Name: Jen Butson
Company: Jennifer Lee Promotions
Gold Medal Award Won: Top 20 and Under Startup
1. In three sentences or less, what is your enterprise’s value proposition?
I can sum it up in one word: me. The truth is that my industry is extremely saturated, and we all have the same product offering by dealing with the same repertoire of suppliers. My use of social media as a key relationship-building tool, my age, and my obsession with marketing makes me a key up-and-coming player, in my opinion.
2. What motivated you to first get involved?
It was the summer after my second year of University, and I decided to stay in Ottawa. I don’t speak French, I wasn’t in co-op and I had no ties to Government. I was working two part-time, minimum-wage jobs at the mall and hating every second of it. I knew two things about the end of the summer: I wasn’t going to have any money to show for all my work and I wasn’t learning anything new. The day before my 20th birthday I was sitting in my apartment and decided it was now or never. And I haven’t looked back since.
3. What has been the single most exciting thing that has happened so far?
The most exciting thing has been the adventure. It’s such a rollercoaster of emotions…I went from scared to excited, from frustrated to ecstatic in a matter of minutes. I remember I didn’t sleep for at least a couple weeks after I registered everything for the biz. I couldn’t stop thinking: “What the heck am I getting myself into?” I’ve learned a lot of things the hard way, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
4. What has been your biggest challenge and what did you do to get past it?
My biggest challenge was definitely being a young entrepreneur trying to grow a new enterprise. I was getting a lot of ‘you need trade references to do x’ but then I needed ‘x’ to get trade references. The only investment I have had in the business was the $175 I got for my birthday, so I had to rely a lot on upfront payment (deposits) from clients plus I had a few trusting suppliers who helped me get started.
5. Why did you choose the life of an entrepreneur or intrapreneur?
I don’t think I really chose this life – I just know I wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. It kinda chose me. My father has been running his own successful company for over 25 years now, so maybe I inherited some sort of entrepreneur gene from him. It’s all I really knew growing up but I definitely didn’t see myself doing it so early on until I actually took the leap.
6. If you had one piece of advice for other entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs, what would it be?
If it doesn’t make you happy, then don’t do it. This lifestyle provides you with a smorgasbord of weird feelings. But at the end of the day, you need to feel good about what you are doing. You need to keep the passion burning to keep you going at super-speed…or else this lifestyle isn’t for you.
(This is the second in a series profiling the winners of Exploriem.org Bootstrap Awards 2011.)