Jennifer Berson is the President & Founder of Jeneration PR, a Public Relations & Social Media Marketing firm specializing in promoting beauty, baby & lifestyle brands, and Jeneration Academy, an online educational platform for entrepreneurs that includes courses, resources and the Jeneration Insiders Facebook community. Prior to founding Jeneration PR in 2005, Jennifer was a civil litigation attorney in Los Angeles.
Jennifer has been featured in the New York Times, Forbes, Inc., Business Insider, Yahoo!, Entrepreneur Magazine, CBS.com, PR Week, Huffington Post, Fox 11 News, TV Guide Network's "Hollywood 411," PR Web and was profiled on Apple.com. Jennifer was also selected by Babble.com as one of the 10 “Mompreneurs Who Made it Big!”
In this interview, Jennifer shares her entrepreneurial journey and why she founded Jeneration PR. She also shares how being an entrepreneur enables her to take control of her time, live the life the way she wants and be present while her kids are growing up. Her biggest piece of advice to entrepreneurs starting a business in LA: Plan your LA City taxes, plan your daily route and have lunch meetings at great restaurants with outdoor patio.
Why did you start Jeneration PR & Jeneration Academy? Can you tell me a little bit about your business and what you do?
Jeneration PR is a public relations & social media marketing agency focused on promoting beauty, baby & lifestyle brands. Prior to starting my PR Agency, I was a civil litigation attorney. Being a lawyer always felt more like a job than a career. It certainly wasn’t the best fit for me and my personality.
I started Jeneration PR about 12 years ago because I wanted a career where I was in control of my time and could choose the clients I wanted to work with, and where I could provide a service to businesses I believed in, and was producing positive results that helped entrepreneurs grow their businesses. The retainer business has been more successful than I ever imagined, and I feel incredibly lucky to be working with global brands that are the best in their industries.
I founded Jeneration Academy as a way to support entrepreneurs at all stages of business to learn the absolute best strategies to grow their brands. I have a very active & engaged Facebook community called Jeneration Insiders, and am preparing to launch my first signature course Press Success in September.
I want to teach everything I’ve learned how to do to grow businesses over the last 12 years, and help more entrepreneurs than just our retainer clients. Teaching has completely reinvigorated my passion for what I get to do in my business!
Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest? How did you find it and ‘niche down’?
Our competitive advantage is that we provide the expert level of service and the contacts & expertise of a large agency, while keeping our rates competitive and giving the personalized service you’d expect from a smaller agency. Everyone on our team has a very senior level of experience and provides the absolute best results possible to our clients.
I’m able to bring on top talent by keeping our overhead low—by running my business from home and being strategic about our expenses—and passing that savings on to our clients. Plus, we’re super-fun to work with, and I think our clients like to have us as an extension of their teams!
Did you write a business plan for Jeneration PR & Jeneration Academy? If so, would you recommend using a template or planning software to help new entrepreneurs?
I never wrote a business plan for Jeneration PR. I’m very lucky to have had a simple but successful plan right out of the gate. It’s a retainer model, which is very standard in the PR industry.
I do have a rough plan for Jeneration Academy where I have mapped out the services, content, and platforms I plan to launch in the next 18 moths to 3 years to grow our offerings. And it’s going to be goooood!
We’re huge believers of every entrepreneur keeping their business’ finances under control. How do you keep Jeneration PR & Jeneration Academy books in check?
I keep things simple and use FreshBooks to do my accounting myself. I can easily send invoices, run reports, and even see when clients login to view their bills.
How do you balance life and work to remain connected and available for your loved ones? Any advice for me?
This is the million-dollar question, isn’t it? I would first say, I think balance is an unattainable principle and one that feels like we’re setting ourselves up for failure. Sometimes family will take top priority, and then the pendulum swings and work will be demanding most of your time. And that’s perfectly OK. Don’t beat yourself up over not being perfectly balanced—Manage your mindset and realize guilt is unproductive.
I would reposition your belief in balance and try to simply focus on what is directly in front of you, and give that your full attention. Certainly be mindful when you need to be giving focus and attention to your work or family, but try not to allow your mind to wander to everything else that needs your attention. Simply give 100% to what you are currently working on in that moment.
I get easily distracted with work when I am with my kids, so I try to put my phone in another room during that time I have designated as “family time” to avoid the risk of temptation or getting easily distracted. Sometimes, when I am absentmindedly scrolling through Facebook and Instagram looking at pictures of other people’s children, I will literally think to myself, “Wait, I have real, adorable children who are physically HERE that I could and should be looking at instead of these other kids who aren’t even mine!”
