Jen Handley has never done things the easy way, but because she had a driving need to create something. As a co-founder of social media analytics company Fizziology and new co-working space The Hatch, Jen has always followed her gut and insatiable passion for the ideas she has transformed into successful businesses.
Jen was a high achiever in college, graduating from Ball State with degrees in advertising and painting. It was difficult for her find a career in a post-9/11 world, despite her hard work, and she went through some bad jobs. Hired on as an account manager at JP Morgan and Chase, she had a “good job,” but realized that this type of role didn’t allow her to create – something she knew was vital to her success. Jen wasn’t the typical “creative”, and opportunities for her professional growth were slim. Not to be deterred, a theme throughout her entire career, Jen decided to start her own department, which would enable her to use her unique blend of skills. She began by taking the idea to her boss and worked together with them to find creative solutions to achieve her goal.
Jen’s department, a blend of creative services and media, was a hit and was recognized by the community with praise – and awards. This success enabled her to expand the department by building an insights and analytics division. Though vital to business today, analytics was a new concept when Jen introduced it to her company – but the importance of the data she collected was soon evident due to one single YouTube video.
A campaign Jen worked on for Microsoft involved a five minute video. The video quickly became a trending topic on Twitter after it was released – but no one knew why (or frankly that much about Twitter at that time). Curious, Jen reached out to several colleagues and partners and no one could pinpoint why the video was gaining traction or what its impact was on the campaign. “That was a lightbulb moment,” says Jen. “I realized there was nothing to measure social conversation and its impact at that time. So I decided to create, develop and build a research company that was tech-based.” Enter, Fizziology.
Fizziology, co-founded by Jen, today is a global audience insights company servicing the entertainment industry. The team pulls feeds from social media platforms into a giant database she and her team have been building for almost a decade. Though much of the technology, research, and marketing insights Jen’s company offers may seem standard today, that was not the case when the business began. Jen and her team spent many days thinking they were servicing an industry that would never catch up to technology, and revising their business plans and projections. Several times. With hard work, the company has grown to be profitable and now works with all major film releases and television studios across the United States and 14 international markets. Not too bad for a company based out of the Midwest.
While business success was building, Jen turned her attention to the people at her company. The team had focused so much on the technology they provided that they had neglected their company culture. Jen and her team decided it was time to take ownership of their company’s identity by completely changing their company culture. This meant addressing some of the challenges that come with a younger workforce, many who spend time out of the office. While she came up with great policies for their business (including deciding they needed a new office space to foster their new outlook) they realized that other companies may be facing the same issues they were. From that insight, the business plan for co-working space The Hatch began to form.
The Hatch was built to provide an alternative way to work. It takes into account that your physical work environment is important to getting your work done. Jen’s own need to create and provide that same safe space for others can be seen throughout The Hatch, which includes art, podcast, photography and videography studios. “The design of the space is meant to induce inspiration and collaboration. The heart behind it is flexibility,” says Jen.
So what has helped Jen continue to follow her passion to create, including co-founding two companies? Not asking permission and being fearlessly optimistic. “You have to take ownership – no one thinks about you as much as you think about yourself,” says Jen. “And if you don’t like something change it – it’s your responsibility. Find the freedom in building your own life”
Want to connect with Jen? Check her out on Twitter at @jensvh!
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