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Janel Laravie: Have an Audacious Goal - But It's Ok to Move the Goal Post

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

Janel Laravie is the Founder & CEO of Chacka Marketing. She turned a side hustle into a multi-million dollar, award-winning digital marketing agency - but not easy and not overnight. Tune-in to find out what Chacka means and how Janel rose from a small rural town in West Virginia to corporate VP - then leaving it all to launch a startup from her spare bedroom with only 3 months of savings. She talks about the advantages of starting a business in a down economy and her keys to success and growth.

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Full Episode (YouTube):

00:43 The Tampa Bay entrepreneurship community is so supportive - no one says no!

02:23 Is it ok to move the goal post?

05:36 Part of being successful is setting outrageous, audacious goals, even ones that people say you’re crazy. If you see that the goal you set is one you no longer want, pivot and change the goal.

07:30 Janel says maybe her favorite thing about business ownership is creating jobs - but that comes with responsibility. She’ll never forget when an employee asked her for paystubs when applying for a mortgage (gulp!).

09:00 It’s ok to be uncertain about what your next goal is. ...sometimes it’s just about survival.

12:54 She had an investor offer early, but then realized she only needed startup money to cover her salary for several months and a cushion. She needed the money, it was scary, but she said no.

15:33 Janel grew up in West Virginia, in a one traffic-light town. She acquired grit and determination. Allen and Janel have a lot in common growing up in a small rural town.

18:50 Started gymnastics as a kid, 1984 Olympics, she watched Mary Lou Retton who was also from West Virginia. It inspired her. Later, she realized gymnastics is one of the few sports that teaches you both individual and team achievement.

21:52 Went to West Virginia University. Her father, whom she was very close, passed away in her senior year. He had a strong work ethic, a strong moral compass, and a big impact on her life and character.

24:42 Janel was an English major who wanted to be a writer - still writes today, blogs, etc.

25:47 Her first job in college was at Outback Steakhouse. Most important lesson - how to deal with people, and the demands of multiple people at once.

29:18 Allen asks - “Why dig into the early life of an entrepreneur?" How did they get there, where did they start, what were the challenges? Helps aspiring or struggling early entrepreneurs see themselves in a successful entrepreneur.

31:02 Had a job at a car rental company, thought she was getting promoted but found out her boss told upper management (falsely) that she wasn’t interested. She quit immediately.

33:15 If you hold your employees back, you will lose them!

33:30 She started coaching gymnastics and bartending. A restaurant customer gave her her first marketing job. Allen’s dad liked to say - “You have to work hard to get lucky!”

34:30 Today: Chacka Marketing - 26 employees, 11 years in business, multiple awards. Major national clients - Experian, Shutterfly, Harvard Business Review, and more.

36:36 Most meaningful award to Janel: Awards for Best Place to Work - Ad Age Magazine (biggest of the industry), 2019, Ranked #1.

38:18 Chacka - Hawaiian surfer lingo for “better than gnarly”.

39:45 Before Chaka - VP of Marketing in a company going through bankruptcy. Started side work that led to Chacka. In our current economic climate, a side hustle can be smart, and could turn into more. But keep fairness in mind for your main employer.

43:05 Her first big new account closed only after she made the leap full-time. When you take the big leap, people respond (family, friends, even clients).

45:45 She had gotten married just 1 week before quitting to start. They even gave her a generous offer to stay, including equity - she passed.

47:55 Started out of a spare bedroom, cashed out her 401(k), had 3 months runway.

51:16 The 'unintended entrepreneur’ - Wasn’t the plan, just saw as she was rising the ranks that she could sell, lead, and get the work done herself.

52:26 Someone asked her where do you see yourself in 10 years, she said “doing this for myself”. He challenged her on timing - “do you think you’ll have the chance in 10 years?”

54:29 She was at a point where she had the capability, but needed the opportunity. Allen calls this the ‘Quit Zone’ in his book, where capability meets opportunity. Build up your capability so when the opportunity comes, you’re ready.

55:25 Janel started Chacka in a down economy. Why is a down economy a good time to start a company?

1:00:40 Your greatest asset will always be your people. Attracting talent and holding them together is an underrated skill of the entrepreneur.

1:03:30 Key: Take care of your people and don’t be afraid to move your goal post!

1:03:55 Thank you and closing

Chacka Marketing:

Full Episode (YouTube):


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