Maven to Know: JENN LISAK GOLDING, FOUNDER & CEO, SAPPHIRE STRATEGY
Jenn Lisak Golding, 32, calls the Herron-Morton Place neighborhood in Indianapolis home—along with her husband, Ryan, and their two fur babies of the feline variety, Delilah and Gizmo. When she’s not running her digital marketing agency, Sapphire Strategy (who helped us create this very website you’re reading!), she loves spending time with friends, going to the movies, bowling, the arcade—at least she did in what I like to call the Before Times. And she’s very much looking forward to going “anywhere” again soon.
We chatted with Jenn about starting her own business, how to manage that fine line between telling clients the truth they might not want to hear, and the biggest misconceptions about her work.
How would you describe your business to someone at a dinner party?
We work with tech companies, service-based businesses, and nonprofits to optimize their marketing efforts. We work alongside companies to help them leverage marketing to increase brand awareness, generate more leads, and more.
Did you always know you wanted to work in the technology and marketing space?
Somehow, I always knew what I wanted to do. I come from a family of entrepreneurs and business experts, but I always knew I enjoyed using both parts of my brain (the creative and the logical). Marketing was a natural extension, and I knew I wanted to run my own business someday. I love the fast-paced industry and helping our clients generate more revenue for their business. I love seeing our clients grow and succeed, and I’m even happier when we are a part of it.
What made you want to go out on your own and start Sapphire Strategy? And how did you come up with the name?
Coming from a family of entrepreneurs and seasoned business professionals, I think it was only a matter of time before I started my own business. I like creating something out of nothing. I like making a difference on my own terms.
Sapphire is my birthstone and my favorite gem. Sapphires are actually the stones of intuition. I’ve always believed that marketing comes down to data and intuition; it’s not one or the other. So, Sapphire (Intuition) paired with Strategy (Data) made sense to me.
“Plan for the long-term, not just the short-term. Think about what your model needs to look like a year out for now, not just six weeks from now. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. It does not do well to dwell on things that will just bring you worry. Find the thread where you can work on pivoting.”
What are your favorite things about what you do?
I love the creative aspect of marketing while navigating the challenges of meeting the specific needs of my clients. I love helping other organizations grow. My ultimate vision is that the work we do impacts the economies of our clients and their communities. I want our work to directly result in positive growth for our clients.
What are the most challenging?
You have to do every kind of advertising. While large corporations can afford to branch out in myriad marketing platforms and formats, it’s not feasible for most businesses to do so. I love to show how marketing works when you focus on a few key outlets and the success it can bring.
Client-based businesses often involve walking a fine line. What’s your advice for when you have to deliver less-than-positive news or tell a client something they may not want to hear?
They certainly do. I find the best way to deliver less-than-positive news is:
- Be transparent. There’s no point to walking around the bush.
- Take responsibility where needed. If I’ve done something wrong or something that could have been done better, I will fully admit that. I will also protect my team in that way.
- Provide solutions or next steps. It’s one thing to come with a problem and another to come with a problem that also has some options for solutions.
I’m really transparent with clients in general. I think our relationships are solid because I care so much about that transparency and honesty.
What have been some of your biggest success stories since founding Sapphire?
My agency has grown much faster than I ever anticipated. By accident, not design, we’ve ended up being a completely women-run business. All of my employees are women!
We also hit big milestones quickly and I am thankful everyday for those who have supported us along the way. I was part of Forty Under 40 my first year of business. We hired our first employee two months after the business was started and we secured a lease six months after the business was started. We hit our 3rd-year revenue goals in less than two years. We now have six employees.
I’m sure many of your clients have had to make some shifts in their business models/plans during this time. What advice have you given them that others might find helpful right now?
Plan for the long-term, not just the short-term. Think about what your model needs to look like a year out for now, not just six weeks from now. Focus on what you can control, not what you can’t. It does not do well to dwell on things that will just bring you worry. Find the thread where you can work on pivoting.
And how has your own small business had to adjust?
While we had the ability to work remotely previously, we shifted to a completely remote working environment. I did not anticipate how different that would be, and we spent some time early on focusing on the culture of our organization, as well as the mechanisms of how we would work together.
We’re also doing an Enneagram review to have a better understanding of each other and how we work. I find emotional intelligence to be exceptionally important, and I encourage my team members to learn as much as they can about themselves and other team members.
Finally, we’ve had to come up with other ways to provide value and generate revenue for our business. We are the midst of creating a few service lines that will be really valuable down the road as well as now.
How do you relax and turn off at the end of a work day/on the weekends?
I toggle between being an adult to a 5-year-old child. I’m also a super nerd. I run a Mary Kay business on the side, I’m passionate about Tarot, I play Magic the Gathering with my husband, I love Lego video games. I also am a little obsessive about owls, Harry Potter, and Star Wars. I keep myself busy.
Abby Gardner is Indy Maven’s executive editor who is highly impressed by anyone running their own agency at the young age of 32.
Check out Sapphire Strategy’s listing in our Indy Maven directory for more info and a special perk!