INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Steven Jumper
What inspired you to pursue a career in branding, creative development?
Branding is just that – harnessing and shaping a company’s inspirations into a concise package that makes people feel something. Since I was a child, over the years I’ve been deeply influenced by certain brands that were able to connect with my aspirations, passions, and lifestyle. Experiencing the power that thoughtful brands have had and continue to have on my life, I’ve been driven over the past several years to help craft brands that connect with people in genuine ways.
Tell us about your transition from politics, corporate to start-up. Pros? Cons?
Although I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some of the top brands in the U.S. and world, I’ve always felt like I’ve been a part of the start-up culture. My first job, the opportunity that helped set my professional course, was working for renowned communications expert Judy Smith and her company Impact Strategies (now Smith and Company). At Impact Strategies, although we led communications efforts for some of the world’s most prominent figures and brands, the company was still fueled by a start-up/small business culture. I watched Mrs. Smith and later Mrs. Ann Walker Marchant, of the Walker Marchant Group, build significant, influential companies by shaping boutique agencies into organizations able to compete with and surpass larger national firms. So, although I may not have fully realized it along the way, start-up culture has always been central to my professional life.
Why are you passionate about startups?
I’m inspired by people and companies fully willing to take the destinies into their own hands. Business owners who truly invest in themselves bring a unique energy that you can feel. As an owner of my own agency, along with my partners, I am inspired every time I meet anyone who believes in an idea and strategy enough to set out and chart his/her own course.
What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic, and social commitments?
For a while I struggled with this. For years, I believed that personal, professional, and philanthropic lives had to be lived and managed independently. What I’ve come to believe is that for me to be at my best, I have to approach all facets of my life with the same commitment and passion. My hope is that when I’m fortunate enough to be a part of anything positive I bring a level of mindfulness that people can feel.
Shark Tank DC? How were you involved with this effort?
In April, Ghost Note, the integrated communications agency I co-own, was fortunate enough to partner with Shark Tank and area consultant firm Values Partnerships to offer DC-based startups with an exclusive opportunity to pitch the hit ABC show’s leading casting directors. The collaboration with Shark Tank was the latest event in our Technoir initiative. We launched Technoir in 2014 in an effort to help fund, showcase, and celebrate diversity in tech.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t send a big shout to IMPACT leader Brandon Andrews who was instrumental in making our Shark Tank collaboration possible.
Name the biggest mistake young professionals make in your industry?
There still exist misconceptions about the industries of strategic communications, marketing and branding that young professionals entering the workforce should be aware of. Foremost, is the belief that the glamorization by popular media of the worlds of PR and branding is reality in the office place. These industries can certainly be very exciting, fast paced, and exhilarating, but above all they require an intense work ethic to be successful. Young professionals assuming that their early careers will be defined by red carpet appearances and elbow rubbing with celebrities will be sorely disappointed. Mostly, the communications, branding, and marketing industries are driven by inspired and hardworking people willing to put in the time necessary to implement their ideas and strategies real in ways that benefit clients.
What advice would you give other young professionals who desires to excel in your industry?
I would encourage any young(er) professional in the field to commit him/herself to truly learning the fundamental tenets that still drive the work of strategic communications, branding, and marketing. Focus on core skills such of writing, pitching, project management, and quality ideation.
What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?
I’ve been truly blessed to work closely with principal figures at the center of some of the most significant news stories to happen in this country over the past several years. I’ve also had the privilege of helping to craft effective strategies for global, leading brands. That said, without a doubt, the best experience of my career has been building our agency Ghost Note. Of course, a particular pride comes from owning your company, but mostly I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing it with close friends and three of the most talented young minds I know – Brandon Ellis, Reggie Snowden, and Ade Omitowoju.
What’s next for you in your career?
The continued growth and expansion of Ghost Note. The size and profile of our clients is growing. Our partnerships are growing. Our team is growing. Our aspirations for what we can make our company into are growing. And meanwhile, as professionals, sons, fathers, and brothers, we are growing. If this theme continues, years from now, I’ll think I’ll be proud of what we’ve accomplished.
Describe yourself in three words.
Reserved. Restless. Relentless.
How can people reach you?