It felt like a monumental decision. Leave a company where I had spent 90% of my professional career. Take a chance that they would support my desire to continue to grow on my own. Trust that my clients would want to stick with me. There were several uncomfortable variables.
One of may favorite quotes from my culinary idol, Julia Child is this. "The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." Well, I tried to channel that same perspective. So in reflection of one year, there were countless learnings, but even more points of pride. Here’s a few of them.
What I Learned:
- Relationships are everything. In any service business, it’s hard to quantify your value. Hard work and results drive me every day, but there has to be more. You have to listen, ask questions and stay curious - outside of what may or may not be on an agenda. Sometimes, the best ideas come from just grabbing casual coffee with Liz Randolph at Half & Half; or a quick text conversation with Mathew Rice or Sarah Osborn of Niche Food Group about their latest pastry creations that I’ve been drooling over on Instagram; or a beer launch idea after exchanging photos of our fur babies with the Schlafly team. I want to know the people behind the pitch (and I’ve had a chance to do that more this year), which makes this job even more rewarding.
- Earn the ability to ask for what you want. I wouldn't be here today if I didn't ask my former employer to support this leap. It taught me a great lesson: sincerity always wins. I was (still am) fiercely loyal. I had put in the time and work (over 6 years). I am immensely grateful for the mentorship and learnings that I had received there. They knew how much I cared about this work and my clients. You can stay humble and recognize your worth at the same time to get to where you want to be.
- Be honest and confident in your honesty. Sometimes I feel like a consultant more than a publicist. The “should I/could I” questions from clients and prospective clients used to scare me. Now, I feel honored that they value my opinion, even if it isn't necessarily what they want to hear. It is possible to be assertive without being an ass.
- Recognize when it’s time to hire someone to help. The best money that I’ve spent on Jasper Paul has been for others’ talents. I knew Amanda Woodruff of Leighwood Design Studio would capture my brand. I knew that my young, hungry (#punny) interns would add new perspective. I also had no idea how much I needed a bookkeeper. I was logging my own miles, tracking every dollar expense in an archaic spreadsheet, invoicing clients, paying taxes, etc. Frankly, it was becoming two jobs. And then, I was introduced to Marnie. Identify the part of your business that you're not great at or don't find enjoyable and find a trusted individual to take it off your plate.
- Grow at your own pace. My primary goal for starting JP was my desire to be a leader again. I missed having a team (I became an independent contractor when I moved back to St. Louis). I missed helping people learn. I missed that feeling of pride when they succeeded. But, it’s simple math. More clients = more people. But I had to be patient with this goal. I didn't want to work with everyone, and my #1 goal was to support my existing clients. Luckily, I found someone that was willing to be patient. Read more about that below...
Points of Pride
We were able to accomplish a lot in Year One: new restaurant openings (Half & Half Webster Groves, Pastaria Nashville, Privado, Guerrilla Street Food at 2nd Shift Brewing, etc.); record-setting attendees at Schlafly Beer festivals; national recognitions for clients (Pastaria/Sardella's Ashley Shelton as Zagat's 30 Under 30, Schlafly's Emily Parker as Wine Enthusiast 40 Under 40, etc.). I feel an immense sense of pride around my clients' accomplishments, but I've also had some major ones for JP.
The most significant being the hiring of Amy Donkel. Amy found me. She reached out via Instagram (hello, modern business savviness!). She started as an intern last spring. She was patient with my slow growth plan to stick around until I could hire her part-time. Now, since January, she's Employee #1. I can't wait to see how she grows over the next year. We also recently started working out of COVO STL. It's immensely empowering to have an office space that's not my dining room table...
So here's to Year 2 and more exciting things to come! Thanks to all for your support over the last year. It means more than words can say.