We caught up with this year’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year to see how the Greater Philadelphia business community has contributed to their success. Check out what Jessica Sharp, Principal, Maven Communications has to say as we highlight one of the excellent small businesses driving the Greater Philadelphia region. Join us as we honor this year’s winners at the 37th Annual Excellence Awards on Thursday, November 21.

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Jessica Sharp, Maven Communications

Where did the idea for your business come from? Describe the moment that you decided to go into business for yourself.

My business partner and I met while working at a large PR/advertising firm in Philadelphia. We had diverse, yet complimentary skillsets and saw a real opportunity for our knowledge and experience in public relations for small to mid-sized businesses in Philadelphia. There was no one “ah-ha” moment around starting the business; it was more a process of exploring where the opportunities were, assessing our networks, and developing a business plan.

We launched the company in 2006 when the economy was still booming and real estate in particular was hot in Philadelphia. We had little overhead and a lot of ambition and were able to build a respectable client base relatively quickly based on referrals. In addition to real estate, our client base also included professional services and technology startups. That client diversity was critical when the recession hit in 2008 and many of our real estate clients went away.

The company has certainly evolved since our start, but we continue to serve the real estate and professional services sectors, among others.

What is your business philosophy and how is it unique?

I strongly believe that there is always an opportunity to make a positive impact in your community no matter what business you’re in. As a business owner of a service-based business, I have the privilege of not only figuring out how my company can create positive change but also how we can help our clients to do so. Many of our clients are for-profit and don’t necessarily have a specific foundation or philanthropic arm so we work with them to figure out how they can do good while also doing well.

What is the biggest challenge in owning/running a business in the region? How do you deal with the challenges?

One of our biggest challenges is something I also consider an opportunity. There are quite a few small and mid-sized communications and marketing-related agencies in the Greater Philadelphia region which translates into a lot of competition but there’s also a lot of opportunity for collaboration.

I find that there is a general sense of camaraderie among agencies, even those that sometimes compete with one another for business. We frequently partner with other agencies that offer complimentary services for specific projects or clients. And if a company is not the right fit for us, I’m happy to refer the business to another agency and have found that generosity come back to us over the years as well.

How has the Greater Philadelphia business community impacted your success?

Our clients are primarily Philadelphia-based. Even though most of our clients have a national reach, nearly all are headquartered in and around Philadelphia so in that way the business community has obviously been essential to our success.

Additionally, the amazing universities in the city have been a valuable asset. Most of our staff went to local universities and the interns we hire, primarily from Drexel and Temple Universities, are incredibly smart, capable, and hardworking.

To go even further back, I attended Drexel University where I participated in their co-op program. It was through those co-op experiences with diverse Philadelphia businesses that helped shape my career trajectory.

Others will be looking to you for advice about starting and/or operating a business here. What are your top 3 tips?

  1. My first tip for anyone considering starting their own business, or even embarking on a new or different endeavor, is to figure out the “why” before you figure out the “how.” Running a business is incredibly time-consuming and can be stressful and exhausting at times. But if you’re passionate about why you’re doing it, the tough moments are still worth it.
  2. Another piece of advice I give folks thinking about starting a business is to let as many people know what you’re planning to do as possible. This is especially true in Philadelphia where that small-town connectedness can be a big advantage.
  3. Finally, never get comfortable. No matter how well the business is doing, it’s imperative to keep a growth mindset.

What does it mean to you personally and/or to your business to be named an Excellence Award winner?

It is an honor to be recognized with this award! This recognition is also a validation that what we do at Maven is meaningful and making an impact in this community, which I am also incredibly grateful for.

Where do you see your business in 10 years?

We’ve succeeded in thoughtful and organic growth and plan to continue that strategy while also acquiring assets to enhance our digital capabilities. We will continue to be a collaborative partner with our clients, helping them to evolve to keep their communications strategic and in step with the digital landscape.

How can young leaders in Greater Philadelphia make an impact in the larger business community?

It’s so important for young leaders to figure out how they can be a vehicle of change within their own communities and how to push their organizations to embrace that mindset.

Get your tickets to help celebrate Jessica Sharp as this year’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year honoree.

37th Annual Excellence Awards

Thursday, November 21
SugarHouse Casino
5:30 – 9:00 p.m.

It’s so important for young leaders to figure out how they can be a vehicle of change within their own communities and how to push their organizations to embrace that mindset.