But it was this degree, it turns out, that led Larios on this unlikely path.
“The psychology department had a writing requirement, and it was daunting for most. But it was, I think, what saved me,” she said. “I ended up just loving the writing aspect, so when I realized I wasn’t going to go on to get my master’s right away, I decided I needed to find another outlet, and writing was it.”
Out of undergrad in 2002, Larios got an internship with the San Diego Community Newspaper Group and was soon hired on as one of our reporters, a position she held until 2004.
After deciding that her writing skills could be put to work in other fields as well, Larios made the jump into public relations. She did a few projects for small local agencies, learning as she went and using her knowledge as a journalist to guide her in making pitches to local publications.
“Of course, there was always that nagging thing in the back of my mind, saying, ‘This is the dark side,’” she laughed. “But I decided to take the leap, and in the end, I was getting a ton of writing assignments in tandem with my PR work. What I recognized is that I still had that journalistic integrity.”
Larios’ first real PR job after her initial foray into the field as a consultant was as a PR manager for a nonprofit.
“I didn’t have the skill set, necessarily, to be a PR manager, but I had the tenacity,” she said. “I recognized there are a million ways to do things, especially at a nonprofit where you have very little budget to work with.”
Larios built on her experience and went on to work with other nonprofits, all the while continuing to write on the side. Through her connections, she made inroads into San Diego’s food scene, writing columns and articles about the sustainable and locavore food movements. After a stint doing PR for Vista’s celebrity health spa, Cal-a-Vie, she finally broke out on her own, representing farm-to-table Terra American Bistro as her sole client in 2007.
“That’s when I recognized, ‘I can do this,’” she said. “I started my own agency, slowly building my client list up.”
In 2008, Larios’ PR agency, PlainClarity, was born. She started the venture with her husband, Joe, out of their home. Clients started showing interest when it became clear, she said, that she would “advocate for them.”
“Clients understood that I wasn’t just doing this for money, but because I cared and was concerned about the direction of our food culture in San Diego,” she said.
Through word of mouth, Larios began to get to know the movers and shakers San Diego’s food world, and they began to get to know her.
“At first it was a little shocking, because before I found my niche in food, there was a little bit of self-loathing,” she said. “I thought, ‘How can I continue to do PR when my heart was always in writing and I believe so strongly in journalistic integrity?’ That integrity was really built at the San Diego Community Newspaper Group. It left an indelible mark.”
Once she was able to start helping small business owners realize their dreams, however, Larios’ sense of self-loathing dissipated.
“I realized I could contribute to our food culture and make it better,” she said.
For five years, PlainClarity operated out of Larios’ home office, but in June, she and Joe moved into an office on Girard Avenue above Harvard Cookin’ Girl and Ariccia Market. Larios set her sights on hiring a team to help grow the business, with the goal to bring on at least two new clients in the first few months. She hired a full-time publicist and brought on four. The agency now represents eight clients.
“We’ve progressed beyond what I anticipated, and each month we’re bringing on a new client,” she said. “We’re able to turn down work we don’t feel is the right fit for us.”
PlainClarity, Larios said, generally works with restaurants that are already or soon plan to work with a sustainable, farm-to-table model. Though its main focus is on food, the agency will also work with other companies that employ sustainable tactics and socially conscious business practices. The agency’s new office, even, represents Larios’ approach to sustainable business. The décor includes reclaimed objects given a new life as interior design, with Larios’ intent to practice what she preaches.
Larios hopes the agency’s new office location will, by proximity, give her access to some of the La Jolla businesses that embody PlainClarity’s ethics.
“One of my intentions right now is to become an integral part of the La Jolla community. I want to work with more clients in La Jolla,” she said. “This is our home now, and we’re invested in the community. We strive to be that agency that is an extension of our clients. We live and breathe what they do.”
For more information about PlainClarity, visit www.plainclarity.com.