As part of an international women’s day theme on March 1st, Tina Wells, founder and CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, participated in a panel discussion produced by Female Founder Collective, a network of women-led businesses that invests in and empowers female-owned businesses launched by designer Rebecca Minkoff, and Women@FBNY.
The discussion explored the intersection of innovation and business through the lens of gender equality. And since as of 2018, there were 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S., compared to 1972, when there were only 402,000 women-owned businesses, these enterprising ladies deserve some ink.
We caught up with Wells to talk about her business.
TNJ.com: Tell us a bit about your company.
Tina Wells: I launched Buzz Marketing Group 22 years ago. When I was 16, I was one of the first in the youth marketing space and eventually started focusing on the new millennial space. My company looks at market research, influential marketing and PR, with a specific focus on consumers. Our clients include Apple, Kroeger, OWN and Urban Outfitters.
TNJ.com: Why marketing?
Tina Wells: I actually wanted to be a fashion writer! When I was 15, I responded to an ad in Seventeen magazine and ended up writing articles on girls and on product reviews. That’s how I got into market research. I had no idea I wanted to start a company nor did I even know what market research was.
I had a client who was sending me products to review, but not paying me. He once told me that he had paid someone $25,000 for product research, yet he admitted the work my friends and I did for him was 10 times better; that’s when I decided to launch my own business.
TNJ.com: So far, what about the work do you love?
Tina Wells: I am excited about connecting consumers with products they love. The idea that there’s a product out there for everyone and figuring out what that product is, for me, is super exciting.
TNJ.com: What, if any, have been some highs and lows associated with maintaining your company?
Tina Wells: When I started, there really weren’t people doing what I was doing, so it was exciting getting Press early on in my career whether it was being featured in Essence magazine when I was 20, or being on the cover of O magazine (The Oprah Winfrey magazine) when I was 25.
The hardest part, which is why we need the Female Founders Collective, was that entrepreneurship can be very lonely. In the mid-90s, entrepreneurship wasn’t as big a thing as it is now. My parents thought I was so smart and wanted me to go to law school. Back then, it was as if I made a bad decision because I chose entrepreneurship.
Over the past 10 years, I’ve been really lucky to join organizations that focus on women, people of color or entrepreneurship, but none of that existed when I first started consulting.
TNJ.com: Tell us about the panel discussion you recently took part in.
Tina Wells: The panel was kicked off for international women’s month. Rebecca Minkoff is known for assembling women for women’s causes focused on celebrating female founders. Her collective is focused on helping the next generation of female founders. On the panel, we told our stories of how we got to where we are today.
TNJ.com: How has social media helped your company, and what role does it play for founders in 2019 compared to 22 years ago when you first became a founder?
Tina Wells: When I started out in consumer marketing, you needed so much money that it created a barrier to entry for so many companies. Now, there are so many companies that launch on an Instagram account or Facebook. And there are women who have been out of the workforce as stay-at-home mom, but can now create blogs that become multi-million dollar businesses. So, social media has created access for people who may not have had access to entrepreneurship.
For my company, I am really excited by Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality and other technologies that help us grow the business, respond to customer demand and make smarter decisions about clients and revenue.
TNJ.com: What advice do you have for others looking to start businesses?
Tina Wells: I created a peer group and we trust each other to say “I am having this problem.” Giving and receiving support has been very helpful. Finding people you can talk to is key.
Again, entrepreneurship can be isolating and people don’t always understand what you’re going through. As I’ve gotten older, I encourage my friends, who are entrepreneurs, to protect their mental health. I tell them to find a small group of 2 or 3 people you can talk to rather than keeping it all to yourself. There are great organizations that are there to help. Integrate yourself into that community and use it to help your business grow.
TNJ.com: Any short to long term goals you’re working on?
Tina Wells: I’m going to begin advising startups and emerging brands. I’ve been invited to speak at over 170 companies, most of which are Fortune 500 companies. I am really committed to helping them, so over the next five years, I’m going to expand on that.