We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Wales and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your children?
Actually, just five weeks ago I had my baby girl, so I’m in the thick of those tiring newborn weeks right now. She was born on 9/1/21 and has since reminded me how precious life is. It is such a wild time to bear children with Covid, politics, the housing market…etc. but my kids (Duke 4.5 and Delainey 6 weeks) have brought me so much joy and have reminded me what is most important. My goal is to show my children the value of hard work as my parents taught me. I was so fortunate to have entrepreneur parents who owned their own business for over 38 years. I grew up watching my parents hustle. They taught me how to be creative and nimble. My mom was such an amazing mother. Although no longer here on my parenting journey, she is guiding me every step of the way. I think it is important that my children see me working hard and that I talk about the value of hard work. I want my kids to follow their dreams and pursue anything that their heart desires.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I’d say my career has been very well rounded. I always say that if I could tell my 22 year old self (who was working as a Business Analyst for Universal Music Group in LA) one thing, it would be to hold tight…you won’t be working with Excel spreadsheets forever! I always wanted more back then. I wanted to communicate with people as working with numbers and figures wasn’t me; however, I now use those logical math skills so much in my marketing business. I’m a different marketer because the first 5 years of my career was spent in Business Analytics.
Eventually, I found my way to communications and marketing and became the Marketing Director for OC’s local, alternative newspaper: OC Weekly. What a gig! It was through this position I found myself running 2,000 person food events. With 30 restaurants and national brand sponsors, I’d classify these large scale food events as the hardest, yet most rewarding, things I’ve ever been able to do. I ran taco events in Santa Ana, brunch events in Laguna Beach and the newspaper’s 15th annual “Decadence” event at the iconic Segerstrom Center for the Arts. I definitely credit these events for where I am professionally. I had never been pushed to my limits like that and I truly am most proud of those moments in my career. Not only did I have to make sure 2,000 people had a great time, but that they did so safely and that my restaurant partners and sponsors enjoyed themselves and found value. After producing these events, the fire was lit and I gained the confidence to know that I could do anything I put my mind to, thus my little side hustle, Wales Communications, took front and center. I still continue to work with events like The Newport Beach Film Festival, OC Restaurant Week and Pacific Wine & Food Classic.
What I believe sets me apart is that the foundation of my company was built on the love and obsession for great content. A picture can say a thousand words and can truly tell the story of a business. When I was in high school I was a photo nerd, notching my art electives in photography. I would travel to other high schools at zero period to dabble in color processing and, for Christmas my Sophomore year, my mom gifted me a dark room. I would spend most of my high school evenings rolling and developing film and photos. In fact, in 2010, I moved to Michigan to work as a photographer for the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. Upon returning, I managed several portrait studios and started my own photography business. OC Weekly added food photography to my job requirements and I quickly found myself shooting dishes at restaurants all over the county. Nowadays, I find it pretty unique that I arrive at my client’s restaurants with my camera and gear in hand, allowing me to craft their story through my lens. We create compelling videos that connect with their audience (and draw new customers in) and we have fully redesigned their websites to show their passion. We utilize their social media feeds to strategically showcase the beautiful images we shoot on a regular basis.
It hasn’t been easy, but that is why it’s worth it. I’ve had to overcome the challenge of losing my mother to cancer before my career really took off. I had an 11 week old baby boy and was navigating the world of hospice care. I think often of how my company, these events, this bravery…. it’s everything my mom would have wanted for me. She was the ultimate party thrower and would have beamed with pride at my work. She loved feeling VIP and I often think what it would be like to be able to give her the VIP experience at some of Orange County’s finest restaurants. She would have LOVED it. I continue on because of her and feel her huge presence in everything I do.
I want the world to know that Wales Communications is constantly one step ahead, branding LA and Orange County restaurants from a very personal level. We believe in a 360 approach to marketing and we’re always thinking about ways we can make life easier for our clients. We manage web, social, email and PR, providing the opportunity for our clients to do the heavy lifting at their business and to not have to worry about their websites, social posts or marketing their newest specials …. they can leave that to us! Lastly, I want everyone to know that I am extremely grateful. I am grateful that I have a job that doesn’t feel like work and that I absolutely love what I do!
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I feel so fortunate to live in such an amazing place with so many cool and unique places to visit. When I lived in Michigan, my friends would ask what it was like to live in Orange County and they would only dream of having such cool options so close by. The best week ever would look a little something like this:
Monday: DISNEYLAND! I’d aim for a day with less crowds and hopefully a cool 72 degrees. There would be a churro in the mix, a Dole Whip and as many rides and attractions we could handle. My previous record was 27 attractions in one day between both parks, so maybe we could beat that!
