From Ivy League to Entrepreneurship: Jessica Spino’s Journey as a Fractional CMO and COO

How do you navigate career transitions and build a thriving business as a fractional executive?

In this episode, Jessica Spino, a fractional CMO and COO, shares her journey of embracing her diverse skill set and carving out a unique role in the business world.

After exploring various fields, from communications to education to nonprofit work, Jessica found her calling in operations and marketing. She pivoted into a fractional position, providing her expertise to multiple companies.

Jessica attributes her success to her creativity, adaptability, and willingness to take bold leaps. She emphasizes the significance of letting your personality shine, going the extra mile, and staying determined in your job search.

She also discusses her inspiring initiative, the Blue Sky Sisterhood, a live event series and membership community aimed at empowering mothers and their teenage daughters to discover unconventional career paths.

At her core, Jessica strives to create a meaningful legacy for her children by staying true to herself. She highlights the impact of word-of-mouth referrals, partnering with clients who align with your values, and embracing technological advancements.

LISTEN TO THE FULL EPISODE HERE

Transcript

Intro  

Welcome to another edition of inspired stories where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes, how they’ve overcome adversity, and explore current challenges they’re facing.

 

Anthony (host): 

Welcome to another edition of The Inspired Stories Podcast, where leaders share their experiences so we can learn from their successes, how they’ve overcome adversity, and explore current challenges they’re facing. My name is Anthony Codispoti, and today’s guest is Jess Spino, a fractional CMO and COO for many companies, including for Mallory Ericsson, which we’ll hear more about. She’s a Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the book “Born to Rise,” which is an anthology of 22 different women who rewrote their stories, claimed their power, and followed their dreams. She’s also the founder of the Blue Sky Sisterhood, a live event series and membership community dedicated to helping mothers and their teen daughters work together to create bright futures. And we’ll also talk about how she hit the SEO lottery.

 

Anthony (host): 

But before we get into the good stuff, today’s episode is brought to you by my company, Add Back Benefits Agency, where we offer very specific and unique employee benefits that are both great for your team and fiscally optimized for your bottom line. One recent client was able to save over $900 per employee per year by implementing one of our proprietary programs. Another client is going to save over $1,200 per employee per year by implementing a patented contract that we offer. Results vary for each company, and some organizations may not be eligible. To find out if your company qualifies, contact us today at addbackbenefitsagency.com.

 

Anthony (host): 

Now back to our guest today, bestselling author, Jess. Jess, I appreciate you making the time to share your story today.

 

Jess (guest):

Oh, my gosh! I’m so excited! I’m pleased.

 

Anthony (host): 

So, Jess, I think where I’d like to start is talking about your role as a fractional COO and CMO because, in my experience, it’s unusual to find someone who possesses skills for both of these roles. Right? A CMO is someone with strong, kind of creative bones. A COO is someone who’s more hyper-focused on operational efficiencies. It’s obviously a gross generalization, but those tend to be two very different people. So I’m curious to hear about how you found yourself bridging these two different worlds.

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah, sure. Well, first off, I’m a unicorn, obviously. Just kidding, but truthfully, I think it requires a really creative person to be able to build a system that finds inefficiency. So I think that it’s always been sort of this ability to look at things a little differently and maybe see things that other people can’t. That’s allowed me to be really successful in operations, but also to sort of see a creative solution to a problem. And most often, when somebody brings me in, it’s because there is this sort of level of inefficiency in their system and with their team, and they think, you know, something is not right here, but I just can’t see it. So when I come in, not only do I have sort of this fresh perspective, but I also, you know, have a lot of times a novel solution that I can bring to the table to sort of bridge that gap. So that’s a huge piece of it.

 

Jess (guest):

You know, and from a personality standpoint, and what we can probably get into that a little bit more later, but sort of with that fractional thing, you know, that I’ve been kind of, for lack of a better term, falling into or found, whatever we want to say. You know, I always… I have the longest resume on the face of the planet. And, you know, it’s actually served me well in life because I’ve gotten to do a lot of different things. I’ve gotten to see a lot of different kinds of industries, you know, from kind of behind the curtain. And that’s also given me the ability to kind of come into a business and maybe see a solution that’s unique to their business or their industry but that works really well in other industries. Right? So, in a sense, that is creative, but it’s also really operational in a sense.

 

Anthony (host): 

I like that because a lot of times we think about creativity in terms of like copywriting and ad creative and logo designs. But creative thinking is powerful and impactful in all sorts of different parts of the business, and if you can, especially as a fractional, as somebody who’s had experience in lots of different businesses, probably different industry types, you can sort of borrow like, oh, this is kind of similar to that thing over here. Let me pull together this puzzle piece and this puzzle piece together from previous experiences, and we’ll make something really cool over here.

 

Jess (guest):

For sure, and that’s one of the coolest things, I think, always about, like, you know, periodically, most of my clients are virtual, so I have very few in sort of my local area of Western New York. I’m in Buffalo. But I do have, you know, one or two, or I’ve had a couple, you know, in the past few years. And what’s really interesting is when you do get into a brick and mortar. Most of my sort of bread and butter is in the online space. So when I take something that’s really common in the online space, say, you know, a webinar funnel, and you apply it to a brick and mortar who’s sending out postcards now, it’s like they think I’m magical because they’re like, “Oh, my gosh! Like who knew? Oh, my gosh! Now we’re serving clients like, you know, in California that we couldn’t serve before.” So that’s been really, really exciting and interesting to kind of be able to give these people something different that they’ve never seen before. Conversely, when you take an online business and now you’re like, “Hey, I have a cool idea. Let’s send out boxes or postcards or swag.” And they’re like, “What? Like physical mail? What do you mean? You’re not gonna email it, right?” So that’s a really cool way to sort of shift, you know, turn things on their head when it comes to sort of the way you think about, you know, what’s traditional for your business.

 

Anthony (host): 

That’s great. So I want to hear more about sort of the origin of becoming a fractional CMO and a fractional COO. Take us through that path.

 

Jess (guest):

Absolutely. So as I referred to before, longest resume, right? I went to Cornell University, studied communications after a failed stint as a food scientist. So I have an entrepreneurial father who worked in the food science industry. Really, what he was, was a very scientific salesman. So I loved what he did, and I thought, “Oh, go to Cornell for this.” Literally, after, you know, a failed auto-tutorial physics class and 30 hours in a chem lab, I just like, “I’m a people person. This is not for me.” Switched to communications, came back to Buffalo, worked at Channel 7, the ABC affiliate here in Buffalo. I ran camera and teleprompter and chyron and all kinds of crazy stuff. Realized I hated the person I had to be to survive in that industry, decided to go back and get my master’s in education, taught for a year and a half, got pregnant with my first daughter. They put me on bed rest, and I stayed home until they went to school. 

 

Jess (guest):

So now here I am, 35, returning to the workforce and going, “Okay, like what now?” So I worked as a development director in the not-for-profit space, basically built campaigns from inception and execution. You know, nonprofit, teeny tiny budget, do all the things, right? So, in a sense, even though that was a full-time job, it was, in a sense, also fractional, right? Because I was sort of all of the departments, like all in one. So I was doing, you know, and it was for a nonprofit owned by a local celebrity. So now I’m doing also, like PR and media writing, talking points, and building campaigns. And I’m on Canva like making graphics and doing all this stuff, right? I was a race director for one of the events they had. So like, literally all the things.

