“You have to love what you're doing. You just have to because you're going to wake up one day and you're going to say, ‘Man, I spent 50 years of my life helping someone else set up their business and reach their goals and their vision.’ It's okay if your vision changes over time. It's okay if you decide one day, ‘I don't want to be an entrepreneur. I want to be a scientist.’ Whatever the case may be. As long as you do it.”
Jaclyn: What I love about PR is I literally get to pull out the little secret, the little nugget of information that nobody knows about and my job is to exploit it. It's like being the best gossiper for your clients but in a good way. We really get to shape and tell the story for our client and it's not a visual story, it's not a beautiful video. It's not anything like that. It's just literally telling the oldest tradition oral story and I love it.
ARRIVING IN THE BIG CITY
Jaclyn: I remembered I had a 6:15 a.m. flight to New York City. It was the true traditional story. I had two bags, suitcases full of everything, my clothes. I showed up at the airport in Austin, Texas, and the woman tells me, "Your flight got bumped. It's canceled. You have to come back tomorrow." I literally, holding every tear back, I looked at her and I said, "There's no way that you can cancel my flight. I have a 3:00 p.m. interview with NBC. I have a 5:00 with a design firm in the middle of Manhattan. I have to get to New York City." She looked at me, and she looked at my bags and she was like, "We'll put you on a flight."
Jaclyn: I remember arriving in New York City in my cab. I had one hour to get into my new apartment, which I had never been in. Somebody was going to meet me that was holding my keys. In that one hour in the cab ride, I had to fix my hair, put lipstick on, make sure the morning stench of traveling from Austin, Texas, to New York City was going to smell. So I'm putting on perfume, doing everything I can do, dropping off my luggage. I remember looking at the cab driver saying, "You have 15 minutes to get me to my interview, and if you do this just one solid favor, I will give you an extra $20."
Jaclyn: I have no idea how he figured it out, but I got to my interview at NBC. That was one of the longest processes and interviews of my life. I went through four interviews, and I remember not getting the job. The president at the time, he tells me, "Jaclyn, we gave the position to another candidate that had 10 more years of experience, but there's something about you. I'm going to remember you." Sure enough, fast forward 10 years later to this day, I see him while I'm out working events and he always tells me, "I knew there was something about you coming in all the way from Texas. You have this tenacity. No is never an option for you." So I remember that. I still remember that. I love him. He's good.
NETWORKING & WORKING HER WAY UP
Jaclyn: Marketing in New York City and PR, it's a whole different beast. When I first got here, I was very fortunate to be offered a position as a Senior Project Manager for a major design firm. I was just ecstatic that right out of the gate, I had a job offer and I was running on cloud nine being in New York City, but quickly I realized fashion is not my thing. Fashion's big brands, big budgets and it just really didn't sit well with my soul. There's nothing the matter with it, it's just my personal life, I always was brought up every Saturday volunteering with the Special Olympics. It was really hard for me to connect that type of industry, along with the passion that I have with working with people and communities. So I started volunteering. I started volunteering at one of my favorite spots, Carnegie Hall.
Jaclyn: At the time, when I was volunteering with them, this is when social media had first arrived. It's like people really didn't understand the impact of what Facebook could do, or at the time MySpace. So I was part of that young, grassroots council of people that would help connect young professionals like myself that were interested in the music industry, but the music industry in the sense of repertoire and buying sponsorships and subscription packages.
Jaclyn: I really was able to carve out a niche for myself and starting to understand what for-profits do, along with non-profit work. I also, because I volunteered a lot, I got to learn about the art of networking. The art of networking, if you do it right, you not only help serve yourself, but ultimately you help serve your community and help serve the people that you work with. So what's really separated us is, because I understand the art of networking, it really speaks beyond what's good for me, but what's good for my community. So volunteering just really helped my eyes and Carnegie Hall is a great place to start when you're coming to New York City.
PEAK OF FULL TIME EMPLOYMENT
Jaclyn: [I was] right up the street at Snug Harbor. I was their Director of Marketing and PR, which is a really prestigious job to have. It's like a Smithsonian affiliate. It's an amazing non-profit. But, like most non-profits, there's a limited budget. So I was doing like five jobs. I was doing all the film shoots, photo shoots, press, marketing, social media, constituent services. I mean, I was literally working 80 hours a week, and I thought, "There's no way that I can work 80 hours a week and start a family with my husband."
