We had the good fortune of connecting with Jenny Stiven and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jenny, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
In 2004, I had been working full-time on the Agency side in Digital Marketing & Content for over 10 years. I had started in TV Production in the late 80’s, stumbled into Digital Content and Production by accident in the early 90’s, fell in love with the “Wild West” of it all, and had been playing in digital ever since. But I had always thought I had to be at a production company or studio or agency (leftover old school Film & TV School thinking!).
I knew I was restless, and needed to move onto something new, but was not particularly enticed by the Studio/Client side of the Entertainment industry. My husband has a theme: If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. And, I was NOT having fun – but I knew in my heart, it was the job, not the career. I had an amazing group and team of graphic designers, programmers, Flash (yup, Flash!) programmers, and producers – all encouraged me at different times throughout the year to try it on my own as a consultant. I took about three months to talk to alot of my friends in all aspects of the Entertainment Digital spectrum, and finally decided to take a leap in September, 2004. I have never looked back!
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I want to start by saying that I have been unbelievably lucky and blessed. Not once do I take for granted the opportunities that I have had – the doors that opened for me. Not everyone in this industry gets those, and I am so thankful for every person who took the moment in time to either hold that door open for me, or show me how to open it myself.
What I truly believe has kept my career strong are two things: everlasting passion for the Entertainment Geek culture and industry (and subsequently, anything digital), and a burning curiosity to do any aspect/job to learn all I could.
What I do is a bit hard to explain, but I usually try to describe it as this: I build digital bridges between fandoms and the content they love, between studios and the audiences they want to reach. I consult with studios, agencies, production companies, publishers, fandoms. I focus primarily on scifi/geek properties and franchises, providing strategy and execution for content, social, marketing, promotional and events.
My career in many ways makes linear sense, if you look at it from a 10,000 foot view! From my vantage point, however, it felt serendipitous and sometimes frustratingly so.
I went to school in TV Production at Loyola Marymount University (from NoCal small town), and stayed to get my Masters’ degree in TV, as I was unsure of my next step. I worked in TV Production & Post-Production right out of college, and that was my first exposure to anything “internet” related. I was hooked from my very first coding, dBase dev, UseNet group, and animated bouncing heart logo. As a lifelong geek and scifi fan, I had found my tribe!
I lost my jobs during the early 90’s downturn, and took a slew of odd jobs to get through. I was persistent, and determined, and landed a really basic entry-level job as a receptionist at Mark Goodson Productions. It wasn’t more than a glorified gopher position, but I was happy to have it. It was here that my career really launched. It was a very big company, and on my lunch hours and breaks, I would wander around, introduce myself, and ask if I could hang out. Listening to all of the stories paid dividends! I left to start a digital company with one of the partners in 1993 – I jumped at the chance, even if it was a massive risk. I was just turning 30.
From there I went onto videogame digital marketing and content, marketing for early Internet bloggers, building databases for European companies, producing at studio digital agencies, and finally, found my bliss in geek/scifi TV digital.
Along the way, I started to realize that where I found my joy was in the relationships I was building by asking the questions, pursuing what interested me, finding people who were experts, or passionate about their subject matter. Every single one of these jobs, each position, each relationship contributed to where I am now – and I *still* ask questions all the time. Of others – and myself!
I ran into many sexist challenges, especially in a nascent industry that combined computer science, marketing, and entertainment. But what kept me going every time was one of my relationships – they supported me, gave advice, helped me climb out of the hole I had been pushed into, or stepped into on my own. It was up to me to ask for that guidance and help.
I have found that my career path has touched upon many different aspects of the Entertainment and Digital Marketing industries, and I can apply all that experience specifically to Digital Strategies for SciFi/Geek properties (Stargate, Buffy, Aliens, Predator, Bond franchises) as well as TV series (Sons of Anarchy, American Horror Story, Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, etc.). Most importantly, building the relationships with fans has allowed me to expand my consulting into Fandom and Audience Development – combining all of my passions into one!
Finding your bliss in your career is tough, and most times it won’t look anything like how you dreamt in high school. That’s OK! You may have 3-5 different careers in your lifetime. Find *your* joy in each one. Ask questions, be persistent, be determined, ask for help, and most of all, be curious!
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.
Oh San Diego is IT! I am from San Francisco/Bay Area, and for years I though nothing could compare. Then I moved to LA, and though, nope this is THE destination! Then…I moved to San Diego! 😉
Now, there is nowhere more diverse, more beautiful than San Diego, I promise you.
First, I would find out what their goal as for the week: Relaxation? Touristy? Outdoorsy? Fun vibe? All of that?
Then, I would map out for them destinations they could do on their own, and those that we would be better guides for them.
I would always start with Balboa Park : no matter WHAT you love to do, this has it all. Museums, hikes, cultural centers, concerts, zoo, cafes, strolling through galleries.
Then, beach time! Depending on the generation, we would go to Pacific/Ocean Beach for the bars & beach access option or La Jolla for the cool shopping + beautiful beach option or WindanSea for surfing!
Looking for sailing? Mission Bay, here we come!
The amount of hiking and trails and amazing views, there is almost too much to choose from! Mt. Laguna or Palomar Mtn, Mission Trails, East counties, Julian, or Torrey Pines Bluff!
If they were looking for spas & shopping, nothing better than La Jolla!
Then, Downtown for dinner, and strolling around Gaslamp District!
If we wanted a daytrip, then Ensenada, Mexico for some amazing fresh lobster would do the trick. Or if casinos are their thing, with nightly entertainment, Barona or Viejas Casino are the perfect destination.
Then, to top it all off, I would not want them to leave without a perfect sunset dinner in Cardiff-by-the-Sea at the Pacific Coast Grill or Island Prime on Harbor Island.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Oh man, there are a few! 😉 LMK if this is ridiculous.
My husband, for always being there, being my rock (and the family’s), and cheering me to take the bungee jump risks!
My parents, for believing in me to leave and move to LA & follow my heart into the Entertainment industry when NO ONE in our family had connections.
My son, for being my Geek supporter and right hand man
Donna Lusitana, for being my very first mentor in the business, and telling me I could do anything.
Alan Arkatov, for believing I could be a partner on our wild ride to start a company.
Bettina Sherick & Rebecca Keary for taking a risk on me at a time when Digital Marketing was in its infancy.
Jonathan Tavss, for being my Geek Partner in Crime
David Read, for being my Geek Soul Mate
Kelly Oram for being my Rock and Inspiration
Lauren Camarata for being my Soul Sister
David Read Wil Ross