 

Jess (guest):

So, meantime… So I know this is, I’m going down the rabbit hole a little bit here, but in the meantime, I had a good friend who lived a couple of doors down from me, and she had gotten into the coaching space. So at the time, she was only… she was a solopreneur, just, you know, working for herself. She left a banking job and she started this online coaching business, and she was just at the point where she was ready to bring in her first full-time team member. And she’s like, “Oh, my gosh! Like, you’re so organized. You’re so good at so much stuff, you know. Would you be interested in sort of helping me out with this?” And I was like, “Okay.” And she’s like, “Okay, great. ‘Cause I have no idea what you’re gonna do. And if you want a paycheck, you’re gonna have to figure it out.” So I was like, “Okay.” 

 

Jess (guest):

So I was her first full-time hire, and this was back in 2016, I believe, 2016. So over the course of three and a half years, we brought her business from a team of two and about $100K in annual revenue to a team of 20 and over $4 million in annual revenue. Yeah, it was impressive, and it was a wild, wild ride. I was her right hand, and again, much in sort of the way that I like to do things, I like to carry a big turkey platter and say, “Stack it all on,” right? So I’m, you know, again doing her marketing, I’m her number one salesperson on a team of nine salespeople, you know, closing coaching packages ranging from $10,000 to $60,000. Right? So I’m doing that. I’m, you know, sometimes she didn’t want to hire somebody to be in the booth at an event, so I got the headset on, and I’m back there, you know, directing the show, literally wearing all the hats, doing all the things.

Jess (guest):

So, as I mentioned a little bit, you know, in the book, if anybody here has had the opportunity to read the book and learn about the stories of the other women I co-wrote with, you know, as unfortunately sometimes happens when people… when things get really big, they sort of lose the reason, lose the… lose sight of the reason why they started, right? To put it delicately. That was a lot of what happened. I won’t go into too much detail, but basically, that’s what happened. So the team gradually started leaving one by one. And now we’re back to a team of three again. And I’m the last one kind of hanging on by a thread. And eventually, you know, it just… the bottom fell out, and I just… I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t… I didn’t feel good about who I was again. I didn’t feel good about the work we were doing anymore. A product that I’ve been so, so proud of just kind of stopped evolving with the growing demand. And it just didn’t feel good anymore. 

 

Jess (guest):

Meanwhile, while that was all going on, which now we’re in the beginning of 2020, just to take you back a little bit, end of 2019, my husband, who I’ve been with since… We got together in 1999. I know, I’m probably… I was 19 at the time. So we’ve been together 25 plus years, happily married for 20 this year. Back in September of 2019, he developed a mysterious limp, which was very strange because all of a sudden he’s like, “It’s really weird, like, I have this limp,” and like, you know, I was like, “Did you pull…” He plays hockey. “…like, did you pull a muscle? Like, what’s going on?” “I don’t think so.” So he goes to the chiropractor, does a bunch of stuff. By the end of December, he’s flat on his back, not able to get out of bed unassisted, not able to get in and out of the car, not able to really do much of anything. I’m helping him get out of bed in the morning. We’re, you know, we had a trip planned, and I’m pushing him through the airport in a wheelchair. And I’m like, “You know, this is it. In sickness and in health, this is what we’re gonna do right now.” 

 

Jess (guest):

So during the time that everything went down with, you know, the job that I left, he was actually home because he was on leave from work, and we are on a conference call… And he was in the room, and we are on a conference call with my ex-boss and some clients, and she just kind of snapped and turned and just started saying a whole bunch of really vicious things about me and other people on the team and clients. He looked at me and he goes, “Is she talking about you guys?” And I said, “I think she is.” And he’s like, “I don’t care, Jess.” He’s like, “Today’s the day. Today is the day. It doesn’t…” And I’m like, “You have no job right now. Like, what are we gonna do?” And he was like… He goes, “You’ve always been the one to figure it out. You’ll figure it out.” You know, “You’ll figure it out.” So, he said, he… You know, his line was always, “If we get into some [bad word], you’re gonna be the one to figure it out. That’s not who I am. That’s who you are.”

 

Jess (guest):

So I wrote my resignation letter on that call, and I jumped, not really sure what I was gonna do. And at the time, I was pretty broken, really, to be honest. So I didn’t really have a plan, and I wasn’t really as confident as he was that I was going to be able to come up with one. But whatever you call it, I don’t know if it’s luck, grace, right place, right time, I don’t know. But when I left, a lot of clients, for whatever reason, had really been excited about the fact that I was on my own, and they had seen stuff kind of coming. And for whatever…

 

Anthony (host): 

A lot of the clients that you had been working with at this prior… Okay.

 

Jess (guest):

So they were attached to me, and a lot of them wanted to work with me, or new people that did. So within six weeks of leaving her, I had a full client roster and a waitlist.

 

Anthony (host): 

Get out. So I think what this highlights is really the importance of, well, a couple of things. One, doing the right thing, right? They were drawn to you because clearly you were treating them well in the course of working with them. And then I think the other thing that this highlights is the importance of your own personal network. Right? I have a close friend who is going through a situation where both her and her husband are unemployed right now, and they thought that the transition from one place to another was going to go a lot faster. And they’re sort of asking themselves, “What do we do? Like, how do we get out there? Like, what’s the next step look like for us? We’re scared.” And the piece of advice that I gave was, look at your personal network. And you can speak to that. That was your path.

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah, it definitely was. And I mean, to this day, I’m now four years in, almost four years in. And I have never… People do not believe me. Other than a website, which I did three years in, I had placeholder copy on a Wix website for the first three years of my business. I have not spent a dime on marketing, not a dime. Never run an ad, never… You know, other than like, you know, podcast interviews, these type of things, writing the book. I’ve never spent a dime on advertising. And it’s been all referrals. It’s been all word of mouth. And I’ve had a waitlist ever since. Truthfully, and that’s a really great feeling, because honestly, referral is truly the ultimate compliment, right? Like, “I’ve worked with her. I know she’s great. I know she’d run through a wall for you. So here you go,” you know, and that feels really, really good. And thank you for saying that, because I’m very proud of the fact that people saw in me something that I always knew was there. And that’s also your brand, right? So that’s a huge piece that I’m really passionate about, sort of your personal brand, and making sure that you take whoever you are and turn the volume up to 10. It’s not about being who you’re not. It’s not about, you know, pretending to be, you know, whatever Instagram famous influencer, airbrushed, whatever. I mean, that’s great. I’d like to be airbrushed, that’s all fantastic. But you know, it’s about just being who you really are, warts and all, and sort of making that your business card, making that your trademark, turning the volume up and saying, “Here’s what it is,” you know, and that’s kind of always been my thing. And I’ve definitely probably made some enemies along the way, just speaking my truth, but at the same time, the right people always stick around.

 

Anthony (host): 

I want to rewind a bit to something you said a few minutes ago. You got pregnant. You had two kids, right?

 

Jess (guest):

Yep. Two girls.

 

Anthony (host): 

Two girls, and you stayed home until they started going to school. So you had been out of the workforce for how many years?

 

Jess (guest):

Seven-ish.

 

Anthony (host): 

Seven. But a long time.

 

Jess (guest):

Six-ish, yeah, when I’m really thinking. One of them’s… Yeah.

 

Anthony (host): 

And there, I’m sure there are lots of women who are listening to this who have been, or are currently, in a similar situation. I’m gonna guess, probably scared to wade back into those waters, feeling a little bit out of practice. What can you say about your experience there?