Jaclyn: The organization was giving back to the community in its own way. But I wasn't giving back, if that makes any sense. It got to the point where I thought to myself, "I'm not doing this to help my community. I'm just doing this to work with an organization." There's limitations when you work with a business, even though it's still a non-profit. You don't get to necessarily connect with the people or work with the people that you wanted to, just because of conflict of interest or whatever the case might be. So I was like, "Ooh, I want to do my own thing."
Jaclyn: I remember the day actually being a Tuesday afternoon. I had a meeting with the boss and I was so upset. But I remembered one of my previous mentors telling me, "Whenever you get upset, never show your emotions in a meeting, especially because you're a woman and because you're a minority. So it's better for you to just walk away." So I remember walking away, getting my purse, going home. I spoke to my husband and I said, "I can't do this. I can't work 80 hours a week. I need to do something else. I have a lot of energy, I have a lot of ideas, and there's a lot of limits." My husband looked at me and he said, "Jaclyn, just do it. You have the skill set, you have the tenacity, you know how to speak to people and you're passionate about what you do. You're never going to grow unless you do it."
Jaclyn: There was no preparation. So to be quite honest, when I made this jump, this huge liberating jump, I didn't have a plan in place. So it wasn't the best thing in the world. I didn't have my business plan in place, my quarterly sales strategy in place. I didn't have any of that. All I literally had was my passion. I had focus, I had experience, and I had a commitment from my husband to say, "Look, you got this. I'm going to handle this for a month or two, but you need to figure it out." That's what I did.
Jaclyn: When you first start off as a small business owner, it's absolute terrifying and scary. The interesting part is I had always known that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I was smart enough to know that the timing wasn’t right for me. Aside from the skill sets and understanding sales and understanding how to pitch I wasn't ready 5 years ago, 10 years ago.
Jaclyn: By the time I made the decision, I was already equipped with the resources that I needed. I already had the degrees, the experience under my belt. I was confident to embark on that journey. The other big part is my husband was my true support system. Not that many small business owners can say I have someone to support me for at least 60 to 90 days so I can test it out and see if this is going to work out. My husband not only on a financial side supported me but he also gave me that courage and that confidence because he said, "Jacyln, I've known you, from the moment I met you I've always known that you were going to be an entrepreneur so it's your time, take the bull by its horns and just do it." As much as I'm verbose and outspoken, it was really nice to have another person just reinforce what you already know.
Jaclyn: I hit the ground running. Literally, my belly is growing. I am like five months pregnant, six months pregnant, pitching to clients. I remember a client looking at my portfolio and then looking at my belly saying, "Jaclyn, there's no way you're going to be able to handle this kind of project." I remember looking at this man dead in the face, and I told him, "If I was a man, you would not be saying that. You can either hire me, because you called me in, I didn't call you." Literally, the next day he ended up hiring me.
PASSIONATE PEOPLE GET THE BEST PRESS
Jaclyn: JMT Media, when we first started out, it was strictly, "Oh, we're great at PR and marketing." Over the years we've really built a niche audience for ourselves where we have the ability to connect for-profit businesses and the non-profit sector that we love. We figure out a way to marry both of those. It's a very unique position that we have, and we do not take that lightly, because we are part of the community. We serve our community. But at the same time, nonprofits and community organizations don't have the big budgets, so we have to work with the for-profit entities. We've really provided an area specifically for us to be dubbed as one of the number one PR marketing firms that focuses specifically on for-profit entities in the non-profit sector.
Jaclyn: We don't take that lightly, because any decision that's made, we're constantly thinking about small business owners. We're constantly thinking about the community that it's going to impact. We look at this through a very different lens. A lot of the campaigns and projects that we work on, we look at it at a very different lens than most of our competitors and most big ad agencies. We're very blessed, but with that blessing it also comes with a lot of responsibility. Sometimes it's hard, because you want to do the right thing, but you don't want to piss off this person, so there's always a fine line that we're trying to delicately balance.
Jaclyn: There’s been a few times this year where we’ve actually had a turn away clients, not because the people weren't fantastic, or the product wasn’t amazing, but for us, we didn’t have that true passion to be able to position it within the community, or position it within print, or online media, digital media, because we just weren’t feeling it. A lot of times, you have to be able to feel and be passionate about it. Interestingly enough, last year I taught a course at NYU called, "Passionate people get the best PR." It is so true.