I literally think this when I’m looking at Facebook when I should be with my kids. That certainly kicks me back into reality, and I instantly shut off my phone, put it in a drawer far away and go spend time with my beautiful family. Work will always be there when the kids are sleeping.
How did you find the time and money to get Jeneration PR & Jeneration Academy off the ground? Any advice for entrepreneurs with minimal time or resources?
When I started Jeneration PR, I actually was single and had a significant mortgage payment I was responsible for. I also had a nice, cushy job and great salary as a lawyer that was certainly hard to walk away from. But I gave myself a 6-month runway (with finances for my mortgage and living expenses) to give my best effort to make it work.
I started promoting a brand unpaid on the side, and once I realized I loved the work so much, I quickly sought out my first paying client. I offered my services for below market, and said we’d reassess after 3 months. I’m proud to say that I worked with that brand for more than 11 years, and we grew together.
I’d suggest keeping overhead low and moving forward with your business by focusing on an MVP – Minimum Viable Product. Don’t spend tons of time & resources creating a complete version of your product. Start basic, see if you build an audience, listen to their needs, and grow from there. Also, ask your target demographic what they are looking for to help them in their businesses and their lives. By knowing what your target audience is struggling with, you can develop the perfect solution to their problems.
What do you consider the biggest milestone that you have hit with your business? What was the number one thing you did you get there?
It’s hard to say what the biggest milestone has been—having clients featured on the Ellen Show and the Today Show all on the same day, being personally featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Huffington Post, Inc. Entrepreneur Magazine, being profiled by Apple, and CBS, have all been amazing accomplishments—But I would say the biggest milestone has been living the dream life I always wanted where I can earn a living doing what I love, support my family so my husband could get his new business off the ground (and he’s crushing it, by the way!), and being in control of my schedule so I can be present for my family while my two boys are still young.
The number one thing that I did to get here was by taking charge of my life and how I wanted to live it, learning how to say “no” to projects that don’t fit my objectives, and being very deliberate with my schedule so I have creative time to focus on growing my business in ways that interest me personally. This is how I have been able to launch my online community of entrepreneurs and create the best content possible to teach them what they need to know to promote their own businesses.
I recently created this free training video and cheat sheet to share exactly what assets a brand or business needs to have in place in order to hit the ground running to have a successful PR campaign.
Who has been your greatest influence as an entrepreneur? How did they shape your business?
My mom & dad both had their own businesses when I was growing up—my dad is still an auto-broker, and my mom used to sell real estate. They were always available to my brother and me when we were kids (still are!), able to take us to activities, there for nightly family dinners. I knew that when I eventually had kids (mine are 4 & 6 now), I would want to be as present for them as my parents were for me. That certainly influenced me to become an entrepreneur.
My husband is also a HUGE positive influence on me, as he is so incredibly supportive of me and all of my entrepreneurial endeavors. He makes me feel very empowered and capable, so I know I can accomplish whatever I set out to do.
Did you have a hard time registering your business (as an LLC, Corporation, etc.) with the state? Are there any resources you used to simplify the legal process?
I waited until after a year before registering my business as an LLC. I wanted to ensure that my company would be successful before going through the expensive registration process. I hired a lawyer to help me through the process.
Even though I am a lawyer myself, I didn’t specialize in corporate and never did an LLC filing, so I would rather not spend my time learning how to do it. I’m all for spending money on the best help possible to free up your time.
What are the top 3 pieces of advice that you would give someone starting a business in Los Angeles? What do they need to know from the beginning?
Running a business in Los Angeles can have some amazing benefits and some big drawbacks.
First, plan for your LA City taxes and make sure YOU are responsible for knowing how much you owe and when. They are notoriously bad at sending the proper forms, but then they hold you accountable for the fees you owe, plus penalties & interest. And LA City Taxes are expensive, so save for them so you’re not caught off-guard.
Also, plan for an extra 20 minutes drive time wherever you are going in the city. Being late sucks, and saying “there was traffic” is not an excuse. There’s always traffic. I swear by the Waze app to get me everywhere in the quickest time possible. Be prepared for some very defensive driving and death-defying left turns. It’s intense sometimes, but worth it!
There are great restaurants with outdoor patios that serve as perfect meeting spots to take advantage of the gorgeous weather we have year-round. Gjelina, Gracias Madre, and Sweetbutter Kitchen are some of my favorite LA places with gorgeous patios to meet while “working” through lunch.