Editor’s note: This story appears in the Jan. 8, 2024, print edition of Arkansas Business.
Juliana Martins landed a big public relations coup this year, and we do mean big.
Martins, an Arkansas born-and-raised 26-year-old, helped turn the Las Vegas immersive art and technology attraction Fantasy Lab into Shaq’s Fantasy Lab.
Shaq, of course, is Shaquille O’Neal, who stands 7-foot-1 and in his NBA playing days weighed 335 pounds. He’s also a big fish in marketing, and Martins got to spend time and brainstorm with him on the Fantasy Lab.
In one photo with O’Neal, Martins — in heels — comes up almost to the NBA legend’s pectorals.
Martins described Shaq’s Fantasy Lab as an innovative, immersive place to have fun. “Basically you go in and you get to walk into different rooms, and they all evoke a certain emotion just through digital LED technology,” Martins said by cellphone on a ride from her New York base to Kennedy International Airport for a flight to Ireland. “It’s art and a virtual experience where you immerse yourself in an alternate reality for an hour.”
Fantasy Lab’s Vegas location opened a year ago, and it was seeking a celebrity endorser or partner to create some buzz. Martins was kicking around ideas with a friend from Authentic Brands Group and they thought of O’Neal, who is known for his “Shaq’s Fun House” carnivals/music festivals. “He’s such a fun, silly guy, we thought he could bring Fantasy Lab to a whole other level, and get attention for the venue.”
The venue became Shaq’s Fantasy Lab with a kickoff event in October, a highlight of Martins’ career as owner of Eleven11 Media Relations, which Arkansas Business profiled nearly two years ago.
O’Neal attended the kickoff with a handful of media influencers, and Martins helped snag a package segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” which sent Kayna Whitworth to Las Vegas to get a tour from Shaq in person, and in virtual reality.
“I was so excited to be able to bring that into fruition,” said Martins, who was born in Fayetteville and raised in Rogers before hitting Manhattan as an 18-year-old Pace University freshman in 2015. “It’s been an incredible journey just to be able to work with [O’Neal] and Fantasy Lab. It’s definitely been like the highlight of this year.”
Forbes 30 Under 30
Martins got another thrill last month when she was named to Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list, a national honor that caught her by surprise.
“I didn’t even know I was nominated at all until I got an email from a Forbes writer,” she said. “They wanted me to take it to the next step. It was a three- or four-hour digital application and questionnaire where they obviously did their due diligence on the business, then asked questions like where do we see ourselves, what has been our most proud business project, whatever it might be, just to help inform their decision.”
Martins finished the digital application about 10 weeks ago, and was overwhelmed on Nov. 28 when she found out. She called the experience unreal and surreal. “I’m still in disbelief and still excited,” she said.
She will attend an event honoring the Forbes 30 on Dec. 14, where the networking is certain to be fast and furious.
Former honoree Christina Qi, CEO of financial data provider Databento Inc., wrote on LinkedIn in 2021 that the Forbes honor is not a pay-to-play scheme. “It’s a popular myth that people pay Forbes to make the list. Or that they have to sponsor an event. Or that there’s an entrance fee or an annual membership fee,” Qi wrote. “I haven’t paid Forbes a dime, to this day. Their events are free for listmakers, so I’ll admit that Forbes has helped my career more than any other shiny trophy out there.”
Martins said that after the Forbes announcement, new business opportunities poured in. “I’m very excited to take a look at those and see what’s next from those leads.”
Martins, a Rogers High School graduate, named Eleven11 Media after an old habit of making a wish every time the clock hits 11:11 a.m. or 11:11 p.m. She’s not sure how the ritual started exactly, but it seems to be working.
She has three employees, all working remotely — herself and one worker in New York, the other two in Los Angeles. “I was very much back and forth last year, properly bicoastal, but now I’m definitely settled in New York, where I want to be. This is where I’m most productive and just happier.”
Whirlwind of Events
Her career has been a whirlwind since she started her business at age 23, living in her father’s New York apartment and getting a handful of clients on retainer. “It’s insane how quickly it has grown,” Martins said. “We’ve had projects that I couldn’t even imagine getting at this point in life.”
She calls her business a multifaceted public relations agency. “By that I mean we pick projects that we feel we can excel at and be excited about. I’m not in a single vertical like healthcare and beauty,” Martins said. “Since we last talked we’ve excelled in hospitality and entertainment PR. That comes with a lot of events, and that side of the business has picked up. We plan, produce, coordinate, invite, and do the whole flow and structure of events.”
Those include brand launch events, new product offerings and debuts that offer clients what Martins calls media and influencer touchpoints. She represents restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, and is mining the beauty, health care and wellness space.
Eleven11 did a launch event for Cortina Custom Skincare, a telehealth platform featuring dermatologists and skin products. “They signed an amazing partner-ambassador, Dr. Muneeb Shah, who has about 18 million followers on TikTok and is an incredible authority in the skincare, healthcare and dermatology space,” Martins said.
“He’s really helping elevate the brand and helping it get on more people’s radar. We’ve done some really fun podcasts, including Meghan Trainor’s podcast. We just did Jason Tartick, who has one of the biggest business podcasts, “Trading Secrets.” We did that one with Dr. Shah and Dr. Reid Maclellan,” Cortina’s founder and CEO.
How She Started
Martins did not have to go into debt to start her business, she said.
“That’s a good question,” she said, explaining that she was living in her dad’s apartment when she started. “I didn’t have the overhead of paying rent, I had a home office, and thankfully, I didn’t really need outside capital to start. I just locked in a handful of clients on a monthly retainer for three months. I knew I’d have ‘X’ amount of money coming in, and if it went horribly, I’d still have the comfort of being under my dad’s roof.”
She moved to her own place at 24, and has doubled the firm’s revenue since her start in 2020. She works from home and from a coworking space at Soho House New York, the trendy downtown members’ club and hotel.
Martins hasn’t come home to Arkansas much the past few years. Her relatives have spent holidays sampling her big-city life. “My family likes to meet us in the fun places,” she said. “When I lived in L.A. my mom wanted to be warm for Christmas, and now we’re in New York and she wanted to see New York for the holidays.” Martins does want to return home soon to see her grandmother and her Arkansas friends.
“I also want to take my New York friends down there to see the world where I grew up. It’s been a huge part of what I am today.”