Jaclyn: We try to live by that motto here in our office; that if you’re not feeling it, or you’re not passionate about the project, you are not going to be able to pursue it for your clients. You’re not going to be able to pursue and get them the product placements that they want within different media outlets. We take it to heart, because we would never want someone to just tire us like, “Oh, they are a great agency.” No, we want you to work with us because, help me help you, that mentality.
Jaclyn: It's really interesting when you start your own company, because there's of course start-up costs that are involved, there's business plans that are involved ... But I think one of the challenges that people don't often talk about are the mental and emotional challenges. I remember the first few months that I had my business, I was constantly reminded that I was pregnant, as if it was a bad thing. And it was this beautiful moment in my life. After I had my son, I also had similar challenges, but it wasn't, "Oh you're pregnant, can you handle this?" It was, "Oh you're a woman," or "Oh, you're a minority. Let's have the boys handle this job." And so that's a very hard pill to swallow, knowing that the boys call you at the 11th hour and say, "Jaclyn, can you and your company help us fix this? We need an extra 30,000 people to come to an event." So it's really positioned us to always be at the forefront of people's minds.
Jaclyn: When I first started out my business, as most small business owners, you take on everything from sales to accounting to administrative work and then actually doing the work, providing the product or service that you said you're going to provide for your clients. Immediately, within six months, I was starting to get burnt out. I thought, "There is no way that I can continue on this trajectory if I don't get additional support."
Jaclyn: I first started out with reaching out to local universities for internship programs and vetting them. Every semester, I will receive either junior or senior intern that's going through their communications or their marketing or the public relations degree and they're already at that level where they are supposed to write well and they're verbose and they're excited and they're hungry and they want to learn everything like a sponge.
BEST ADVICE – VISIBILITY IS CREDIBILITY
Jaclyn: When I first started out my business, I had another business owner reach out to me and said, “Jaclyn, come to my office. I'm going to have a cup of coffee with you.” I go to his office, I'm going to give him a shout out. Al Lambert. I go to Al’s office, and Al tells me, “Jaclyn, your business is going to fail.”
Jaclyn: Now, who wants to hear that? That your business is going to fail just when you're thinking that you're getting things in motion. He said, “Staten Island, it doesn't matter if you have the best or the worst product, visibility is credibility.” I said, "Well, what do you mean Al?" He said, “You need to be a part of every Gala. If you are truly a part of the nonprofit community, you have to show support, you have to go to people's Galas', people's community events, their holiday markets. Not to say that you have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars, but you have to show support to the community that you're asking them to support you in your small business.”
Jaclyn: I took that-- I'm getting choked up thinking about it, because I really took that and honed in on it and took it to heart because I was thinking, "Gosh, here's this man that's had his business for almost 50 years on this island. He doesn't know me, I'm a brand new soul on this island and he's really encouraging me to continue to grow my business."
ASK FOR HELP AND MAKE A GAME PLAN
Jaclyn: The thing that I would encourage people as they're starting their own business or starting a new chapter in their life is to ask for help. Just one person. You don't have to tell the whole world your story. When you're ready you can. But asking for help can open up resources and open up doors for you and so for the woman or man that wants to explore options my advice to you would be to breathe first. It's a long ride. If it was easy everyone would be doing it.
Jaclyn: I think we’ve all been there where you've been at a job and you’re like, “Oh.” Grinning your teeth, and you can’t wait till Friday is over with. I strongly encourage anyone that is interested in doing some sort of freelance or starting their own business, get a game plan first. I would not recommend to jump ship wherever you're at, no matter how bad it is. Again, my mom used to always say, “If you think you have it bad, someone else has it 10 times worse.”
Jaclyn: I always encourage people to have a game plan before you jump ship. It is okay to have those feelings of discouragement, being afraid, looking at your check in accounts, or your savings accounts. Of course, you’re going to be scared, because you’re about to embark on a whole new chapter. Yes, it’s okay to be scared, but you have to have a game plan. You’ve got to be smart about it. I always try to encourage people that, when you do create this game plan, try to create it within 30 to 60 days.
Jaclyn: Don’t do anything longer than 90, 120 days, because it’s hard, and it’s not tangible for people to see and realize the results. If you create a game plan within 30 to 60 days, these are tangible results, tangible timelines. You are able to tell your boss, “Help me help you. I love you, but I love me more.” You can give your two weeks, three weeks, whatever notice that is, but never leave a job if you’re angry or anything like that. It never results into anything positive.
