Anne Deeter Gallaher has a knack for putting people at ease.
With her twinkling eyes and easy smile, it’s hard to conceive of her working in a field other than public relations. Those who meet the affable Gallaher may believe that her success comes naturally, but she’ll tell you otherwise.
“You need grit, resilience, tenacity and a contagious optimism because people respond to how you make them feel,” said Gallaher, CEO of the Camp Hill-based Deeter Gallaher Group,
This year, she celebrates 20 years in the business and feels blessed to have beaten the odds to achieve that milestone.
“Considering that 30 percent of new businesses fail in the first two years, 50 percent fail during the first five and only 25 percent make it to 15 years, I feel pretty good about it,” she said.
Right out of college, Gallaher put her bachelor’s degree in communications to work and took a job as an editorial assistant, later promoted to director of editorial services at the publishing house of the Christian Missionary Alliance, which was long located on S. 10th Street in Harrisburg.
After five years there, Gallaher took time off to raise her three sons. As her children got older, her thoughts turned again to communications when she noticed a service organization that could use a little community support.
“My brother-in-law, who is a minister at Camp Hill United Methodist, had a youth ministry called Salt and Light,” she said. “So, I pitched the idea of a quarterly newsletter to share all the great things they were doing.”
One of the first moves Gallaher made was joining the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, where she took a seat on the public relations committee.
“That catapulted me into the business world,” she said.
Soon, her business grew from an office in her bedroom and meetings at Cornerstone Coffeehouse to her own Camp Hill office, where she works alongside communications strategist Marisa Corser, who has been with the company for 13 years.
Gallaher was also able to open up an office in Nashville, which she visits about every two months and where her daughter-in-law, Monica Bishop Gallaher, works as a content strategist.
Today Gallaher’s clients run the gamut across every industry, including retail, financial, commercial, real estate development, health care and entertainment.
Gallaher said that, as her business grew, she had to make sure that she was staying current and bringing clients along to social media platforms like YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.
“Back in 2000, when I started, everything was print, direct mail, brochures and newsletters,” she said. “To survive 20 years, I had to be nimble enough to realize that print was struggling and the quicker we ramped up, the stronger and more diversified we’d be.”
Bringing on her first hire was necessary, but not without its worries.
“Now I knew I had to be responsible for an additional person, not just myself,” she said.
And one important thing about being in business for yourself—you can never really take it easy.
“There’s really no rest as in, ‘whew, I made it,’” she said. “You’re always thinking ahead.”
One of the greatest challenges, she said, is trying not to take things personally. Resilience is key.
“Sometimes, I have to re-read my own chapter in the book about that,” she said with a chuckle, referencing a 2013 book she co-wrote called “Women in High Gear: A Guide for Entrepreneurs, On-Rampers and Aspiring Executives.”
The dedication, hard work and talent have paid off.
“She has helped us promote our unique properties and our tenants, which has driven retail traffic,” said Richard E. Jordan III, president and CEO of Smith Land & Improvement Corp. “She has been a great strategic partner for Smith Land and has contributed greatly to our operating philosophy and vision for the future.”
Patricia Husic, president of CEO of Centric Bank, praised Gallaher’s ability to turn a phrase.
“I always joke about her having a ‘magical pen,’” Husic said. “Her writing gift is unsurpassed, and she always makes us feel as if our company is top priority.”
Despite her busy schedule, Gallaher has been able to give back through community service.
“You have to be a community champion,” is her motto. For instance, she has served for 10 years on the advisory board of the Salvation Army Harrisburg.
“You often hear the term ‘servant leader’ bandied about, but Anne defines it,” said Kathy Anderson-Martin, the Salvation Army’s director of resource development. “She willingly lends her time, talent, treasures and heart to the Salvation Army and other organizations to make a difference in the community and provide a voice for those who have none.”
As to her future, Gallaher plans more of the same—growing her client base and contributing to the community.
“I think central Pennsylvania is a fabulous place to start a business and it’s also a great place to grow—you get a lot of the benefits of a big city like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh,” she said. “There’s also access to financing with community banks like Centric. They are completely in tune with female-owned small businesses.”
Gallaher hopes that young women are inspired by her story.
“Some think they can’t make it beyond the tech industry, and I tell them there are so many ways to make it as a female in business,” she said. “One of my favorite quotes is from Jonathan Winters, ‘If your ship doesn’t come in, swim to it.’”
The Deeter Gallaher Group is located at 1822 Market St., Camp Hill. For more information, call 717-525-8042 or visit www.deetergallahergroup.com.