Young Gun Entrepreneur: Jenny Blake
Sep 16, 2011
Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach and yoga teacher. She is currently on a three-month sabbatical from Google to go on a self-funded 14-city book tour for her recently released book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want. Jenny describes her book as a portable life coach for 20-somethings, filled with tips, quotes and coaching exercises to help people focus on the BIG picture of their lives…not just the details. Jenny has worked at Google for over five years in training, coaching & career development. Prior to Google and halfway through her junior year at UCLA, Jenny took a leave of absence to help launch a political polling start-up company with her college professor and mentor. She returned to finish at UCLA in the spring of 2005. The experience of leaving school before her friends inspired her to start her blog, LifeAfterCollege.org, in 2007 which was later voted #1 Gen Y blog by her peers, and recognized by Suze Orman and the Wall Street Journal.
This is part of a profile interview series of young entrepreneurs & their experiences launching & growing new startups.
About the Entrepreneur / Experience:
- What first attracted you to becoming an entrepreneur?
Ever since I was a little girl, I've loved the challenge of creating things and solving problems in order to make other people's lives better. I started a neighborhood carnival when I was 9, a monthly family newspaper operation out of my living room at 11, and a Babysitter's Club at age 12. I've never NOT had a side hustle or a project that was my own to build, create, grow and share with the world.
- What was the first step you took?
The first step of my most recent entrepreneurial experience was experimenting with my ideas; starting a website six years ago that turned into a blog gave me a forum outside of my day job to express myself and build community. Eventually, after long-term focused attention and care, that blog came to serve as a critical bedrock for my business -- and my happiness.
- When did you hire your first employee? How did you find them?
I mostly work with unpaid interns at the moment. I work with people who are passionate and have a desire to learn, and I typically find them through my blog.
- What was the hardest thing that you have had to do as an entrepreneur?
Quit my six-figure job at Google in order to give my business the attention, focus and energy it deserves.
- What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Don't try to do everything all at once; prioritize based on what gives you energy (and ideally brings in revenue), and absolutely build a team of people who is available to support you. I have mentors and friends in my network who advise me on everything from sales to coaching tips to website security.
- What type of support is available in your community?
I live in Silicon Valley, but I find most of my support through connections I make online (and through conferences I attend).
- Is there a true entrepreneurial environment in your community?
Yes -- definitely.
- What was the best piece of advice you received?
Figure out who "your people" are and how you are uniquely qualified (and passionate) about serving them.
- What was the biggest mistake you made starting out?
Ignoring important revenue generating opportunities (like building a robust newsletter list) because I didn't know how.
About the Company / Product:
- Why did you decide to start that particular company?
I took a leave of absence from UCLA at the start of my junior year to help one of my professors start a political polling company. The experience of leaving school before my friends -- feeling lonely, lost and confused -- inspired me to start a website that would help aggregate resources for people and find their footing faster after school. I wrote my book because I wanted to help people be more proactive about identifying what they want to create in every area of their lives -- not just follow someone else's template.
- How big do you see your company growing in the next 5 years?
I would like my book to reach 100,000 graduates, and see my company expanding beyond the Life After College market.
- How do you differentiate yourself from your competition?
Through my variety of professional experience, writing style, and the young age at which I've done everything.
- What do you do better than anyone else in the industry?
Create simple, powerful systems that help people focus on the big picture of their lives, not just the details. My website motto is "Wake up. Live big! Love the journey" and I believe I help people do this.
- What is the biggest challenge your company is facing right now?
Monetizing the large community that I've built.
- What is the biggest success you have had, and how did it come about?
Getting a publisher for my book -- happened through a series of serendipitous meetings, and from giving myself permission to try and fail.
- Was there one thing that you did when starting the company that turned out to be a waste of time?
Nothing major...probably trying to read too much external content instead of staying focused on building out the revenue-generating aspects of my site.