Jacob Kelly, JAK Marketing and My Social Life: Founder

Can you share a little about your story and how you got to where you are today?

My name is Jacob Kelly, and I am 23 years old. I live in Ottawa (Ontario, Canada), and I am the owner of JAK Marketing. 

I graduated from a local community college at 19 years old. I originally intended to go back and take a post-graduate, decided against it and dropped out before it started without much of a plan. Through a connection I ended up landing a job as a Digital Marketing Coordinator with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group (OSEG). At the time, this company owned the Ottawa RedBlacks of the Canadian Football League, the Ottawa 67's of the Ontario Hockey League, and Ottawa Fury of the United Soccer League. My role was primarily with the 67's and I managed their social media, email marketing, and web site content. In my second season, the team set multiple franchise records, had multiple star players emerge and made it all the way to the finals. Through the efforts, we achieved the following results on social media in a nine month span:

  • 10,000+ follower growth on Instagram

  • 23.3M impressions on Twitter compared to 212K in the previous nine months

  • 21,958% increase in engagement on Facebook compared to the previous nine months

  • Approximate earned media value of $1.5M

I had originally planned to start my own marketing agency shortly after the season but was offered the role as Digital Marketing Coordinator for the Ottawa RedBlacks. I ended up taking the role as I wanted to have the experience of managing the digital assets for a national brand and figured it would carry more weight when pitching potential clients on my experience. While most people within my city would know the 67's, people outside the city wouldn't - but they would know the RedBlacks. The season was the opposite of the one I had had with the 67's, the RedBlacks went 3-15 but despite that I learned a ton and had a blast.

Following the season, I registered my business on December 31st, 2019 and decided I would love once I was making more money on the side than full time. I worked at it through the winter and spring and then was able to hand in my two weeks notice this May and began running JAK Marketing full time as of June 8th, 2020.

JAK Marketing is a boutique digital marketing agency servicing clients across Canada, the US, and parts of Europe.

What do you wish you knew before you started JAK Marketing? 

The importance of taking time for myself. I was working around the clock, taking no time for myself. This was business, I thought that's how I was supposed  to do it but I was very quickly burning out. Luckily I caught myself and have worked a lot on having a more balanced day.

Can you describe your average day?

My average day right now starts at 6:45am, I wake up and have a cold shower. I then read from 7:00am-8:00am at which point I start my day. I take a look at my To Do list which is a dynamic one I have built using Notion that shows me only what I need to get done today. I work from 8:00am-11:00am. I then take a break to workout and eat my first meal of the day. I usually start working again around 1:00pm and work until 5:00pm. I've recently started implementing a small break around 3:00pm to break up the afternoon a bit.

I try to shut things down with the business around 5:00pm (not always possible depending on the workday and if I have calls with clients on the west coast) and use my afternoon's to work on my podcast or any other projects I have on the go.

What has been the largest obstacle you have had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?

The largest obstacle for me was balance. When I first took my business full time I was working all day, everyday. I was making pretty good money but I wasn't happy. After a couple of months I scaled back my client roster and made less money but had more balance in my life and I have been happier as a result.

What has been the highlight of your career? 

There are a few I can choose from:

  • Taking my business full time was a big accomplishment for me and one I am proud of.

  • The playoff run with the hockey team was some of the most fun I ever had. The team invited me to travel with them the entire time, I got to experience it all from a perspective most people only dream of. In the locker room and on the ice for celebrations is a special feeling and memories I will look back on fondly for forever.

  • I have some associated with my podcast as well, a recent one is the interview I was able to do with the co-founder of Starbucks, Zev Siegl.

What has been the hardest part of adjusting to Covid-19?

The hardest part of adjusting to covid for me was being confined to my apartment and social distancing. Not being able to see my family or meet up with friends was a challenge and then adding on top of that losing the day to day interaction with my co-workers was definitely a struggle.

What do you think has been the “key” to your success this far?

Relationships. I don't have a company website, Instagram page, or anything. Every single client I have has either come from an existing connection or through a referral from a client.

I got my job with OSEG because of relationships I'd had before as well. Taking the time to network with people and cultivate relationships has paid off massively for my career.

How has failure helped you later in life? Can you share any specific lessons you have learned?

I wouldn't call it a failure but I took on work at one point that I did not enjoy doing. I was caught up in making more money and having as many clients as possible but it led to me doing work I didn't enjoy and it made me unhappy (the client was great, I just didn't enjoy the type of work). It taught me that I need to prioritize doing work I enjoy, because if I'm not enjoying my work then what's the point in having my own business?

What is some of the best advice you ever received? 

If I'm being honest, I'm terrible at remembering this kind of stuff and the exact source it came from. I'll say this, "add value, get rewarded" and this came from my friend and bestselling Udemy course creator Noah Merriby.

What is some advice you can give to an aspiring high school entrepreneur?

Develop meaningful relationships , and a great way to do so is through interviewing people you admire.

I've recorded 110 episodes of my podcast and most of those people I would not have met without it. The interview gives people a reason to talk to me that they would not have. If I'd asked most people to pick their brain over coffee for an hour most would have said no. But because I'm documenting the conversation and turning it into a piece of content, people are more inclined. This has led to many incredible opportunities and connections.

It doesn't have to be a podcast either, it can be a YouTube show or an article! I've given this advice before and one example I always give is my friend Chris Nascimento who started a podcast called "The Route" where he interviews sports business professionals (because that's the industry he wants to work in) and has made a ton of incredible connections.

Are there any books/podcasts/movies you would like to recommend?

I will take this opportunity to plug my own podcast, it's called My Social Life and I sit down and learn the stories behind successful and interesting people on social media.

Other recommendations:

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