I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Kia Jarmon over the last few years. Being that my background is public relations, we’re both graduates of Belmont University (just 6 months apart, in fact!) and we’re both female entrepreneurs dedicated to making change in our local communities and beyond, Kia and I have many commonalities.
The first time we met, I felt like we’d been longtime friends. And I now see why she’s so successful. She comes up with brilliant ideas on the spot and makes everyone around her feel important – both vital qualities for a PR professional. I always learn something new when I’m around her and guarantee you’ll have some great takeaways from our interview below. Enjoy today’s power-packed interview with Kia Jarmon, owner of The MEPR Agency!
Kia, tell us how you discovered your passion for what you do.
I was working in social services in college and my long time mentor, who was also the CEO of the organization, asked me what my future plans were and what I enjoyed. I rattled off several things I did in college; started a promotions and marketing company, pitched to our on campus media, worked in leadership for a few organizations, and loved to speak, write, and generally communicate. She told me “sounds like you are interested in public relations.” I had heard the term but I really didn’t know what ‘those people’ did. I had a series of lunches with three high-level PR pros in Nashville, got a paid internship, and fell in love! 8 years later and it’s been amazing!
What services or products do you offer? Who is your target customer?
We are a boutique public relations and brand strategy firm and we bridge the traditional with digital and social platforms to communicate our clients message. We offer services like media relations, community engagement, social media, internal communications, brand strategy, as well as some areas of marketing like media buying and internet strategy.
We offer services to established small and mid-sized businesses, non-profits, and government agencies. Our ideal client understands the value of public relations and realizes that it is an ongoing function of their company.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I believe strongly in balance and it comes with practice and training. I set boundaries with my telephone and texting time, family time, and other miscellaneous distractions. Unless it is an emergency or I am finalizing a project I rarely answer a business call or text after 6 or 7pm. I am also pretty selfish with my nights and weekends. I work a lot so it is important to get as much rest and ME time as possible.
Do you have employees / an assistant / intern program? If so, how did you adjust to letting go of the work and entrusting someone else with it?
The way the company works is that we hire specialists, which are usually entrepreneurs, to create the ideal team for our client. We entrust them with their area of expertise but myself or our PR coordinator will handle the project management. That method ensures we have the most accountable individuals working on the project and we don’t have to micromanage each task.
Also, we have an intern program that has been revamped and allows for college juniors who are entrepreneur, business or marketing majors an opportunity to be a part of the team and learn actual processes that will serve as a case study for them as they enter the workplace.
What has been your best method for generating new business?
For the first five years of business, new opportunities came through referrals and word of mouth. I have now completed a business and sales system that will allow for others to lead some of the business development of the company. I have started with writing out the businesses that I would like to work with and then researching how I can be a good fit for them.
I also believe in creating products so I have several products that allow for more people to experience our assistance outside of being an ongoing client.
Did you encounter criticism from friends or family when you started your business? If so, how did you respond?
I probably receive more criticism now—six years in—then I did when I started. Part of that could be because I still had a full time job up until two years ago (2010). I believe that entrepreneurship is disruptive to what most people think and believe. I have learned that people will criticize anything they do not understand or wish they could do, but feel they can’t. I am honest enough with those people to laugh about their questions like “do you make money” but educate them by sharing that I don’t work for free and my time is valuable.
What aspect do you most enjoy about your business?
I enjoy teaching people how to run a more effective business and also the strategy. Those two areas allow me to see the most growth with clients and allow them to see my interest in their long-term company goals.
What is your favorite thing about being self-employed?
I love a few things but I would say the freedom is one of the most gratifying parts. Not just freedom to run an errand in the middle of the day, but also the freedom to work with those businesses and brands that I can appreciate and want to represent. I am not forced to work with those who do not fall in line with our core values and platforms.
If you could go back and give yourself one tip from day one of the business, what would it be?
Listen to your first mind, your first thought or intuition. I adopted that about a year into business but I found that learning it early on could really save me from a world of trouble. You often know when the client is not a good fit or when a relationship won’t work with a business partner but ignore those feelings.
As an early entrepreneur you also second-guess every decision and sometimes even clients can make you feel bad about the decision. It is our responsibility to guide them and we must feel confident in that.
Are you involved with any community outreach / non-profit organizations? If so, tell us about it/them and why you got involved.
I am extremely interested in organizations that work towards the equality of people, particularly diverse groups. I am on the Junior Board for the YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee, the marketing chair for the TN Economic Summit for Women, and on the board for the TN Latin American Chamber of Commerce.
I also work with each of our clients on their social responsibility commitment to the community. It is important that our clients impact others along with their financial bottom line.
Where do you go for inspiration? (Person, website, location, book, etc…)
I have an amazing peer/colleague network that I consider a part of my personal board of directors. Speaking with them absolutely allows me to breath a sigh with relief. I also have a couple of accountability partners who keep me in line and inspire.
Also, I meditate, listen, and seek inspiration from my Source.
Lastly, I have a great family who serve as constant inspiration and have always been a large support.
What impact do you want to leave on the world?
I aspire to impact people to change and action. I hope that my fiery influence will excite others to create movement in their lives and their communities.
What gets you excited about the future of your business?
As a business we have come a long way but I get so excited to see where else we can go. We have so much more to accomplish and many more areas to evolve in.
What has life taught you recently?
Life has taught me that things are not always black and white but can be grey or in color! I am an extremely colorful person, but in business I am pretty matter of fact. I found that allowing myself to color outside the lines could be beneficial in seeing more opportunities for myself and the company.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
I see myself teaching on the collegiate level, publishing a couple of books, international traveling, and training more businesses and professionals.
Where else can we find you and your work?
I have a candid blog at www.KiaJarmon.com, I also have a segment called ME Factor Business Segment on 760AM at 8:25am CST and am a co-contributor for the Tennessean.com’s Biz Talk show on Tuesdays at 3pm EST. I am also the Brand Strategist contributor for SheOwnsIt.com
How can we connect with you?
What a great interview! Thank you, Kia, for taking time to answer these questions and share your experience in business with us. I’ve had similar experiences with some of the things you shared – particularly how people criticize what they don’t understand. Over the last few years I’ve learned that one of my major roles is “educator”. I spend a lot of time educating people about my industry and how my business works. It’s fun to watch those “aha” moments occur.
Well, that wraps us up for today. Come back next week, friends. I have some great topics lined up for you and another FABULOUS W.O.W. interview to share. Until then…have a great weekend!