Interview with Jessica Hawthorne-Castro

EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 Semifinalist

Reprinted with permisson by Fairfield Weekly Reader


FWR: It’s a tremendous honor to be a semi-finalist in the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year, tagged “the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs.” What do you believe attracted the judges’ attention?
JHC: I’ve always held myself and my work to the highest standards. Whether it was being one of the youngest females to be promoted to full talent agent in the competitive entertainment industry at the Endeavor Agency (now WME/William Morris Endeavor), or during the course of the past eight years at Hawthorne Direct, where I worked my way up within Hawthorne Direct from the role of Account Executive to present owner, Chairman and CEO. During that time, I also completed my MBA with honors and had my son, Braden, while maintaining a successful marriage and climbing the corporate ladder. Over the years, I have constantly strived to foster service-oriented relationships with all of our company’s clients, helping them to envision, create and execute powerful advertising campaigns that build and grow brands, and ignite consumers.
FWR: What have been the building blocks of your career, i.e. your mentors, business model(s), etc.?
JHC: Mentors are very important. I have been fortunate to have mentors in all of my various jobs – but I sought them out. It’s important to realize that you are not just automatically given a mentor when you start your career. You have to be proactive and develop these relationships, knowing that they are not going to just be handed to you. I’ve developed many strong relationships on my own over the years, and they have each been extremely beneficial as I’ve progressed through my career.
And the apple must not fall far from the tree because another amazing fact that I wasn’t aware of until after I had been awarded semi-finalist in Los Angeles, is that Tim Hawthorne [Jessica’s dad] had previously won Entrepreneur of the Year (Ernst & Young) for Iowa/Nebraska region in 1996 in the Marketing category.
FWR: What good business practices have you created and encouraged at Hawthorne Direct?
JHC: I try to foster a learning and growing environment for young contributing Hawthorne Direct staffers. I initiated an internship training program that has turned into full-time employment opportunities for countless employees who have enjoyed personal and professional growth at Hawthorne Direct. I’m proud to note that if an employee has not continued with the agency, they have also gone on to work for other marketing companies and we’ve continued strong relationships with these former Hawthorne employees. All Hawthorne Direct employees receive training opportunities regularly. This includes webinars, seminars, summits and conferences.
But most importantly, Hawthorne has always been a market leader in analytics and attribution in advertising. We constantly encourage our team members to be in think tanks, and challenge ourselves with questions in what is the next big thing in advertising going to be. Every day we dig deep and innovate. It’s exciting; we love to see what develops and thrive on it.
FWR: How do you evolve and support a good team?
JHC: I believe in valuing the quality of the lives as well as livelihoods of my employees and I live this in the Company Culture mission I initiated. My dedication to the culture at Hawthorne Direct fosters a commitment to both the work and personal lives of my employees via supporting flexible work schedules, empowering employees to operate from remote offices when possible. I’ve ensured generous vacation offerings, regularly share additional paid holidays with my team and promoted giving back to the local community as part of our culture.