Women Business Owners Series: Jennifer Collins, CEO and Founder of JDC Events
As part of our series on Women Business Owners, we recently sat down with Jennifer Collins, CEO and Founder of JDC Events, to learn more about why she started her own business, how she creates truly memorable events — and her advice to other women who are thinking about starting their own businesses.
TorchLight: Jennifer, thanks for being here with us and sharing your story. To get started, what prompted you to found JDC Events after working in communications for a number of years? What led you to select the events space in particular?
Jennifer: I started my business planning family reunions. What I most enjoyed was the end result – not because it was over – but because I was able to witness the overwhelming expressions of connectedness, enjoyment and bonding that occurred. I simply loved creating those memorable moments that touched hearts. So that led me to continue creating events that spark change in people’s lives with a focus shift to the business sector.
TorchLight: That sounds very inspiring. What about now? We’d love to know more about the type of events you organize today and what kinds of clients you serve.
Jennifer: At JDC Events, we produce engagement-driven, live, hybrid and virtual events for corporate, nonprofit and government agencies. Our clients reach out to us when they want to launch new programs, strengthen relationships promote thought leadership and amplify achievements through some form of event.
Examples include designing an event to build the next generation workforce in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), as well as developing a series of events to support the first-ever nationwide broadband safety network for First Responders. We’ve also produced events to help students stay in school. Many of our event programs have changed so many lives for the better.
TorchLight: Wow – that’s a wide variety of event offerings with a lot of client options. It’s clear that your company is a high-touch, customer-focused company with a “do what it takes” philosophy to make your clients’ events truly special and effective. Tell us a bit about how you and your team work with clients to ensure that your event solutions meet their unique needs and expectations.
Jennifer: When working with clients, we first seek to understand their goals and objectives. What we have found is that they often do not know what they want to achieve. But until a client’s goals can be defined, there won’t be a straight path forward. So we definitely spend some time probing and helping clients articulate what they want the end result to be.
Given the pandemic, we have designed many virtual programs over the past year and many prospects start with asking about platforms we use and cost. We know this is because of lack of familiarity so we help them understand that their objectives will drive the platform.
As an example, we have had clients whose in-person events had goals of heavy networking, engagement, thought leadership and strong content. While it’s not possible to directly transfer the in-person event to virtual, we worked with them to create a similar experience online. We accomplished this by using a platform that could feature heavy face-to-face video interactions, accommodate shared experiences such as live bands, feature tasting demonstrations and caricature artists, as well as display sponsors throughout the site via video, strong branding and downloadable materials.
TorchLight: In addition to this client focus, your company appears to be very employee-centered — with flexibility and appreciation for the “whole person” as an important part of your company culture. How does this approach help your team and business be more successful?
Jennifer: It’s important to recognize people as people. This past year, we all have been impacted by the effects of Covid-19 in different ways. There have been personal and familial pressures, work pressures of staying afloat and all of those areas undoubtedly converge. While I understand the work needs to get done, it’s important to remain flexible so that people have the space to meet all of the demands on their time.
This past year, those demands exploded. So being aware of those aspects that may not be work related, but that inevitably impact the work, is important to acknowledge and accommodate. Helping people to be their best by showing respect, trust, encouragement and accountability pays dividends in building a strong team.
TorchLight: What is your favorite part about being an entrepreneur? What’s the most challenging part?
Jennifer: Having built a business that sparks changes in people’s lives is a great reward of entrepreneurship. I have been able to focus on those projects that have great meaning. What’s most challenging is creating the balance between working “on” the business versus working “in” the business. There are always challenges in growing so managing resources and time to best support that growth is an ongoing effort.
TorchLight: What advice do you have for women who are thinking about starting their own businesses?
Jennifer: Surround yourself with people who can help make you better. Those who demonstrate they are “all in” and invested in helping you carry out your vision are invaluable. Even if you have to spend a little more to bring these individuals into your company, it’ll be well worth the investment.
TorchLight: That sounds like great advice. What are your plans for JDC Events (and maybe even other businesses!) in the future?
Jennifer: The pandemic challenged us as a company to reinvent ourselves. What it showed is that we always had the drive, resilience and power to make big changes faster than we ever thought possible.
In so doing, we strengthened our technology capabilities as well as marketing and educational outreach. We have also sharpened our storytelling by deploying more innovations and design to create those memorable and meaningful moments. Whether live or virtual events, we will continue our mission to transform lives through the power of events.
TorchLight: It sounds like JDC Events has an exciting and bright future ahead. We appreciate your taking the time to share more about your business – what makes it meaningful to you, your team and your clients. Best of luck for the future!