Tuesday: LA Day! I’d aim for an early reservation at The Broad Museum. There is nothing like contemporary art.. and it’s free! Lunch at Otium, next door to the Broad – the chicken is a must order. I’d arrange tickets to a movie screening at LA Forever Cemetery and pick up Bossa Nova take out to enjoy on the lawn. The chicken brochette app wrapped in bacon with gorgonzola cream sauce is dreamy … so we’d have get two orders.
Wednesday: Laguna Beach visit. We would explore Wood’s Cove Beach (incredible little hideaway), enjoy an Acai Bowl from Active Culture and shop on PCH. Late afternoon I’d head further south and get a drink at Jane (killer new cocktail bar in San Clemente) and jump next door to The Cellar for charcuterie and wine!
Thursday: San Juan Capistrano… what an amazing little town. We would stroll down Los Rios street (oldest street in California) with a coffee from Hidden House. Lunch would be a pulled pork from Heritage BBQ (the best around) and Dinner at Trevor’s at the Tracks! There is nothing like the vibe at Trevor’s when the natural light is dimming, the market lights are glowing and the train is passing by. It’s pure magic. A garden to glass cocktail and ahi poke nachos would be in order while we listen to some live music!
Friday: Hanging out in the sun on 38th St. in Newport Beach. Happy Hour would be spent at The Cannery’s Jellyfish Lounge with some solid sushi omakase from Executive Chef Mark Cruz. The historical building and views of the Rhine Canal are priceless!
Saturday: I’m sure we’d be a bit tired but you can never be too tired for the Orange Circle and antique shopping! I’m a huge mid-century modern fanatic and I love Old Towne Orange’s vintage stores. We’d work up an appetite for brunch at the new Bosscat Kitchen in Orange. Bosscat took over the iconic Rod’s Liquor (established 70+ years ago) and the remodel is incredible. Bosscat Kitchen makes some gluttonous breakfast items like the donut burger and fruity pebble french toast. We’d definitely order both because calories don’t count at brunch!!
Sunday: I’m sure we’d be exhausted as the week comes to an end but there is no better way to toast to an epic adventure than with a Duffy boat cruise and dinner at Louie’s by the Bay. It’s the most gorgeous restaurant and I consider it Newport Beach’s hidden gem. The Cacio e Pepe is hands down my favorite pasta. It would be the perfect conclusion to our magical week around Southern California!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have so many people to thank for the success of Wales Communications but first and foremost I would have to give a shout out to my parents. My mother, Elaine and father, Chuck owned a medical company for 38 years. In other words, I grew up learning how to be an entrepreneur. My parents taught me how to take risks, how to show up, and how to push through the tough times. My mom lost her battle with aplastic anemia (a rare form of blood cancer) four years ago. I watched my mom never give up and fight like hell… that is what I aim to do every day in my journey in business and in life.
Additional credit and recognition of my story goes to my clients. The restaurant industry is a tough business that runs on slim margins and my clients trust my Wales Comm team to properly represent them on a daily basis. I am honored to be trusted to speak their voice to their community and following. I have been blessed to work with businesses that have a rich historical relevance. Some have been in business for many decades or their location is a historical landmark. This allows me to craft such beautiful stories. I owe a deep gratitude for my growth over the last several years to one client in particular, Ron Salisbury. This man, at 88 years old, is a hospitality legend. Years ago, after likely one of the most memorable and unique meetings I’ve ever had, Ron hired me to tell the story of his nearly 100 year old business: El Cholo. El Cholo is the first Mexican restaurant in LA and truly a landmark with 6 locations (the original on Western Ave. dating back to 1923). Ron knew he had something special from the start because he saved the largest archive of footage, newspaper clippings, old photos, menus, matchboxes….etc. that I have ever seen. Sifting through and piecing together his amazing story has been a dream for a content junkie like me. Working with Ron, I have learned more about not just business and storytelling – but life. He doesn’t stop, his businesses keep him young, and it’s inspiring to watch and be a part of.
Wales Communications has truly grown alongside our clients and, most recently, we have weathered quite the storm with the pandemic. We have become more innovative than we could have imagined as marketing, social media and effective digital communication has become more important than ever, post-Covid. Each of my clients have a large piece of my heart and it’s truly an honor to dedicate my Shoutout to all of them!
Wales Communications Michelle Chan Photography