 

Jess (guest):

You know, honestly, it’s interesting, because it was almost like I put less… The reason for feeling like I wanted to go back to work was less about me and more about them, about my daughters, because I was like, you know, I want them to see me as a person. That’s always been really important to me, the legacy I want to leave for them is, I want them to know who I truly was. Like, I want them to not just think of me as their mom. But I want them to be like, you know… You know, obviously, I will, you know, pass before them. But I want them to be like, “Yeah, like, you know, she was a lot. Like, she, you know, she changed her hair every two weeks, and you know, she loved like… She would have had the whole sleeve of tattoos if Dad would have let her, and she loved designer stuff, and people couldn’t figure out she was, you know, all of these, and she was hilarious,” like, you know, I feel like those are all much more important to me than…

 

Jess (guest):

You know, those are the things I want to be remembered for, and I want them to see that. And I want them to see me as a businesswoman who is courageous and wasn’t afraid to sort of make a fool of herself, you know, and wasn’t afraid to sort of jump, you know, because that in life is something that’s gotten me probably further than anything else, is my willingness to jump, you know.

 

Jess (guest):

So I want that for them. So that’s a lot of the reason why I went back into the workforce. And I’m like, you know, it was almost like a little bit of a challenge to myself, but also for them to have an example, you know, it’s like, you know, going to good schools, having a long resume, all these things isn’t enough. You have to be willing to put yourself out there because you have that knowledge, that message kept inside of you, and unless you’re willing to put yourself out there, nothing, none of that matters, none of that.

 

Anthony (host): 

How did you put yourself out there? When you decided that you wanted to get back into the workforce, what did those first steps look like?

 

Jess (guest):

Filled out an application. It’s no different than anything else, and wherever you’re applying, it’s the same nerves. When you’ve been in the workforce for six years, you know, and I always remember, and I think I mentioned, you know, my dad being an entrepreneur from a very, very young age. My father always said to me, “I don’t care where you’re interviewing, whether you’re interviewing at McDonald’s or you’re interviewing on Wall Street. You wear a three-piece suit. The jacket and the bottoms match. It’s a conservative color. Your hair is done, your jewelry is conservative. Like, this is not the time to show off your style. You show up like you want that job, and you mean business.” 

 

Jess (guest):

And I always took that to heart. And I remember my first job when I was 15, I interviewed at a retail, a junior’s clothing store which doesn’t even exist anymore. I think it was called 579. It doesn’t even exist anymore. But I rolled up to that interview in my tiny little suit, and I walked in. All the girls were like, “You know, who is this? Who’s this girl?” But I got the job. And quite honestly, I think I’ve probably gotten 80% of the jobs I’ve ever applied for. And that is why. It’s because I show up like I mean it, like I take it seriously, like the consummate professional.

 

Jess (guest):

And I think even in this day and age, an age of virtual working, that still matters because the way you show up is your personal brand. And the way you do something is the way you’re gonna do everything, right? Show up perfect, your work’s going to be perfect. Shows that you’re going to take it seriously, shows that you’re going to follow through. So my dad, brilliant man. Still is.

 

Anthony (host): 

That’s great. Good old dad.

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah, we celebrated his 70th birthday two weeks ago. So…

 

Anthony (host): 

That’s awesome.

 

Jess (guest):

He’s still rocking it.

 

Anthony (host): 

I’m curious. How would you counsel somebody who is in the throes of looking for work now, in this digital-first era, where you’re applying somewhat blindly through job boards? How do you get seen? How do you rise above the noise? It’s one thing, you know, in the old days, where you can show up in your three-piece suit, and you can really make a statement there in person. They can see you. They can get your energy. But here, like, I hear so many stories from people, they’re like, “Man, I’ve submitted resumes for 50 jobs, and I can’t even get a callback.”

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah, and that is hard. And it’s discouraging. And I do get that. And I think again, kind of like what we talked about before, taking the sort of digital and applying it to the brick and mortar, and vice versa, just because it is digital, you know, you’re filling out an application online, and nobody knows you from a can of paint. 

 

Jess (guest):

We have all of these tools at our disposal now. So go above and beyond. Didn’t ask for a video? Make one. Right? Show up, show up big again. Turn that volume up. If you’re the person who communicates great on video, make a video. If you’re somebody who loves to do creative writing, I’ve written hilarious applications. And I’ve gotten a callback because people are like, “I’m sorry. I just want to know what kind of crazy person puts this.” You know, like, “I will steal the food out of your work refrigerator if that looks good. Like, I love sushi! And if there’s sushi in there, I’m taking it.” Like, and they’re like, “You’re insane. Who writes that?” I’m like, “You know, that’s just my per… That’s how I felt that day. That was my personality. If you’re not gonna call me anyway, I have nothing to lose,” right? 

 

Jess (guest):

So I think, you know, that’s a big piece of it, honestly, is like number one, showing your personality, not being afraid to do more than they ask for, or something different than they ask for. Because again, you’re gonna have a novel solution to a problem if you’re doing something different than what they ask for. Some people are gonna love it. Some people are gonna hate it. 

 

Jess (guest):

But also, you know, it’s a huge feather in your cap to sort of show that persistence. And, you know, in the face of all that. So I think it’s the persistence. But it’s also just that willingness to take a risk. And again, you know, big risks, big rewards. You know, you have to be willing to take a risk, even when it’s scary.

 

Jess (guest):

You know, and something I have… My best friend is a coach, and something she always says to me, and I think it’s such a brilliant way to reframe that, is like, the feeling in your belly you feel when you’re really nervous is the same feeling you feel when you’re really excited. So take that feeling of like, “Well, I’m gonna throw up.” And she’s like, “You should do something every day that makes you feel like you’re gonna throw up,” because it’s either risky as hell and you’re terrified, or you’re excited, you know. 

 

Jess (guest):

So, and it’s true. Like, if you’ve ziplined, it’s that feeling, right? You’re like, right on the border of like, terrified but like, this is going to be so fun, right? So, that feeling, turn that feeling of nerves and feeling kind of down and feeling not good about yourself and say, “You know, maybe it’s… Maybe the next best thing is around the corner for me, you know.” So it’s kind of exciting to be starting at the bottom and kinda figuring it out.

 

Anthony (host): 

It’s something I try to teach my kids on a regular basis. That growth kind of happens at the uncomfortable edges, as I put it. If you’re doing something you’re a little bit nervous about, that’s probably a good thing.

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah.

 

Anthony (host): 

Tell me about… Let’s sort of fast forward again. We sort of rewound a little bit, but let’s fast forward, back to making that transition into a fractional. How did you feel about that? How did your ego take that, going from a full-time job to sort of almost in a way, being forced into this fractional thing?

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah, I mean, it was… I didn’t always have the word “fractional” to lean on, and I think I mentioned a little bit about sort of feeling like I’d hit the SEO lottery. I kind of started calling myself that because I didn’t really feel good about saying, you know, like, I don’t have this 9-to-5 anymore. Like, I’m not, you know, I’m not employ… Nobody wants me for 40 hours a week, right? And like, I’m kind of like piecing stuff together. And initially, that really didn’t feel great because it felt like…

 

Jess (guest):

And even the long resume thing is like, I always felt like people interviewed me out of morbid curiosity, like, who has a resume this long, and has done all of these things, like, I need to meet this person, right? And I always… And they’re always like, “Wow, like, you’ve really never stayed anywhere.” And it was kind of always this feeling. It’s a very, you know, sort of non-traditional. People kind of turn their nose up at it like, “What’s wrong with this girl that she’s never stayed anywhere?”

