having those conversations with them and being honest with them too and putting everything out on the table.
You must be very organized.
I love organization.
That makes a lot of sense because I worked very differently but my clients in media sales were all entertainment clients. I know how often dates, release and everything changes. How do you juggle that knowing that you have other clients? You have an array of clients, a very diverse group of people that not all of them are in entertainment.
It’s because I love organization. I don’t know if I told you this story that for my seventh or eighth birthday, I asked for a file cabinet.
Can you please tell us the story?
Seven or eight, I had so much to file back then like stickers, colored paper, white paper, drawings from friends. My mom is amazing. I wake up in the morning and she has balloons and this big black file cabinet. It’s sitting in the middle of my room. I think she still has it at our house at Chico. If there’s a reason to file and organize, I got a Poketo calendar, it brings me so much joy.
I feel like that’s one of the success traits you have to have to own your own firm.
That’s probably why I was so bad. Mondi, you’re right. It is a gift and it’s a skill set that I don’t have and when I see people who do have it, I’m like, “Wow.”
It is a skill set but people that do have that, they do like it.
It’s giving me such a sense of calmness. I don’t like to do stuff on my phone because I can’t scratch it off or mark it off. It’s such a process.
Can you take us back to those early days in Chico?
My family is still there, my parents, my brother and sister-in-law.
For people that don’t know where Chico is, can you also share that?
It’s in Northern California. It’s about an hour-and-a-half north of Sacramento. It’s a little college town. Everyone knows everyone. It’s precious. It’s lovely. It has beautiful restaurants and such an amazing community. I couldn’t wait to get out after high school. I was like, “I got to get out of here.” I’m fortunate because my parents still live there and my brother. My husband falls in love with it. He wants to go there more than I do now. He loves to go. He loves to ride his bike around town. He grew up in LA so it’s such a different world. As much as I couldn’t wait to get out of there, I appreciate it more and more every time I go back. If we didn’t have the careers that we have, we would absolutely move back. At some point, we’d love to buy property there. If there’s any excuse to go back like if my nephew has a sing-along or my niece, it doesn’t matter, I’m there. I’m like, “Sure, let’s go to this football game. Why not?”
How do you think that shaped you in your career? The groundedness and the foundation you got from being in such a safe, cozy, and warm environment?
I don’t know if I’ve thought about that before. That goes back to my sense of wanting this boutique family business as opposed to this big conglomerate or corporate organization because that’s my roots. I want to thrive and be successful and LA is not cheap. I haven’t thought about that. That’s a good question. I would imagine that I do love that family smallness.
Take us through the journey after leaving Chico because you’ve dabbled in a few things. I love a winding road story and I love the internal assessment that you call that brought you to PR. Can you take us through that?
I went to UC Irvine for undergrad. I couldn’t wait to get out of Chico, but I knew I want to stay in California. I didn’t want to be far away from my family. I knew Southern California well. Both my parents grew up here. I had family that lived in Newport Beach. I knew that area very well and I was comfortable with it even though I was going away by myself. I went into school as a psychology major and I wanted to do some type of psychology. I had always loved true crime and criminology. I started dabbling into that and forensic profiling. I switched my major to criminology and law. I want to be an attorney or get into some type of law enforcement.
After getting my major in criminology, I interned with the Interpol in DC. It’s the International Police. There’s the Europol and there’s the Interpol. They have all of the organizations in one. I was working with marshals and CIA agents. It was a program through UC Irvine called UCDC. It’s an amazing program. I don’t know if they have it at all the UCs, probably. They help and facilitate you getting these internships in DC. People were working with congressmen, senators, the Interpol, the FBI or whatever it was. I got fortunate enough to work with them and had security clearance and got to experience that world.
Was it exciting?
