Start-up – 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Awards

Jenny Smith

President & Creative Director of Ray Creative Agency Inc.

Three months after Jenny Smith was laid off from her job in advertising, she started Ray Creative Agency. She hasn’t looked back.

Jenny spent the first part of her career in London, Paris, Toronto, and Halifax. She came to St. John’s in 2000 and worked in advertising for over a decade, but when a major client lost its funding, the agency had to let her go. Jenny could have taken a lucrative job in a big city, but by then she had children and felt reluctant to pull them away from her extended family. She decided to build her own business from scratch.

“I woke up one day and though, ‘Okay, I can do this.'”

 

The eldest sibling in a large family, Jenny was used to taking a leadership role. She had never planned to be an entrepreneur, but after years of working for other people, she decided to take the plunge. She refused to go to the bank for a loan, and for two years the start-up operated online, by phone, from coffee shops and kitchen tables. This year there’s a team of 15 people and a newly renovated office downtown.

The greatest benefit of owning your own business, Jenny feels, is the flexibility. “I can pick my children up from school every day if I like, I can go to the grocery store on Wednesday at 10 AM if I want to, and I get to see my husband a lot more.” That flexibility helps her juggle the varied responsibilities that come with being a business owner, a mother, and a wife.

Determination is a major contributor to Jenny’s success. “I’m like a dog with a bone,” she says. “I work really hard to get to that end goal, and I’m just a very determined individual.” Another key factor is her husband, her biggest supporter, whom she describes as “an awesome all round guy.” He’s her best friend, she says. And he does the laundry.

Jenny’s husband is one of her sources of inspiration; others are her children, her parents, her extended family, even the landscape of Newfoundland and Labrador. “I love the outdoors, the landscape, how the light hits the hills. This place is so beautiful; it motivates me to do better work. And, speaking of work, my team is the strongest team—they’re so supportive, they’re fun, they’re very, very talented, and they inspire me every day.”

Jenny is honoured to win an award that places her in the company of so many smart and talented women. It’s also encouraging, she says: it’s a message that she’s doing something right. Her next step is to grow Ray Creative (which is only three years old), to expand the client roster and the staff, and to acquire complementary businesses. Her advice for new entrepreneurs? Go with your gut because it’s always right. And keep your sense of humour.

The Start-up Award recognizes an entrepreneur who has owned and operated a profitable business for a minimum of two years to a maximum of five.

The 2016 Start-up Award was sponsored by Newfoundland and Labrador Credit Union.

For more about Jenny Smith, check out her 2016 Entrepreneur of the Year Award winner video.

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