Jessica Mouneimne on overcoming negative perceptions about age through mentoring, coaching and a generous helping of confidence
Jessica Mouneimne (28) founded Cape Town-based communications agency Jam Media in 2012 when she realised that she had a skill to help companies think strategically about brand communication.
Clients include Kathi Clarke of Building Best Business, The Voice Clinic, AMT World's Best Pan, Carla Zara and Paed IQ and Venturescape Studios.
She tells SME South Africa why she thinks that bigger isn’t always better and why South Africa needs more small businesses owned by young people.
There are many communications agencies in South Africa – how do you grab the attention of new clients?
There is a gap in the public relations (PR) industry for smaller businesses. We do plenty of corporate work, but as we are a small company we understand the challenges faced by other SMEs. They don’t always have large budgets or in-house communications teams and therefore have a great need for an outsourced marketing department.
What do young business owners bring to South Africa’s entrepreneurial space?
We are agile, more resilient, make bolder decisions and we can adapt to technology and change. But this doesn’t mean that we know it all – I have huge respect for entrepreneurs who have paved the way for the millennial generation.
What are your biggest challenges?
Cash flow. This is always a tough balancing act, particularly if you organize events. If you are getting into this industry, remember that your cost of sales for booking venues can eat away at your cash flow. You have to have systems in place to deal with difficulties such as 60-day payment terms.
Confidence. I did presentation and voice training through The Voice Clinic to increase my confidence. When you are sure of yourself you make people comfortable and the perceived negativity around your age is no longer an issue.
What is your advice to a young person thinking of starting a business?
1. Find a mentor. An important PR mentor to me has been industry stalwart Marcus Brewster who was doing PR even before the Internet and cellphones became central to the industry. I can’t imagine running my business without this technology, yet he did it so successfully.
2. Consult a business coach. This is essential for every young business owner. My business coach Kathi Clarke is my sounding board in areas of my business where I lack experience.
3. Be a leader, not a boss. I don’t believe in hierarchical leadership. I sit with my team and we get our hands dirty together. Leadership style and growth opportunities are what attract and keep good talent.