I loved it. You feel special having that security clearance and knowing that you can see something that someone else can’t. I remember visiting the FBI in Quantico and talking with an FBI agent who was a woman. She was saying her father was in the FBI and her husband wasn’t. It was this lifestyle. It wasn’t a career. I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to give all of myself to that. I was like, “Maybe let’s do law instead and do criminal law.” I went to law school at Loyola. I moved up to LA only for a year though. It wasn’t a good fit. I was unhappy during that time. As much as I loved schools and all the learning around it, it wasn’t good for me. I think I was done with school and I was like, “Maybe this isn’t the life that I wanted either.”You're not going to like everyone you work with; you just have to know going into it. Click To Tweet
What do you think it was about law school that you knew right away that this is not for me? Was it the personality? You’re vibrant and you bring such sunshine.
I wanted to do litigation. I wanted to be in the midst of it, but I’ve been in oral argument, my first one, and I got really dizzy and passed out. I had to take a step back. I don’t like public speaking. It makes me nervous. If it’s a one-on-one like this, all day, but if I have to get in front of a group, it’s “Whoa.”
Especially in a situation like that where it’s so charged. It’s not like you’re in a group and we’re all going talk about something pleasant. It’s very contentious most of the time.
Criminal law, these are people’s lives on people’s hands or if I was either defending the criminal or not, it’s these poor victims and I couldn’t bring myself. I was like, “I’m not for this.” It was a hard reality because I had wanted to do law or crime for so long that it set me back. I fell into a little bit of a depression. I like to call it my quarter-life crisis. I don’t think the quarter-life crisis is talked about because it’s a real thing. Especially as a woman, you’re figuring out what you’re doing and there’s this uncertainty about everything in life and what you want. I lost my soul a little bit and then my mom got me a Dachshund and she lifted me up again and then I kept going. My little Zoey, I call her my angel. She is my little Dachshund. I love Dachshunds, I got three of them. She brought me back to life and it was an excuse to wake up in the morning because when I left, I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
How long were you in that state? Take us through those days.
I’m trying to think when it finally hit me that I wasn’t going to go back. I don’t even know the actual time period between when I realized what I was going to do next. It was trying to spend time with friends and reading a bunch of books. There’s this book, What Color is Your Parachute?, about who you are and what this may relate to in business. I have a friend who reads all those things. She’s recommended me a bunch of stuff. I internalized my life and my world. Zoey was an excuse to wake up in the morning and Peter and Walker.
Once you have this path and then you’re like, “What do I do with my life?” A friend of mine who was an estate planning attorney with a wealth management firm and said they had openings for associates. I was like, “Sure, I’ll try finance.” It was like you needed to find something. I started working at her firm. It was small then and now it’s huge. It’s still private but it’s all over the country now and doing beautifully and it’s so nice to see. She’s still with them. I worked there for a few years and speaking of not having the right personality for that. I love the client facing stuff but I’m sitting at my computer and I’m doing tax returns.
How did you even get yourself to learn that?
I don’t know if I ever did.
There are certain subjects where my brain shuts down and can’t even compute any of it because I have no interest in it. I’m like, “I’ll never understand it.”
It wasn’t going to work out. After a couple of years there, I went to my boss, broke down with her and I was like, “I’m unhappy again.” There was this three or four-year period where I was struggling. A year into that, I had broken up with a boyfriend that I was with for a long time. It’s like life happened. I’m in my late twenties. I look back and I don’t ever want to go back there. I am okay. I remember I was in the kitchen in one of my last days and one of the partners came in. He’s like, “Dani, you’re too bubbly for this career.” I said, “You are right.” It gave me that assurance of like, “This isn’t my world.”
It’s great when someone else sees you the way you see yourself.
After finance, that’s when I had to take a step back again and to re-evaluate, “Who am I?” It sheds the onion and finds out who I was. I knew I wanted to have the organization business aspect of something still, but I wanted to be creative. I want you to know that I was a dancer for many years.
That’s what I told. I was like, “If I didn’t know, I would guess it by looking at you.” From a dancer to a dancer.
