Janel Laravie runs one of the most successful female-owned digital media agencies in the country. With 15+ years of product, marketing, and business management experience, Janel serves as a thought leader in the digital marketing industry. Founding Chacka Marketing in 2009, Janel built a full-service agency, partnering with like-minded, goal-oriented clients focused on growing together.
Over the last nine years, Chacka has grown to more than 27 employees working with some of the largest brands in the world, including Barnes & Noble, Shutterfly, and Experian. Honors include selection to Advertising Age’s 2016 Best Places to Work, being named to the Best in Biz Award Gold Winner for Advertising or Marketing Agency of the Year and one of the National Best & Brightest Companies to Work For (2016 & 2017). This year, her company climbed 1,152 spots in the annual Inc. 5000 (ranking #367) as being one of the fastest-growing, private companies in America. Janel herself has also been selected as a 2017 DMN Marketing Hall of Femme honoree and 2018 Tampa Bay Business Journal BusinessWoman of the Year honoree and finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 Award in Florida.
Janel is a member of the Young Professionals Organization and Ronald McDonald House of Tampa Bay Development Council. Additionally, she previously sat on the board of the Entrepreneurs Organization of Tampa Bay for two years and the American Lung Association.
How did the concept for Chacka Marketing come about?
After having worked in the digital advertising industry for a few years and while it was in its infancy, I decided that I could do it better on my own than where I was doing it currently. I saw opportunities to streamline the account management process and build a profitable business.
How was the first year in business?
Overall, it was good. I was very frugal which made for a solid foundation to run a debt-free, positive cash flow business.
What was your marketing strategy?
My marketing strategy in the beginning remains the same as it is today – to generate inbound leads by providing thought leadership in the industry.
How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Revenues were doubling year-over-year, each year for the first few years.
How do you define success?
I define success as being happy and proud of your daily accomplishments.
What is the key to success?
The key to success is understanding that success doesn’t live exclusively in your professional life or solely in your personal life but by achieving a healthy balance in both.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I’ve ever learned is to never burn bridges because you never know when you’ll cross someone’s path again.
What are some quotes that you live by?
One of the quotes I live by is, “The best player on the winning team is still a loser.”
What are some of your favorite books?
My favorite book is The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. From that book, I learned that a lot of interactions with others can be controlled based on how you enter the conversation yourself.
Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
There’s no single day that stands out as the toughest but as an entrepreneur there are lot more things that weigh on your heart and shoulders that other people can ever imagine. The decision to terminate an employee is one of the worst days, missing an event or time with your children because of a business obligation is a heartache as well. Ultimately, knowing that your decisions have a profound impact on the future of others is what it boils down to.
When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
The thing that pushes me forward is knowing that I am always learning how to do better next time.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs. This was one of the best pieces of advice I was ever given, and I would say that to any young entrepreneur too. Any opportunity to have a conversation with someone who is just getting started or who has been doing it a long time is welcome and I continue to do that today.
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This interview was conducted for research purposes by author Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.
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