 

Jess (guest):

And in the fractional space, that’s a superpower, being able to sort of have all of these talents and do all of these things and wear all these hats, especially for somebody who has a really small budget and maybe doesn’t have, you know, a small to medium-sized business that doesn’t have millions of dollars to spend on their C-suite. Right? I can pop in for a couple of hours a week. 

 

Jess (guest):

So to kind of go back to your original question, it definitely was a blow to my ego in the beginning, until I realized that in order to truly be of service to these small and medium-sized businesses, I had to get over myself and kind of stop feeling bad about the fact that… And I’m like, “Hey, you know, if I can help somebody 5 hours, 10 hours a week,” I’m not… I’m gonna say yes to everything. 

 

Jess (guest):

So in the beginning, that was the biggest shift, I think, from when I started out as a fractional to like where I am now, is in the beginning I said yes to everything. Didn’t matter what it was. You want me to do a design project? Sure. Done. You want me to, you know, run an event? Sure. Done. I said yes to everything I could do. 

 

Jess (guest):

The biggest lesson now is like, just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should, right? So now I say no to a lot of things that I didn’t originally, like, you know. Now I’m like, I don’t… I can do it. I just don’t want to. There’s certain things I just won’t touch, because I don’t want to do them. So yeah, it was… It was tough in the beginning. But, you know, now I realize that it’s something really awesome, something really special. And it’s the way that I know how to take all of that life experience and all of these different things I’ve done and really… I’m very clear now. That was always my path. It was always my path.

 

Anthony (host): 

I want to hear about hitting the SEO lottery. What does that mean?

 

Jess (guest):

It means that I couldn’t think of how to say like, “I’ll come sit on your C-suite for 5 hours a week,” like I’m like, “Who wants that?” Like, so I couldn’t think of a way to say that. And I’d always find myself, and somebody would ask me what I did, like that kind of stammering thing where you’re like, “Well, you know, I’m kind of… It’s funny, you know,” and you kind of like you find yourself. And they’re like, “Okay, but like, what do you do?” 

 

Jess (guest):

So I find myself stammering and trying to elevator pitch what it was like. A five-minute explanation. So I stumbled upon the word “fractional.” And I’m like, “Huh! Kind of sexy.” It sounded a little bit… You know, I was like, “Oh, people are gonna ask, like, ‘What is that?’” People still do ask, right? So I just thought, “I’m gonna use this. It looks nice in my LinkedIn headline. It’s nice and concise.” You know, as a marketer, I’m like, “Yeah, three words. It’s great, you know? Fractional COO/CMO. Okay, nice and concise.” 

 

Jess (guest):

And what was so interesting is that I had that in my headline on LinkedIn and I started getting these weird… Not weird, but appointment bookings through my website. Now, at the time I had that one-page Wix website with the placeholder copy. And people are like, “Oh, you speak Latin.” I’m like, “Nope, that’s placeholder copy. Definitely not Latin.” 

 

Jess (guest):

And so I’m like, “How are people finding me? This is so bizarre.” So I would ask people when they would book these calls. I’m like, “I am just curious, it wasn’t a referral. How did you find me?” And they were like, “Oh, I Googled fractional COO.” And I’m like, “Oh, my God! They Googled me!” 

 

Jess (guest):

So my husband, our dinner… I’m with my family, and I’m like, “This is so weird. I’m like, I just got another one of those bookings.” And he was like, “Okay.” And I was like, “She wrote, she found me on Google.” He was like, “So?” I Googled myself. I go, “Here I am.” I’m like Terrell Owens. I’m like, “Google me,” all like… I Googled myself. And there I was at number one on Google, not my website, but my LinkedIn profile was number one when you Googled “fractional COO.”

 

Anthony (host): 

So you hadn’t done any link building. You hadn’t filled out title tags. You hadn’t… You still had the default Latin blurb on there.

 

Jess (guest):

On the website that I built myself.

 

Anthony (host): 

But it wasn’t your website. It was your LinkedIn page that was showing.

 

Jess (guest):

Yes, yes. But then they would, through there, they would find my website in my profile, and then they’d go to my website and they’d use the call booking link. That did work on my website, we’ll say that.

 

Anthony (host): 

That part worked.

 

Jessica Spino:

Definitely worked. I can build a funnel, no doubt. But it was just bizarre. So that was really funny, and that was probably like two and a half years ago. So now, fractional has become a little bit of a buzzword, and I think just due to post-COVID life where, you know, budgets are smaller, where people are all working virtually, it’s really appealing to have somebody that can pop in for 5 to 10 hours a week. You’re paying them a part-time salary, but they’re bringing with them all of the experience of a full-time staffer. So it’s really appealing now. So you’re seeing lots and lots more of it, because obviously the demand is there. And I’m seeing all kinds of fractional communities popping up and all of these different things. And I’ve actually had people come to me and say, “You know, I have a full-time job. I’m over it. How do I do what you’re doing? How do I become a fractional?” That sounds exciting. You know, and it’s not for everybody, right? Some people want to go and kind of dig in and be with the same person 40 hours a week and learn all the things, and really be… You know, for me, I know myself. Hence long resume. I get bored. You know, I like different projects. I like to constantly be building my skill set. So for me, it’s really kept me… It’s the job I’ve stayed at the longest of all those ones on the resume. So it’s the way… You know, it’s the way I think. It’s the way I build things, and it’s always been my path. I really do think.

 

Anthony (host): 

You said that you have been saying no to a lot more things now. You’re sort of in the enviable position of, you know, you can be more choosy. How would you describe the ideal client for you? Who is a good fit?

 

Jess (guest):

Oh, man. Number one, definitely needs to be high integrity and, like myself, really clear on who they are and not afraid to let everybody know that. I think it’s really easy to copy someone and try to be just like them. But it’s much harder to sort of stand up and say who you really are. So those are… That is absolutely a prerequisite for me. I absolutely also want to work with somebody who has something to sell.

 

Jess (guest):

So in the beginning, I would say yes to a lot of people who were really… who were building a business, and I think this was a remnant of kind of working for an international business coach. She worked with lots of people who didn’t have a program yet or didn’t have a business yet, and were trying to figure out their brand, who they were, what they sold. I’ve realized, sort of in my sort of sweet spot of what I like to do, I’m not… I love branding, but that’s… I don’t market myself as a branding specialist. So working with people and trying to market something that doesn’t exist yet is really challenging for me. And it’s just not my sweet spot.

 

Jess (guest):

So that’s something I will say no to now, is like, do you have a proven product? Do you have a proven system? Because if you don’t, it’s gonna make our work together a lot harder. And this includes startups. I’ve worked for a couple of startups, like software companies or similar things. It’s been really challenging because they don’t have a product. I don’t know what the benefits are. I don’t even know how to talk about what the cost is, because sometimes they don’t even know yet. You know, they know what the price is, but they don’t know what the cost is. So they don’t have a budget for marketing, and I’m like, “Well, there’s only so much I can do with Mailchimp or Gmail. We need to track. We need to look at metrics. We need to proceduralized. 

We need SOPs. We need all these things. We need a meeting structure. You don’t even know who’s on your team right now.” So these types of things, those are the things I will say no to right now, and I didn’t always. But I’ve learned, you know, not that… I think startups are amazing. It’s just not for me. I want to take something that’s awesome and tell everybody it’s awesome. That’s my sweet spot for sure.

 

Anthony (host):

 Just tell me about your Wall Street bestselling book, “Born to Rise.” What was the inspiration behind writing this book?