You’re a dancer too. It stays with you. It’s like muscle memory. You’re always turned out and do certain things with it. It’s such a discipline. I miss that creativity. I wanted to have a profession where I could be business but also think outside of the box. PR seemed like the right fit. That’s when I started applying. I thought I was going to move to New York for a little bit. I wasn’t able to get anything out there so I came back. It was like, “I do want to stay here. I do love California. I don’t want to move that far away from my family.” I started working with a boutique firm.
Did you put out in your resumes like, “I was in criminology and then I was in finance, but I want to try this?” It sounds like me. I always feel like, “Is this going to be weird when they read my resume?”
I definitely was but I was using it like that and it’s still on my website. I’m not another communications major. I didn’t major in communications. I don’t have that background at all but that gives me a way to process things differently. It’s like anyone, if you study something and that’s all you have.
I’m glad that they hired you though. That’s so good.
I came in as an intern. I started off at the bottom. I was like, “I will start at the bottom. I’ll work my way up.” That was a harsh reality too of that. I’m in my late twenties and I’m making nothing and that whole internal argument. After those few years and then here I am having my own gig.
Can you talk a little bit about your clients? It’s interesting that you mentioned you want to keep your firm and boutique size. How do you do that when you have this growing opportunity to tap into all these different industries? If you have these sustainable clients who want to stick and stay with you, how do you balance that?
What’s great with entertainment is a lot of the times your clients aren’t always on. They’re all on hiatus. I don’t have a lot of products. Personally, if I still get emails or calls, I’m still going to address that, whether or not I’m on hiatus because that’s who I am. Sometimes if a publicist is off or is on hiatus and they get a phone call about their client, they’ll pass it to the client’s manager-agent. The agents and managers are never on hiatus and they’re getting paid differently. It’s a different pay structure. They’re getting paid for a project whereas I work off a retainer. I feel like I’m working with them and I’m going to work with them again at some point, hopefully. I’m going to manage these things while we’re on hiatus because that makes sense to me.
You can because you are small and it’s just you. You know what’s going on.As much as you talk to people on the phone, you don't necessarily have someone that's right there to run an idea off of. Click To Tweet
I know everything about them and what their schedule is. It’s a quick text to them, “Can you do this or this is going on.” Sometimes when you’re on a retainer, it’s not as busy as you think it’s going to be. I don’t want to feel like, “I did this work with them while they’re off.” I’m okay with my retainer. I think that we’re a team and I’m comfortable with that team so I want to continue. That’s with entertainment clients. It’s about time management and it’s about finding the space and the time. Sometimes I need to bring someone in or an assistant every once in a while for certain things. I do some of that background work but I’m the client facing and they know who I am, even if I’m having someone else help me with this or that. Right now, I don’t and it’s working. As I grow, even though it’ll still be boutique, I wouldn’t mind bringing someone else in but it’s very important to me to keep that relationship and that face time. I love it.
Do you handle social media?
I don’t do social media. That’s a whole another job now. I don’t handle it. I did a little bit at the beginning. I worked on one of my client’s websites here and there. I can do little things here and there but it’s not my expertise. If I bring someone new and they’re asking for that, I’m like, “I can help you but I highly suggest hiring someone else to do this.” Some of my entertainment clients have someone who does it for them, but this is their life and they want to share what they want to share. I may guide them or suggests not doing something. They’re their own people. I don’t focus on social media because it is a full-time job and that’s why people are hired for that now.
It’s always changing. Algorithms are changing and what you can and cannot do. I can’t possibly keep up with all of that. I’ve worked with a number of social media managers over the years and I love to recommend them. It’s nice to work with those people again and then becomes a good team. That’s too, just because I’m in PR, someone will have a manager, an agent, their social media person and this person and we are all working towards the same goal. It is a nice team and a nice balance. We help each other out with that too. That’s definitely with entertainment and the other ones can vary and it’s a little bit different. All of them, generally, some of my nonprofit clients, they have other people doing their marketing and their social media. We work together and I’m that PR element.
Is that hard working with those other elements like managers and other agents if they have strong personalities?