Jaclyn: There are a few resources that I think people tend to forget about. The first is actually New York City Small Business Services. Even if you haven’t started your business. Even if you’re not an LLC, or a DBA, and you are not a freelancer, but you want to just scope and check it out, you can call them for free. Set up an appointment.
Jaclyn: They give you templates for a business plan. They'll give you templates, how to create a marketing budget. They'll give you templates on how to start your accounting process, your PNL. All of it, it’s for free. Absolutely for free. The other thing I would encourage is, most universities also have a free business development resource center. They act very similar to New York city Small Business Services where they provide you with free templates, outlines and also an adviser.
Jaclyn: I would highly encourage someone, if you’re ready to at least even deep your little toe into the entrepreneur, or freelance world, start there. Doesn’t mean you have to quit your day to day job. At least you can start getting some of the things, some of the balls rolling, and then you can see what you want to.
Jaclyn: Aside from New York City Small Business Services, most local universities have a business development career service like a division or a department. If you contact them, even if you're not an alumni, they will provide you with some sort of adviser or a business adviser that will provide you with additional templates, resources and different tools for you to have to start and kick start your business.
Jaclyn: I know it sounds absolutely strange and crazy, but I love it. I got to give proper credit where credit's due. There's a woman, she's a theater director out in Brooklyn, her name is Courtney Harge and she manages Colloquy Collective. The very first meeting that I met her, she's hustling and bustling and she's like, "Yes, hustling keeps you sexy."
Jaclyn: I said, "What is that?" She said, “Hustling keeps you sexy is a mindset, you got to look fabulous, act fabulous and be fabulous and really have that hustle mindset when you're pitching to clients. Talking about your business, you've got to be about your business.” I thought, "Gosh, that's an interesting hash tag. #HustlingKeepsYouSexy." Now, it's a motto that we use all the time in the office where I'm like, "Are you sexy today? Are you hustling, keeping you sexy?"
Jaclyn: We're always trying to strive because it's not just the sexy exterior, it's a mindset, it's a mentality. Your mind, body and spirit have to be about hustling not just for you but hustling for your client. Looking for the next best thing, and I think that's one of the reasons that sets us apart from a lot of other small businesses that are in our field is because we're constantly looking at, how do we make it better for our clients? Not just for us, but for our client. How do we position them to be so unique and have this premier and exclusivity that everyone in their target audience wants to be a part of it? That’s one motto.
Jaclyn: One of our company policies for JMT Media is we have what we call Family Fridays. So as I began my business, I also began becoming a mom. That's a whole different adventure, and I quickly noticed Saturdays and Sundays were not enough time to do laundry, volunteer, go to the park with my son…So I instituted this policy Family Fridays where I pay my staff to either volunteer in the community or to spend time with their family. It's really important to really and honestly and genuinely give back to your community, because if you don't then we have a problem.
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY
Jaclyn: I need my son to share and care about his community. It's a non-negotiable for me and the reason for that is the community that you're raised in is the community that you're going to grow in. That you're going to flourish in. A few weeks ago we had an event. It was a backpack event and someone said, "Why are you doing a fundraiser for backpacks for kids that aren't even in your community. They're seven neighborhoods away." And I said, "Because those kids are going to grow up with my son and if that means a little backpack preparing them for the future helps them. Why not?" I expect those kids to do excellent and I expect my son to do excellent and maybe it's just this fantasy world that I have in my mind but my fantasy world has really kept me afloat and has really steered me in the right direction and so I want to make sure that not only am I giving back but my kids gives back. It's a non-negotiable for me.
Jaclyn: We try to encourage everything in our household because again it's about growth not just for him but in the community and he needs to understand that everyone's journey is different and you just have to be nice.
FAMILY IS EVERYTHING
Jaclyn: There's nothing more than family. From my Texas family to my New York family. To my family here in my household. Family is really important because at the end of the day when you put your head down on your bed, on your pillow. It doesn't matter how many clients you have. It doesn't matter how many people you've networked or connected with. If you don't have the love and support if your family, that's probably one of the hardest things to do as an entrepreneur. So the definition of family is different for everyone and it's not the same even for myself. Some of my closest friends that I've known for 20 years are considered family. And so again the definition of family is different for everybody. But you have to have some sort of family.
- Jaclyn Tacoronte, Partner, JMT Media