With one more year on the books, we sat down with the mastermind behind it all, Jennifer Henderson. Founder, president and namesake of the woman-owned agency, Jennifer first opened J.O.’s doors in 1998. She shares her journey—as she did with Voyage Dallas recently—from day one of running a two-person business to 19 years later as a full-service, creative advertising agency.
How did the idea for J.O. come about?
“I started freelancing design at home, and at night. I got really busy with that and decided I needed to do it full-time. I had considered calling my company Moonlight Design, but that name had been taken.”
Why did you go into this particular business? How did you differentiate yourself from the competition?
“I went into this business because of my love for design and communications. The biggest differentiator, at the time, was my small shop, run by only two employees. I think our expertise was different than most because I had a huge production background, which was my edge. I was good at the technical side of design, a skill most people in this business hadn’t developed. I also made customer service my top priority. I feel like my clients had never really had that before and appreciated it.
In 2001, the economy had just tanked; big agencies were shutting down and clients were coming to me. I had a great product, and that’s how my business grew quickly.”
How has J.O. expanded over time?
“By adding services as our clients grew, we grew with them. As our clients needed more services, I would simply hire people with those skills. A lot of our growth was also through word-of-mouth; clients who liked our work spread the word to others. It wasn’t until 2007 that we started marketing ourselves to get new business.”
What kind of culture exists at J.O.? How/why did you establish this tone?
At J.O., we have a culture of creative freedom. I like for us to have fun and be anti-corporate. I wanted to establish a culture of collaboration, enjoyment and positive attitudes—primarily because that’s the kind of person I am.
I had previously worked for two agencies and didn’t like the cultures at all. I told myself that if I ever were to open my own agency, I would run it in the exact opposite way those agencies had.”
What have been your favorite projects during your time here?
“They’ve all had their own unique challenges. I think the most enjoyable to me are ones where the clients trusted us, and ones for which our good work has won awards. My very first client was Giant Screen Cinema Association (GSCA), where I got to travel and meet everyone in the IMAX industry. I met Greg MacGillivray and James Cameron—it was so much fun! Worthington National Bank remains one of my favorites because of a billboard campaign that made national news. Laura Wilson Photography is fun because it’s in the art world. There just have been so many!”
What inspires/motivates you?
“First, the people I work with. Secondly, the clients.”
What do you love most about J.O.?
“The people who work here are so talented, and being one of very few women-owned agencies is an honor.”
How does your love for art translate to the marketing world?
“Art is communicating a message. Marketing is the exact same thing—just achieving different goals. Marketing, like art, is about creativity. It’s a different form of expression, and to me, the two worlds are very similar.”
What is your best piece of advice to someone starting his or her own business?
“Never give up. If you can survive five years of being in business, then you’ve made headway. Pursue and conquer it. Find a mentor who’s also been in business and ask a lot of questions. Do your research, and work hard.”
To what do you most attribute your success?
Where do you see your business ten years from now?
“Ten years from now, I would love for us to be the largest agency in Fort Worth and to be recognizable as a go-to resource in the south.”
So, there you have it—J.O. after 19 years in business. Here’s to many more!