It can be but you have to take a step back and just, “We’re all in this for the same reason. We all have the same goal.” You’re not going to like everyone you work with and you just have to know to go into it. Their personalities aren’t always going to match with yours and it is what it is. You’re not always going to like the people you work with. If my client chose for that, then that was their decision. If I was a part of helping them make that decision, then that’s great but that’s not always the case. I have to trust them that this is their career, this is their business and you trust them that they know what they’re doing.
You mentioned you work from home. I also know you joined The Wing.
Have you ladies heard of The Wing?
No, I want to hear everything.
I cried a little bit when I left after the first day. Working from home can be very depressing.
We’re doing a little bit of that but at least we’re together.
As much as you talk to people on the phone, you don’t necessarily have someone that’s right there to run an idea off of. Even the environment of something new, as opposed to your little office at home, your dogs are running around, someone’s dropping off a package, and the dishes need to be done. There’s always something to it. This is a women-centric workspace. I’m probably not telling their mission correctly and I’m so sorry if I’m not. They’re very women empowering. It was founded in New York in 2016, I believe. They have three in New York and they opened one in LA. They have one in Toronto and Seattle and they opened in Chicago. They’re going to open in London soon. The branding is dynamite. It’s beautiful and you walk in.
Where is it?
It’s in West Hollywood. They have beautiful lush couches that are pale pink and greens. They have this lovely library that you could rent. It’s all color coordinated. They have this wonderful cafe where you can get little Nummies while you’re working or take meetings there. There are beautiful terraces that you can sit on. A woman definitely created this. They have baskets with blankets so if you get cold working, which I always do. A man would not have thought of that. They have free drip coffee and water. Their bathroom where they have a place for nursing mothers. They have a beauty room. They have showers.
You can go there and go to the gym and come back, whatever you need to do or whatever ends up happening. They always have sponsors and they have lovely products for you to use and lotions and hair ties. It’s my home away from home. It’s nice to get over there. They have wonderful networking opportunities. The first event that I went to, I met this amazing woman, she’s a producer. She and I ended up befriending. I went by myself and she did too. We befriended and ended up spending the entire afternoon together. We’re talking about getting to know each other. We make work together. I can see her being my lifelong friend. She’s lovely. That was my first event that I was like, “This is the place for me.”
Is this a members-only?
It’s a members-only. You can bring guests to the events as long as there’s opening. You can introduce other people to it, which is fun and exciting. You’re not necessarily working with other people, but everyone is around you. I honestly wouldn’t feel silly about going across the table and be like, “I have a question for you,” and opening up someone’s eyes and do go.
Do you find yourself going daily?
Because I live in Playa Vista, it’s a little bit of a jaunt. I’m not going daily but then it works because then I’m still mixing it up. I go to Orange County once a week. One of my best friends is down there. She works and I go and work in her office with her. We spend the day and we’d go to the gym at the end of the day together. It’s an excuse to spend time with someone else, throw ideas off someone else that you trust and being in different environments. I am trying to mix up my working environment these days because I find it to be more productive that way.
It feels like things flow better.
They do and that new scenery, it’s amazing. The Wing is my world. I highly recommend it. When I got accepted, I was like, “They want me.”
Why wouldn’t they want you? That’s very exciting. That’s nice that you have that balance of workspaces and especially in a creative space to get your juices flowing. How do you organize your life with that balance in your personal life knowing how busy you are professionally?Life happens and things come up; you just have to make it work. Click To Tweet
It helps that my husband is in the entertainment business as well. He’s a camera operator. He understands my work and I understand his, and we know that we may not stay in the same house every night. He may have to travel for a few months or I may have to travel for a few weeks.
Does he work in films?
Film, television, commercials, everything. If you have someone that isn’t necessarily in that business, it’s hard to understand it. It was for me when I was first getting into PR and he’s on the opposite side of film and television. Having that understanding of how much he was working and where he was working and took me a long time to feel comfortable with it as well. You have that understanding and so we work well together. We help each other and support each other with that. As much as we don’t want to leave each other for a couple of weeks or a couple of months, and we give each other a hard time, sometimes we get it. We also chose not to have children. Not that you can’t do it all with children because I think that you can in many women. I don’t know if you can do it all at the same time and that’s okay too. It was a choice that I made and I’m comfortable with that choice.
