When public relations professional Laura Carr says she tithes, she’s talking about giving back to the business community.

“I take 10 percent of every business project and reserve that portion of my contracts for young women, other women entrepreneurs, or women returning to work and give them a paid opportunity to work with me in my business,” Carr says. “It allows me to mentor, offer guidance, and pay others as they learn.”

Carr, a self-described Army brat who was born in Kobe, Japan, founded L.A. Carr Communications in 1996 after retiring early from a 26-year career with Cincinnati Bell.

“I thought I’d take the traditional route and retire with a gold watch,” Carr says. “Instead, I had an opportunity to experiment with whatever I wanted to do next.”

Instead of continuing in the corporate model, Carr adhered to her belief that “if you jump, the net will be there.” She started her PR practice, which specializes in community outreach to diverse populations and creative problem solving, always with an eye toward inclusion. The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority are among her clients. Much of Carr’s work is done pro bono, such as her public relations work for the Ronald McDonald House of Cincinnati.

“Laura is so connected to the community and always has wonderful advice and great intuition,” says Jennifer Goodin, executive director of the Ronald McDonald House. “She knows PR like the back of her hand and is willing to help on her own time and with her own resources.”

Carr also volunteers for numerous organizations, including Leading Women, where she has served as president and is returning to co-chair the Young Women’s Scholarship Committee, creating mentoring opportunities and overseeing the group’s scholarship awards. As a board member of Black Career Women, Carr also serves as a mentor and a speaker.

Danielle Lewis, media relations coordinator for the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, considers Carr her mentor, noting she has helped her learn her profession and develop business contacts.

“A lot of people aren’t so willing to share,” Lewis says. “But Laura’s not like that. She’s always there to help, which has inspired me to want to turn around and help as well.”

Carr has been recognized for her dedication in many ways, including an Applause! Imagemaker nomination for public service and, in 2003, a Nefertiti award for being “an unsung heroine.”

But Carr’s not truly unsung. Her 7-year-old niece recently delighted Carr, calling her aunt her hero in a class assignment.

“I’ve always believed that the more you give of yourself, the more you get for yourself,” Carr says.

Carr advises other women to define what they want, invest in others, and take care of themselves, reminding women to not undervalue their worth financially or professionally.

“I believe we can learn from each other’s successes,” Carr says. “If I’ve made a mistake, no one I know should have to repeat it.”