We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica First and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jessica, what role has risk played in your life or career?
Everyone has their own tolerance for risk. Mine was largely formed by my early career experiences running established brands and creating new ones for large corporate clients. I learned by watching my more experienced colleagues, and by making mistakes. I was able to see how taking risks has both upside and downside, but no matter what – life marched on.
That gave me a higher tolerance for risk in my work. Starting an agency is a big risk. Talented people fail at new ventures all the time. When I started my own company, I knew I was giving up a full-time corporate salary—and a long run of successes—for so much uncertainty. To manage the anxiety of that change, I promised myself that I would decide at the one-year mark if I had enough traction to continue.
Before starting a venture, ask yourself, “What if this does not work?” Because pursuing your dream and striking out on your own costs time and money. To strengthen your starting point, consider whether you have prior experience you can leverage. Ask yourself, “At what point do I make the call to sick with this or change course?” Everyone has their own calculations around risk; setting these kinds of guard rails in advance helps you stay true to yourself.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
As a kid, it was the TV commercials in between the Saturday morning cartoons that fascinated me. I’d see a spot for a new chocolate-flavored cereal, and only hours later it would be waiting for me in the grocery store. The process felt magical. Trying to understand brand narratives has stayed with me. This is what peaked my interest in branding….cereal commercials.
It turns out it takes a lot of work to get to create a magical payoff of engage in a brand. I believe that creating this magic is built on a foundation of smart strategy coupled with strong creative execution. And this is what shaped my role and desire to run my own agency. I did not go to art school, I went to business school. I believe the facts, trends, data analysis, differentiated positioning are the difference between success and failure.
So I constructed an agency where I lead the strategy and positioning and have a very talented partner that builds on that work, and makes sure that the words we use and images we select come together to translate this plan into an experience that moves the audience.
I created this role, and agency after getting an MBA, account agency work, global brand management, and consulting. In this time I realized where and how I can make a unique impact, and, maybe more importantly, what I should keep my hands off of to create the best outcome.
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.
For an out of town guest, with no time or fiscal restrictions….I would suggest that you move from West to East, and eat your way across the city. No better way to experience LA’s diverse culture!
Start at the beach, hit the surf in Malibu then grab some fresh sea food just up the coast at Neptunes Net. You can even walk in wearing your swim suit:)
> Take a hike up to the top of the mountains, to see the Ocean. I love Temescal Gateway Park. Beautiful ocean views and some shady spots along the way. Sadly, I dont have a great snack pairing for this one…but you can always enjoy some outdoor dining on Montana in Santa Monica afterwards.
> Next on the list, the Hollywood Bowl for some outdoor music and a picnic, spring for the box seats its an amazing experience.
> Then you cant miss K-town for some great late night karaoke and delicious Korean BBQ, I recommend Quarters or Chosun Galbee.
> Hit downtown and a game at the Staples center, Clippers games are my favorite they are a little more rowdy than a Lakers game, and then you can hit some amazing bars downtown, including Seven Grand. Which is literally located at 7th and Grand, so you cant forget:)
> Then move towards Pasadena for a day at the Huntington Gardens, where the expanded Chinese Gardens are like nothing else in the United States. After you can grab a drink, and sliders at the Tap Room at the Langham. Which is a great location to watch the sun set.
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?
Thank you to my friends, family and business partner, Joe.
Ben Gibbs Photography