 

Jess (guest):

So again, it was kind of a really interesting network thing. I worked for… I had a client who wrote her own solo book. And then she… I met her publisher, and her publisher was like, “Oh, my gosh!” She’s like, “You are just like a ball of fire energy,” whatever. She was like, “I would love… We’re working on this project. I would love to feature your story.” So it was… Really, it was an interesting process, because I never expected to really bond with the 21 other women that wrote their stories as well. We did some in-person retreats. We were all over the country, but we came together a couple of times in Rhode Island. My publisher is… just to meet, and it was like this instant bond.

 

Jess (guest):

And what was really interesting, too, is that as much as I had done the work to heal from sort of the trauma of being in a really… I’ll just go ahead and say, abusive job situation with my other boss and really feeling very much taken advantage of in that situation. I’ve done a lot of work to resolve that and to try to… You know, by nature, we’re all, you know, people… We have these tendencies. I was very codependent. And a narcissist needs a codependent, right? So I did a lot of questioning, like, “Why? How did I get… How did I fall for this? I’m smart. How did I get in this situation where I allowed myself to be controlled like this, or manipulated like this?”

 

Jess (guest):

So it was interesting, because, despite all the work I’d done, the process of writing the book brought a lot of that trauma back up where things that I felt like I had healed, I really needed to rework on. And it’s good. It’s a good reminder that, like, you were here. Now you’re here. You can always go back there. So never stop working. It was a really good, solid reminder of that. So, you know, just telling the process… telling the story, and kind of working through the process was really the experience of that. I was much, much prouder of than the finished product. Love the finished product, never expected to have it be a bestseller. We never thought that that was even a possibility. So that was just the cherry on top. It truly was the experience of writing it that was my prize.

 

Jess (guest):

And I did. You know, it was a funny process, because everybody’s like, “Oh, how long did it take?” And it’s just a chapter. I’m not, you know, it’s not a solo author, you know. I’m not gonna get carried away with what a great accomplishment it was! People are like, “Oh, my gosh! It must have been…” I was terrified, ’cause I was afraid my ex-boss might come back, even though I didn’t use her name or anything like that. I’m like, “What if she comes back? What if she sues me?” You know, all of these things start kind of going through your head of what could happen. But it was actually really funny, because… And everybody who knows me knows this will come up in this interview. But my husband and I are really into bourbon. So I’m a bourbon collector. We’re like… We started during COVID. I’m 70 bottles in now. We’re really into it. We’re in a club. So… But it was the funniest thing, because he literally… My kids are wrecking something upstairs. He literally dropped me off at a bourbon bar with my laptop, and he said, “I’ll pick you up in a couple of hours.” So I sat there like Ernest Hemingway with my big old neat bourbon, and I just said, “When this glass is empty, fill it.” And I just wrote, and, you know, then he came pick me up, and I was like, “Chapter’s done.” He was like, “Oh, my God, woman!”

 

Anthony (host): 

A few hours and a couple glasses of bourbon, huh?

 

Jess (guest):

Good bourbon, and I mean, that’s… So I said I wrote… Everybody says, “How’d you do it?” And I said I wrote it like Hemingway. Sat there, had a couple, had a couple of whiskies, and, you know, it was done.

 

Anthony (host): 

Now, aside from the process of writing that chapter, that book, I’m curious to hear more about the personal development work that you did to, as you said, heal those wounds from that prior experience.

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah. So one of my first clients, and again, the universe will send you exactly what you need, right? One of my first clients when I left her was a psychotherapist. And it was really, really interesting that that was one of my first big clients after I left, because, you know, I remember just coming to her kind of small, you know, broken, kind of like, “Oh, work for whatever you pay me.” And she was like, “You know, you come super highly recommended.” It was a client from the other, you know, boss, that had recommended me, and she was like, “You know, you’re amazing. Why are you so quiet?” Like, “Why are you so quiet?” But I was small. I was always looking for direction, and she was like, “You know more than… You know more than I do. I hired you because you’re great. Go do it!”

 

Jess (guest):

And she was the one who actually really gave me the word “narcissist” and “narcissistic abuse” for what I had been through. I knew I was codependent. That’s… I come from a long line of codependent women. We’re a big Italian family, where you gotta take care of everyone. So that I knew that I was codependent, but I had never before thought, “I’m an abuse survivor.” And I knew somewhere inside of me, and my husband had been saying it for years. The whole time I was with her, he was like, “You… You’re like a battered wife. You just keep going back, and she just keeps doing this to you over and over, and you just keep going back, and it’s enough.” And at the time, you know, I was working 70-hour weeks. It was just insane, like I was answering, you know, passive-aggressive text threads at my daughter’s dance recitals, and just… It was nuts, you know, and I look back at it now and I’m like… So I think to answer your question in a very long-winded way, I think the work that I did was just being confronted with the reality once I was out of it, and really looking at it and holding a mirror up to myself and saying, “You can see this in everyone else.” I was the first one… I mean, you can see from me that I’m right on the surface with everything. I’m a very strong woman. I speak my mind. I’m not afraid of anything. So I would have told anyone to their face, “What are you doing?” You can see this in anyone. But I couldn’t see it myself, in myself, when I was in it. So that was what was so interesting about that process.

 

Jess (guest):

So I think, you know, between working with, you know, that psychotherapist, and then really seeing myself and realizing physically how much better I felt when I was away from it. That was what kept me honest, because in the course of working with her, I developed all these really strange health things, like vertigo, digestive issues, severe muscle pain, like really weird things. And I had three different doctors tell me, “You’re literally killing yourself with work.” I was like, “No, no, no, I’m good. I’m good. She’s flying me all over the world. I was in seven countries in three years.” What? The Kardashians bought us dinner. I’m like, “What do you mean she’s killing me? This is amazing,” you know. And I… I couldn’t face the reality of the fact that I was… It was a really, really poor trade-off that I was making.

 

Jess (guest):

So I think it was feeling great was really part of the way I did the work too, was like, if you want to keep feeling like this, you need to stop it, you know. So that was a lot of the work I did, and just really being aligned with people that supported me through the process and really, like, supported my continued healing, and, you know, called out what they saw, and they’re like, “You know, you needed to come to that yourself. You were crazy when you worked with her.” So it was really enlightening, and I’m grateful for the people who stuck it out with me, as I, you know, came back to reality.

 

Anthony (host): 

Tell me about your role at Mallory Ericsson.

 

Jess (guest):

Oh, Mallory. Okay, so Mallory… Mallory is the only person that I’ve ever considered truly since I’ve been fractional, ever considered churning it in for, just saying, “Yep.”

 

Anthony (host): 

Working full-time for. The one you’ve thought about.

 

Jess (guest):

Working full-time. The one. Like, I could do this forever. And the reason is, is like, when we talked about what I look for in a client, she checks all those boxes. She is constantly over-delivering in everything she does. Her mission is a really, really noble one. So she works with nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, nonprofit professionals to help them raise more for their organizations, but in an aligned and sort of non-gross way, if that makes sense. So without all the things that nonprofit, you know, that fundraisers have to do to get donors, and all of that stuff. And having come from the nonprofit sector, I know firsthand what that felt like of, “Oh, I’m constantly hounding people for money. I’m constantly… I hate asking. I hate asking.” And the way that she reframes that in her program is really beautiful. And it’s really based on aligned relationships, which is, you know, a huge piece of, like, what I love about even just, you know, kind of the way you found me and reached out to me, that’s all alignment, whether we know it or not. That finds us even when we’re not looking for it. And I think in any business, that’s the same thing, right?