Is your husband always fine with it too?
It was my non-negotiable. When we first started dating, I was in my late twenties and he was four years younger. I went into it I said, “I don’t want to waste my time anymore. I don’t want to waste his time.” It was almost one of the first conversations we had. He knew at the very beginning that this wasn’t what I wanted. I think that maybe had he ended up with someone who wanted children, I think that he would have been happy with that as well. Even before we got engaged, I remember I was like, “Just to double check, because I would never want to take that away from someone. It’s what I’ve chosen but I didn’t want him to resent me many years down the road. We’ve relished in the auntie-uncle role. He was a doll with children and babes. We’ve taken that on as joy and it works with our life.
Do you spend a lot of time with your nieces and nephews?
My brother’s kids are up north so I don’t get to see them as much. My girlfriends have babies.
Does your husband have siblings? Does he have nieces or nephews?
He has no niece and nephews, but I think that they want them. We’re surrounded by good friends who adore their children and I adore their children. I love swooping in, spoiling and it’s such a fun role.
It’s a very special and important role too.
When I think that because I don’t have my own children, it’s a little bit different. I was talking to my girlfriend who just had a baby. I was talking to her. She’s like, “How do you feel?” She’s so cute. She’s breastfeeding her newborn baby. She’s asking me how I feel. It is different because I don’t have mine. I can’t relate in that essence, but I can relate to this like I want to be a part of all of it. All of those little things that I don’t know were pain in the ass, I’m like, “They’re so cute.” She’s talking to me about the ins and outs and I can hear about it, but I don’t understand it. I get all the goodness.
You don’t get the yearning. You’ve never had that. You’ve shared that this is something you’ve felt since you were a little girl.
I never played with dolls. It wasn’t in my DNA, which is funny because my parents are perfection. I literally could not have asked for better parents.
It also brings a lot of positivity and fun when you don’t have that yearning. When you can participate in your friends and your brother’s kids in a way that’s not a little bit sad on the one hand. You’re like, “This is great. Tell me everything, have fun.” It’s free.
I went to Orange County for my friend’s son’s fourth birthday. She was like, “You drove all the way from LA.” I was like, “Of course, I did. It’s not that big of a deal,” but they have children of their own and driving to Orange County for someone else’s child is a huge thing for them. I get it but for me, it’s a no-brainer when I get into those. I don’t get to go to everything but when I can, it’s special to me. I want to support them. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be a mother. If I can provide at least any joy or support, then it’s a win-win for all of us.
That’s a good time right there.
I know I have some good friends.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is Dani Cordaro.
Not having kids, going back to our main question, I think that it helps. It gives me a little bit more time and it’s what everyone’s dealing with having to find that wellness and trying to work out. Finding space for that and eating while I love to cook though. That’s a nice reprieve for me at the end of the night if I can cook. My husband is getting into cooking and so we’re cooking together now, which is so much fun. Everyone’s dealing with those things. You just have to find the time and there are weeks that will go by and I will not have lifted a leg to go running or go to yoga or anything. There will be three weeks and I’m good about it. I definitely am not doing it every week, but I’m at least thinking about it and trying and that’s all we can do. Life happens, things come up and you make it work.
It’s been lovely having you. Thank you so much for being open.
It’s my pleasure.
About Dani Cordaro
I founded Piccolo Public Relations in 2012 after several years with a boutique entertainment firm. Prior to public relations, I dabbled in finance and even toyed with law school. Unable to feed my creative, jovial personality, I found what I was willing and excited to fight for in PR. I now have the privilege of working with actors, directors, producers, designers, photographers, make-up artists, products, non-profits, and innovators.
I hold a Bachelor of Science in Criminology, Law and Society from the University of California, Irvine.
I reside in Los Angeles with my husband and three miniature dachshunds, Zoey, Abigail, & Loki.