DREAM CATCHER: JESSICA HOWELL
Jessica Howell’s journey in social media marketing began in 2012, during a “post-grad slump” after receiving her degree in Photography and Design from the University of Kansas. She left Kansas City for the sunnier skies of San Diego to pursue her dreams of being a freelance photographer. While living the job-jumping life of a freelancer, she started a photography blog to showcase her new work and quickly learned that she had no idea how to promote her blog or herself on social media. A “what am I doing with my life?” crisis led to an impulsive search on Craigslist that allowed her to stumble upon the perfect opportunity: a social media internship that required an extensive background in photography and design skills. She worked her way up to lead community manager, all while working a side job as a graphic developer to make ends meet. With the encouragement of her husband and her mother (herself a successful entrepreneur of many years), Jessica gave her two weeks and started consulting small business owners on their social media strategy. She developed her idea for Social Studio Shop last year, after realizing that she is most passionate about working with bloggers and entrepreneurs in the social space, guiding them as they develop their unique voice, increase their engagement, and form a cohesive brand presence. Social Studio Shop offers two-day social media marketing workshops where they help entrepreneurs, bloggers, and marketers connect genuinely with their audience and authentically grow their digital presence.
The three words that best describe me are… Encouraging, passionate, and self-motivated.
How did your former career prepare you for running your own business? I am a firm believer in the fact that each experience in life builds and shapes us for who we are today. As an entrepreneur, you tend to play the role of a jane-of-all-trades. Luckily for me, every skill I was taught during school and in my previous jobs has refined my overall skill set.
What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome before launching your business? Finding the courage to take the leap of faith. Running your own business is probably one of the more riskier ventures you can undertake in life. I am blessed to be surrounded by loved ones who have supported and encouraged me along the way. Without them, I would have never had the nerve to jump.
How long were you in business before you started to see real growth? What do you attribute that to? Social Studio Shop grew pretty quickly. After hosting our first two workshops in the first four months, we started to gain a significant following. Our quick start and our continued success have of course had a lot to do with our social media presence, but we also attribute this growth to our local community involvement. For our events, we choose to collaborate with strategic partners who align with our core values and share about us with their unique audiences. We also make it a point to attend at least one local networking event a month. If you want your business to succeed, you MUST get out of your own silo. No matter how great your services or product are, at some point you will have to turn to others to extend your network and grow.
How did you fund your dream? From the beginning we have been able to keep a very low overhead by choosing to work as a 100% virtual company. The only expenses we occur now are the costs of doing business, such as team wages, workshop costs, and software. When I started the company, I kept on a few of my previous consulting clients, which has helped turn this from a passion project to a full-on business.
Describe a day in your life. How do you organize your day to best optimize your time? Are there any organizational tools you can’t live without? One of my favorite parts about my job is that each day is different. At this point, I have developed more of a steady routine which looks like this… wake up, make coffee, feed my dog, answer emails, walk my dog, get a few hours of work done, take a break for lunch and errands, work for a few more hours in the afternoon, usually work in meetings or coffee dates during this time, finish work around six each day.
Lately I’m inspired by… My fellow entrepeneurs. I love to hear how other boss babes have started their business. It encourages me to hear their stories, their struggles, and see what fuels their passions.
If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be… Honestly, I’m not quite sure. I like to think I would be working with animals in some capacity.
A teacher or boss who influenced me is… My mother. She has been a successful entrepreneur for over twelve years. She constantly inspires me to want to make a real difference in the world. She is the one person I can call anytime about a business or personal issue and I know she will always have the right answer. She’s also one of the best examples of a boss I have ever seen. She is fair, kind, understanding, she listens, and she believes in the “we” factor.
Five years from now I see myself and my company… Because we are just about to complete our first year in business, we are still learning a lot about ourselves. I am not quite sure where we will be in five years, but I hope we can continue to bring positivity and support to the online space for our women entrepreneurs in whatever capacity that might be. We look forward to the many possibilities that are on the horizon!