 

Jess (guest):

So with her, I love what she stands for. I love what she does, and on top of just professionally, she is literally probably just one of the kindest, most brilliant, incredible people I’ve ever had the pleasure to know. And it was funny because I actually jumped in… She was… I jumped in just to support her. She had gone through some staff transitions due to, you know, some personal stuff they had going on, and she was actually 36 weeks pregnant when I came on her team. And I came in to support her just as sort of like in a marketing assistant, basically, because she had this transition. I saw it on Instagram. My best friend had followed her, and she was like, “Oh, you should just apply for this.” She’s like, “It’s… You gotta be comfortable with the tech stack. You’ll just crush this. She just needs help for like a month.” What? “Until she, you know, or two months till she comes back from maternity leave.”

 

Jess (guest):

So I jump in. I’m working with her. Within a week, she goes, “I wanna have a touch base with you at the end of your first week to just make sure you don’t need anything,” da-da-da. So we get on the call, and we both like… I was like, “Hi!” She goes, “Hi!” And I’m like, “You go first.” She goes, “I really want you to work with me full-time.” She goes, “I need a COO so bad. I’m always one-on-one.” And I was like, “Oh, my God, I was gonna say the same thing.” So it’s just this weird thing, because, literally, we both were thinking the same thing. I was like, “I want to be this woman’s business…”

 

Anthony (host): 

Within the first week.

 

Jess (guest):

Within the first week, I was like, “I literally wanna be this woman’s business partner. We can create such magic together. And I feel it. I’m like, if she can, will give me the opportunity, I feel it.” Well, the next week, she went into labor early. So I had been with her for two weeks, and I was like, “Hey, we’ll see you in February.” So it was wild, because literally, I jumped right in. And, like, you know, we just worked it out, and I was… We were texting, and she’s like, “Hold on! I have a baby in my lap,” you know, and we just figured it out, and I think that’s… It was again alignment, right? It was just… She knew it would be right, and I knew it’d be right, and we both called it out. And, you know, it’s not without we’ve definitely had some hiccups. We had some hiccups in our last launch, just due to kind of planning the launch separately and what she had envisioned and what I had envisioned were different. So then we were actually both, you know, coming together. And she was like, “Wait, I thought this,” and I’m like, “Wait, I thought that.” So, you know, we definitely’ve had some hiccups. But I always say to her, we kind of look back, and she was like, “You are not ever getting rid of me,” and I’m like, “Perfect.” And I’m like, “Someday when we’re sitting on our multi-multi-million-dollar empire and looking back, we’ll be like, ‘Remember when we were first married and we had those super ugly curtains from Sears, and we got in a fight because you bought $20 ratchet set without asking me?’” She’s like, “What are you talking about?” I’m like, “We were newlyweds, and we’re gonna look back someday and think about how small and how ugly it was.” And, you know, not in any way is it small and ugly, but it can be so much prettier and so much bigger. And we’re gonna do that together. So it’s just… It’s awesome. So every once in a while, I’m like, “I’m sorry about that thing I screwed up. But someday we’re gonna look back at the ugly curtains, and we’re gonna laugh.” So sorry.

 

Anthony (host):

 I’m looking at her website, malloryericsson.com.us.

 

Anthony (host): 

“I help nonprofits fundraise more from the right donors so they can stop pounding people for money.” And this goes to what you were saying. Sort of takes the ickiness out of it. But what does that look like? How are you getting money from people without hounding them for it?

 

Jess (guest):

By treating them like people. That’s it, by… And part of her process and part of the system is really something she calls funder mapping. So it’s really looking at what you have to give as an organization. And it’s not the same for every organization, but what your unique assets are and how they actually fit.

 

Jess (guest):

So I think part of what she talks about is that a lot of people will look at, you know… And this goes for not even not-for-profits. This goes for, you know, traditional business as well, is, you look at somebody and you’re like, “Okay, so let’s say, for example, that I’m a… Oh, my gosh! I can’t even think of a good example, but a charity for young athletes, for example. So then, you start looking at every tangential thing that might in some way be related to sports, and these are the people you go after for funding.”

 

Jess (guest):

Now, on paper that makes sense. You’re like, “They like sports. We like sports. Yes, they should partner with us and give us money.” Right? But at the end of the day, they are looking for… There needs to be a fit, and more than just your interest. It means it needs to be a fit on their timeline, and how they give, on how often, you know, what time of year they’re actually making their contributions, what they’re looking for. So what holes can our organization fill in their organization? Right?

Jess (guest):

And, you know, something I’ve always said… And even, you know, back when I worked in nonprofit is like, you know, having somebody sponsor you is not charity. It’s marketing, right? So you have to think about the shared audience. It’s… You’re not thinking about, “Oh, yes, they really want to give money, and I really want to take money. So this is a perfect alignment.” That’s not at all how it works. You have to be thinking about, “Where is the overlap between your audience? Where’s the overlap between what they offer and what I need?” Right? And that’s the place. So she really talks about in her whole system… It’s much more eloquent than what I just said, but she talks about really just aligning, making it a match and not just an ask. It’s an offer.

 

Anthony (host):

 Less about…

 

Jess (guest):

Because it’s… It’s what… It’s I give.

 

Anthony (host): 

“Please give me money, because we’re a noble cause.” It’s more about…

 

Jess (guest):

It’s a win-win. Yeah, it’s a win-win.

 

Anthony (host): 

“We have some of the same audience. Why don’t you… Why don’t you do a sponsorship where your name shows up in all of these places, and we promote you in these different ways?”

 

Jess (guest):

So, and a lot of what she does is really cool, too, because she does a lot of speaking. She does a lot of content partnerships, and really just, you know, customizing different training packages for their organizations as well. So it’s… She’s really offering something of tremendous value to her content partners. So it’s really like a… just… I love her whole model. I love everything she stands for. She’s also a mom of two girls. So in a lot of ways, we just feel really, really aligned. And I think we complement each other. Well, we both are very, very fast. We’re both like a thousand miles a minute with everything. So I think she really needs someone like that to keep up with her, and in that way we’re very, very much the same. But where she tends to be the pretty traditional visionary in a lot of ways, I’m very much the traditional implementer in a lot of ways. I can play both roles. But I am happiest when I’m like, “Okay, you… This is my, you know, we’re here. Now just tell me what point B is. We’re point A, tell me what point B is, and I’m gonna build the system to get us there, stop talking then, let me just do my thing.” So that’s really where I’m happiest, and that’s… She loves that. She’s like, “I don’t want to know the details. But I wanna look at your pretty project plan where we’re all done.” I’m like, “Okay, perfect. That sounds great.” So it’s… She’s the one.

 

Anthony (host): 

It’s a good marriage.

 

Jess (guest):

She’s the one.

 

Anthony (host): 

You mentioned content. You mentioned content partners. How does that fit into the process there?

 

Jess (guest):

So she has an amazing podcast as well called “What the Fundraising.” You know I love that. I’m a little sweary. So she has, you know, different partners that actually provide sort of auxiliary services for nonprofits. So she has different tech partners or different things, and she will work with them to, you know, promote them on her podcast. She does a lot of mini-series episodes where she’ll actually have certain sort of pillars of her program. And she will feature them, you know, sort of co-hosting some of these different pillars. So she’ll have things like, you know, community, and where there’s an overlap, she’ll pick, you know, a guest who specializes in talking about community, and then it’s all aligned and kind of flows seamlessly if she has a content partner who focuses on building communities. So it’s really cool sort of aligned way. And again, she creates those resources… A lot of times she’ll have a content partner that will sponsor a course. So then she’ll create the course, and they’ll work together to promote it, and then everybody that goes through the course can go through free as a result of, because the sponsor is kind of, you know, paying for it or taking care of the administrative cost. So it’s a really nice way to, you know, get the knowledge out in the world, do something we’re super proud of, and just continue to kind of put money into the sector that’s really in a tight place right now.

