“When I first moved here, I felt like it was a small town,” Heather Wagner Reed says of her adopted hometown of Austin, Texas. The deceptively laid-back atmosphere of Austin, however, is part of why it’s become a major cultural hub of the south, and a perfect home base for Juice Consulting, Wagner Reed’s marketing and PR firm, which is about to celebrate its 16th birthday.
“The tech industry has been booming here for quite some time, the live music industry is extraordinary here, there’s a lot of resources for artists here that I don’t know exist anywhere else. So many nonprofits that actually were created to help musicians with things like healthcare, with mental health services, with financial grants, with education,” Wagner Reed says. “It’s just been growing exponentially, it’s a very exciting time to be here. It’s like a creative vortex.”
Wagner Reed, a Pennsylvania native, came to the region two decades ago to work with one of the most famous Texans in the world: Beyoncé Knowles. Wagner Reed had been working for Universal Music in the Netherlands when she met the Destiny’s Child star’s father and at the time, manager. Wagner Reed joined their team in 2002 as Beyoncé launched her solo career. “I was at a conference in Atlanta where Mathew Knowles was a speaker, and a member of his team named Ira sat next to me, and we exchanged stories,” Wagner Reed remembers. “He said, you really need to meet Mathew! He needs someone with international experience on the team. Which I did, and we spoke a few times over the coming weeks and he ended up moving me from Holland to Houston for a job with the family. That’s how I got to Texas.”
Over the next five years, Wagner Reed was part of the team that helped elevate Beyoncé to superstardom. “In that job, I learned a lot. Every week we would have team calls where we had the head of marketing for Sony, the head of marketing for Dreamworks, the head of marketing for L’Oreal, Pepsi, her publicist, and all the different entities in her life, coordinating and collaborating and sharing strategies,” she says.
Launching Juice Consulting in Houston in 2007 and then relocating its base of operations to Austin a year later, Wagner Reed was able to share the accrued knowledge from her years in the major label world with her own clients. Independent musicians from Texas and the deep south might not have easy access to a world-class marketing firm since, as Wagner Reed notes, “A lot of them are based in New York, L.A. or London.” Having fallen in love with Austin’s culture, however, she relished the opportunity to help Texan artists get a foot in the door. “There’s so much talent here, there’s just a need to shepherd these creatives into the industry.”
Over the years, Juice has diversified into tech and film as other industries have grown in the Austin area. “We get all kinds of clients, we like to say we reflect what’s going on in Austin,” she says. “We ended up working with a couple of tech accelerators maybe six years ago and started to represent some startups and entrepreneurs. I’d say nowadays we do probably as much tech as music.”
As the company turns 16, Juice Consulting has decided to mark the occasion with a ‘Sweet 16’ event, an invite-only ‘80s-themed retro prom (although members of the public will be able to win tickets via the company’s Instagram page). “I guess you can say I was a child of the ‘80s,” Wagner Reed says. “I think any reason to have people dress up and have fun is a good one.”