Starting a Communications Firm

Interview with Ablaze Communications Principal Jennine Arena

If you are thinking of opening your own marketing business, you'll learn a lot from Jennine Arena, founder of Ablaze Communications.

Marketing is becoming increasingly important in our current business environment.

We asked Jennine Arena to share her experiences opening Ablaze Communications.

How did you come up with the name Ablaze Communications?

Many moons ago, I remembered someone saying that you should choose a name that is towards the front of the alphabet. Reason being, if you are listed with other companies, you'll be towards the top. Most people stop looking through a list after awhile, so if you have a Z name, chances are, you won't be seen.

I chose Ablaze because it fit that criteria and because I was able to visualize a logo with it right away. The word Ablaze portrayed strength, hot, fast - all words I wanted coinciding with my company.

Jennine, tell me about your current business.

We partner with marketing professionals to effectively communicate their message through newsletters, brochures, postcards, and other marketing materials.

My office is now in Pennsylvania, but each of my team members work from their own home-offices and are located throughout the U.S. Many of them are in New Jersey.

When did you start the business?

I worked in various publishing and advertising companies since my college graduation in 1993. In 1997, the advertising agency I was working for was retiring their company and it was either look for a new job, or take the plunge and go off on my own. I always wanted to have my own business but didn't know much about getting it all started.

I came across SCORE and got some information through them on how to incorporate and other valuable tips. I knew I wanted to have a career that was flexible for when I had a family. I had my first daughter in 2001 and my second in 2003 and have definitely found this is the flexibility we need to have a balanced work/family life.

Did having a family complicate the financial side of starting a business?

I had a credit card that gave points towards apple products and bought my first computer with $800 in points. I worked from home and used cash on hand to pay for things such as printing business cards and paying for internet and phone access. My husband covered our bills while we were getting started and we had benefits through his company. With it being a service business on a project basis, we never had any inventory to cover.

Who are your main competitors? How do you compete against them?

Individual freelance designers, and small design firms, advertising agencies, and marketing communication firms. We compete by consistently keeping our company name and services in front of our potential clients, ready to work with them, when their need arises. We keep our current clients happy by providing creative designs, paying close attention to detail, and quickly getting their projects in their hands.

How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?

I never expected it to be so difficult to get in touch with people that you know can use your services. Breaking through the "gate" to have them meet with you and realize that you really can be a great resource for them.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

I wish I had started after my ideal clients earlier in the business. It wasn't until the last 3 years of the business that it has become more successful.

I hired a business coach who helped me see that my business was more than just me working, but a full service business that can be expanded. She gave me lessons on how to market to my ideal clients and gave me the confidence that we can handle it all.

Our track record continues to show, that yes, we can handle it all.

Would you suggest a business coach for other entrepreneurs?

Hiring a business coach has been very effective in helping to grow the business. She keeps me focused on the big pictures and is an unbiased sounding board.

I was always struggling with the time management issue of working on the client's projects while also needing to go AFTER future projects. So it was the true feast or famine scenario. The business coach showed me that it would be more efficient for me to hire others to do the work, for me to oversee it, and use my newfound time in marketing the company.

I remember saying to her "but my clients are used to working with me" and she responded "don't flatter yourself. They just want the work done well and within their budget. They don't care about the details on how it all gets done". I did a lot of research in finding the right people, and I can finally say, I have a great team behind the brand of Ablaze Communications.

What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?

Remember, there are many people who have similar talents, and talent alone isn't enough. Customer service is an important aspect of business. Keeping track of your cash flow and knowing how to price your projects so they are profitable are also key factors. If your heart desires it and you consistently take steps in learning and growing, you can have a successful business.

Jennine, that is helpful advice and very inspirational. Thank you so much for making time to help other entrepreneurs! If you would like to contact Ablaze Communications, give them a call at 877-214-4904.

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