 

Anthony (host): 

I want to hear about this upcoming live event series that you’re working on, the Blue Sky Sisterhood. How did this come about? What is it?

 

Jess (guest):

So again, you know, we talked a little bit about legacy, and really how I want to leave a legacy for my daughters, and that’s one way that I feel like I can do that. And part of that is, it’s a really interesting thing when you see your kids become people. So when they go from being these little teeny, you know, needy things to then suddenly developing their own interests and their own personalities, and I mean, you have, you know, younger kids, but you can already see that happening, right? It’s like, despite your best efforts to steer them in a certain direction, they will eventually develop their own interests and their own opinions, which is great.

 

Jess (guest):

So something that I’ve noticed is, I’ve noticed a lot of their interest in what I do, because I guess by most accounts I sort of have a non-traditional career. When you put me up against the doctors and the lawyers, and, you know, people that sort of, you know, teachers even, which is in my past, but kind of a career that I’ve sort of figured out on my own, and kind of just seen a hole in the market and life experiences. And all these things kind of came together in this beautiful little recipe, and we made this nice cake. So what I feel is missing a lot, especially with girls, is the ability to find that hole in the market. Find that thing you’re interested in and create that harmony, like, how is what you’re interested in… And not on Mallory’s program, like, “What are you interested in, and how? What do people need? And what can I monetize there?”

 

Jess (guest):

So the Blue Sky Sisterhood is really built around this sort of what I call the Three V Framework. So number one is sort of vision, right? That’s the fun part. That’s where you say, “Okay, if I could do anything and somebody would pay me to do it, what would I do?” Right? That’s the fun part where you paint the dreamy vision and the beautiful picture with all the colors of what you would be doing, and what your life would look like. Right? So that’s number one. Number two is value. So take that picture. And what in that picture will somebody pay for? Right? Because they’re not gonna pay… They’re not gonna pay me to dance and sing on stage. Would I love to do that? Yes, unless it is a comedy club, nobody will be paying, right? So, taking the thing that you can actually monetize, right? And that’s kind of part of the hard part. Because that’s the market research. That’s looking at, “Okay, what are people that are doing this profession making? And does that align with my vision?” Right? Because maybe I wanna do this, but maybe it’s not gonna match, you know, the Bugatti I wanna drive, so what is that gonna look like?

 

Jess (guest):

And then the third piece is viability, right? So taking those two things, the vision and the value, and actually making your business plan. What kinds of skills do I need to have to make this vision viable, right? If I’m gonna have people pay for this, what do I need to be? What do I need to do? What skills do I need to gather to make this a real job, right? And I think that’s a huge piece of what’s missing. And now, as I have a daughter who’s a sophomore in a college preparatory school. So this is a huge piece of it. She’s thinking about colleges, but she has no idea what to even study. She’s like, “Well, I like this. I like that. But I wanna do this.” Nobody tells kids, you know. And I’m a perfect example of that. I wanted to do what I thought my father did, which was food science. But what he actually did was sales, right? He did sales and marketing, and that’s what I loved. I didn’t want to mess with any formulas. I don’t want to pour anything into a beaker, anything like that. So I think that’s a huge piece that’s missing is, not just with girls, with boys, too, and maybe Blue Sky Brotherhood will be next.

 

Jess (guest):

But how do we teach kids to translate their interest into things that will prevent them from having to switch their major, how do we get it right out of the gate, you know? And that’s a larger, you know, social issue, is just dumping money into education and then no promises on the way out, though, by the way, you know, as somebody who had a master’s in education and had a really fun time trying to get a job after I graduated. I was teaching at a Catholic school, making $15,000 a year with the master’s in education. So something’s broken in that system, which… That was the job I could find, right? With an Ivy League education and a master’s, that’s what I had. So, you know, again, there were no promises when I graduated. So something is not right there. So let’s just skip that whole part and get kids to the point where they can do something that’s gonna light them up and make them feel excited about work that maybe isn’t traditional. But that’s gonna be something that the world actually needs, you know. And how do we bridge that gap? So, you know, the Three V Framework is definitely part of the way we think about that. I definitely don’t have all the answers, but it’s in the exploration that I think the magic happens. So I’m here to explore it with these girls and their moms and help them support each other in this sort of sisterhood. So that’s where the idea comes from. Coming soon.

 

Anthony (host): 

Is there a website that people can visit, a form they can fill out to be notified when…

 

Jess (guest):

Yes, yes. But it’s ready.

 

Anthony (host): 

…it’s ready?

 

Jess (guest):

There is. So there is blueskysisterhood.com. And I promise there’s no placeholder copy on that website. The form works. It’s not in Latin, and I would love to hear from you if you have ideas or just interest. And also, I will, you know, have people featured on stage that also have interesting professions. So I would love to hear from other women kind of living the dream like myself.

 

Anthony (host): 

And what about the book? Where can people find the book?

 

Jess (guest):

The book is on Amazon. I know some Barnes & Nobles have it as well. It is “Born to Rise.” And yeah, we’re pretty much anywhere books are sold, you can get that as well.

 

Anthony (host): 

Are there any specific tools or vendors or pieces of technology that you find particularly helpful in running your business?

 

Jess (guest):

Oh, I love Canva so much. I really do. I was at a conference back in 2017 or ’18, I can’t remember, Digital Marketer, which is a big one. And that’s in San Diego, and Guy Kawasaki was there, who’s the chief evangelist at Canva, and I met him, and I totally blubbered and fangirled like an idiot. I was like… And it was the funniest thing, ’cause my friend took a picture of us, and in the picture I’m literally beat red and, you know, Disney World face. So my friend took a picture, and she was like, “You should send it to him.” I’m like, “Okay, you’re an idiot, but I’m going to ’cause that’s who I am.” So I did. I sent him an email. And I was like… And I made like a Ca… I made like a Canva frame around it, like a little scrapbook. And I was like…

 

Anthony (host): 

Well, explain what that means for people who aren’t familiar with Canva.

 

Jess (guest):

Okay. So Canva is basically graphic design program. It’s like a cloud-based graphic design program that is drag-and-drop. So if you’re an aspiring graphic designer, but have no, you know, don’t do Photoshop or anything like that, it’s got all the tools right out of the box that you can literally… If you can dream it, you can design it. You drag all the stuff on, and then you add your fonts, and you can make… I mean, magnificent things. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that I’ve done on Canva, I mean, print ready, beautiful PDF, everything. So I made a pretty little, you know, graphic designed frame around it. And I found his email. And I emailed it to him. And I said, “This is for your scrapbook.” And he emailed me back.

 

Anthony (host): 

What did he say?

 

Jess (guest):

He wrote… He was like, “I will absolutely save it. It was very nice to meet you.” He was like, “I have no idea who you are, and you are crazy.” And I’m…

 

Anthony (host): 

And I’m…

 

Jessica Spino:

 I promise I won’t come to your house. But I was just… I was like, this is what I mean, this is a man who found a hole in the market and was like, “This… There are lots of people who have great visions for design, but maybe they’re not tech people. So let’s give them digital scrapbooking.” I mean, that’s essentially what it is, right? You just drag all the stuff on the paper and you stick it there, and brilliant, brilliant, changed the game for so many people.

 

Anthony (host): 

And this is… You kind of… There’s some inspiration here for the Blue Sky Sisterhood…

 

Jessica Spino:

 I mean, yes and no. I think it’s really just the idea of sort of taking that vision, what you like to do, what you know how to do, and then making it, bringing it to market and giving other people that opportunity. So I think he just really, you know, found a hole in the market and built it, and I would love for our daughters to all be able to do that, maybe not with the product, but maybe with a service, or maybe with, you know, some other sort of work, you know. And again, you know, an example of that is my daughter Sophia. When she was little, she loved animals, and she always talked about how much she loved animals. I mean, she was bitten by a dog. I’m not kidding you. And on the way to get her one little stitch, she’d be like, “I still love all my animals. Just some animals are not nice.” She still loved animals, so this was like crazy. But people would always say to her, like from when she was super tiny, she’d be like, you know, they’re like, “Oh, what do you love?” And she was like, “I just… I love dogs. I love cats.” And they’re like, “Oh, are you gonna be a veterinarian?” And I’m like, “Okay, that’s the logical choice. But surely there are more jobs for people who love animals than veterinarian.”

 

Jess (guest):

So like, but really, this is what we’re doing. So she also loves to bake. And then we thought later, I’m like, “You know, maybe… Maybe the answer is, maybe you come up with some sort…” And we’ve noodled a lot of this, right? Maybe it’s not a dog treat bakery. Maybe you also love engineering. So maybe it’s creating equipment that takes a small-scale, you know, dog treat bakery and can actually mass produce. You know, you’re building the equipment that does that, you know, and mass produce really beautiful home-baked organic treats for dogs. I don’t know. Maybe that’s not the answer. But that’s the kind of thinking that I’m talking about. It’s taking the solution to the problem, and then going a little deeper and then going a little deeper. That’s how I want to see all of us think about what we’re presented with, not to necessarily make it more complicated, just to look at things that aren’t so obvious, you know. So there’s that creative option.

 

Anthony (host): 

Yeah, I like it. Yeah, I like it. ‘Cause you’re kind of… It’s almost like you’re drawing a bigger circle. That was kind of what I was envisioning as you were talking. So it’s like, “Oh, she loves animals. Oh, maybe she’ll be a vet.” There’s a small circle there that you’re thinking about. Yeah, that’s possible.

 

Jess (guest):

Right? Because that’s where people… That’s where people are really shaking things up and making a difference in a world where we have so much already. It’s these people that are willing to sort of step outside of that and say, “Okay, well, let’s give this a shot.” I mean…

 

Anthony (host): 

It’s sort of the obvious choice. But what are some of the non-obvious choices? If we kind of draw a bigger circle, what might fit into this?

 

Jess (guest):

That’s where the magic is. That’s the people who are going to change the world. And I know that we can all do that. We just have to be willing to sort of take that risk and really look at, you know, what’s out there, and what can we offer? And all of us can offer something.

 

Anthony (host):

Now I’m seeing in my head sort of a Venn diagram.

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah, with intersecting…

 

Anthony (host): 

Circles. It’s like, “Okay, I’m in. I love animals. But yeah, I’ve got some product ideas,” or “I’ve got some manufacturing experience.” Or… And how do… How can these circles sort of intersect?

 

Jess (guest):

And I think a huge piece, too, and I’m sure we’re way over time here. I think I’m just rattling away. But a huge piece of that, too, is that, I think, part of the resistance around allowing our children or encouraging our children to think that way is that as adults, it’s terrifying. Right? When your kid says to you, “I wanna be a professional athlete or a ballerina,” you go, “Oh, my God, how are you… Good! There’s so many people that want to do that. How are you gonna make money doing that? What?” You know, all the things, right?

 

Jess (guest):

So that’s not the kid’s problem. As a parent, our job is to guide them to thinking about what’s possible if that doesn’t work out, right? If it does work out, what kind of education do you need? What kind of training do you need to start now? How can I support you with the mental work of that, right? All of these things. And as an adult, as a parent, we don’t really want to do that work. It’s really scary for us. Really, don’t you just wanna be like, you know, something packaged like, “Don’t you just wanna, you know, if you wanna go to med school, there’s a path for that. It’s really hard, and it’s gonna be really expensive. But at least I know what the outcome will be.” That feels good to a parent to just know what boxes need to be checked, right? Now, if your kid says, “I wanna do something…” You know, if I told my parents, “You know, oh, you’re gonna send me to a private high school, best one in the area. Then after that, I’m gonna go to an Ivy League college. And then, after that, I’m gonna get a master’s degree. But, by the way, I’m gonna do something where I’m gonna work from home, and a large piece of it is going to be playing around on Canva and copywriting.” They’re gonna be like, “Yeah, okay. You know, just get your GED, you… You know, we’re investing hundreds of thousands of dollars to give you this top-level education that really you had within you all along.” Right? And that’s not to throw any shade into GED. But the point is, the education was never the point. It’s never the point. I didn’t even need it. Just figured it out.

 

Anthony (host): 

Jess, I have one more question for you before I get to it. What’s the best way for people to get in touch with you?

 

Jess (guest):

Oh, I love a full inbox. I would absolutely love people to email me or fill out the form on my website, which is jessspino.com. And it is… Yeah.

 

Anthony (host): 

J-E-S-S-S-P-I-N-O.

 

Jess (guest):

Yeah.

 

Anthony (host): 

Three S’s in there.

 

Jess (guest):

Three S’s. Yeah. And so if you go to that website, that is absolutely the best way. You’ll have links to all my email, to my socials. Fill up my DMs, fill up my email box, and I will write back to every single one of you just to tell me that I’m crazy, or that you love it, or whatever it is. I would love to hear from you.

 

Anthony (host): 

Okay. Last question, how do you see the space that you’re playing in, your industry right now, evolving in the next five years?

 

Jess (guest):

Well, I don’t know if it’s evolve. I think… Hmm! Maybe it is evolve. I don’t know. I think there’s a level of adaptation that needs to happen, and part of it is within us. It’s the mindset of just being able to… I think people are really, really afraid of a lot of stuff that’s coming. And I think we need to learn to sort of play nice with the technology that’s coming. And again, think of where we can complement each other, not to replace it. So a big example is AI and ChatGPT, and all this stuff coming up. You know, that stuff is not going away, but it’s also not going to replace us. It’s not possible. Maybe… I mean, maybe it is possible, but it’s not what I would want as a consumer. It’s not what a business should be doing, right? Nobody wants that. So we want people. We want things like that. So I think part of it is again, in the spirit of sort of finding those gaps, is looking at how we can work with technology instead of fighting it and use that ability to learn and actually grow ourselves.

 

Jess (guest):

So I use ChatGPT, and Copy.ai, and all these fun sort of AI tools in my business all the time. Am I copying and pasting from them? Absolutely not. But I’m absolutely having them scour the Internet and do research for me. So, you know, I mean, this is the world we’re in. I could be terrified of that, or I could embrace it and say, “Cool, makes my job a little bit easier. Instead of spending, you know, on Google spending three hours on Google, I can have… I can get really good at refining my prompts and get exactly what I need from AI in 30 seconds.” So just knowing what tools are out there is gonna eventually make your job a lot easier and learning to work with the technology. That’s how I think the space is going to evolve, and we just need to evolve with it.

 

Anthony (host): 

Jess, thanks so much for sharing your story with us today. I appreciate it.

 

Jess (guest):

Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

 

Anthony (host): 

That’s a wrap on another episode of The Inspired Stories Podcast. Thanks for learning with us today.