First, I wish someone had told me to do what you love and what you’re passionate about. I realized how important this is when I secured my very first press mention in Us Weekly magazine.
Many successful people reinvented themselves in a later period in their life. Jeff Bezos worked in Wall Street before he reinvented himself and started Amazon. Sara Blakely sold office supplies before she started Spanx. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was a WWE wrestler before he became a successful actor and filmmaker. Arnold Schwarzenegger went from a bodybuilder, to an actor to a Governor. McDonald’s founder Ray Croc was a milkshake-device salesman before starting the McDonalds franchise in his 50’s.
How does one reinvent themselves? What hurdles have to be overcome to take life in a new direction? How do you overcome those challenges? How do you ignore the naysayers? How do you push through the paralyzing fear?
In this series called “Second Chapters; How I Reinvented Myself In The Second Chapter Of My Life “ we are interviewing successful people who reinvented themselves in a second chapter in life, to share their story and help empower others.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Berson.
Jen is the President and Founder of Jeneration PR, a public relations & social media marketing firm specializing in promoting beauty, baby & lifestyle brands, as well as Profitable PR Pros, an online educational platform for PR agency owners that includes courses, resources, and the Profitable PR Pros Facebook community. Prior to founding Jeneration PR in 2005, Jen was a civil litigation attorney in Los Angeles.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Growing up, I always loved school, and I knew that I wanted to pursue an advanced degree after college (but I had no idea which field!).
When I was young, I was really creative. I spent lots of time making things like jewelry and crafts, and I loved all things fashion and beauty. But there was also this really academic, perfectionist part of my personality — I really wanted to make my parents proud and achieve big things for them.
I went to UC Santa Barbara for undergrad (Go Gauchos!), and ended up graduating with highest honors. I basically just showed up for all of my classes, took lots of notes, and regurgitated that information on all of my tests. I absolutely loved going to school up in SB! Living on the beach with an ocean view, packed in one house with 12 of your closest friends for $350 a month…? Yes, please!
I wasn’t sure what would be next for me after college, but I knew I wanted to stay in Santa Barbara for all of the summers while I was there, so I had to come up with a reason to stay. The summer between Junior & Senior year, I told my parents I was studying for the LSAT, which is the entrance exam for law school. And obviously, they were so excited and proud so I bought myself some time to stay up in SB while I spent the summer months studying and working as a bank teller at Wells Fargo. I ended up with a decent score on the LSAT, and was admitted to USC’s Gould School of Law.
In hindsight, I feel like I had ended up on this continuous path of pursuing success, without slowing down to examine what I actually wanted. It felt like a hamster wheel of achievement: I wanted to get into the best law school so I could get a top summer clerkship and end up with an associate position at a top law firm. And I did it! I ended up getting a summer position that paid really well, and so when the time came, I took the job I was offered, graduated, passed the bar exam, and purchased a house in Santa Monica.
The start of my career in law was a complete whirlwind, and I never actually stopped to self-reflect or see if it was what I truly wanted. I wasn’t pursuing my passions, but I was following what I thought would make my parents proud and make me feel successful.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
One of my favorite life lesson quotes came from a mentor I had early in my PR career. That mentor told me: “Less Jen equals more money.”
It sounds kind of simple, but that little piece of advice was really what helped me realize that, in order to grow my business, I would need to build out a team and give up some control (and some income). I realized how important it would be to take myself out of the day-to-day tasks in my business and focus on the things I am passionate about and best at.
After hearing that life lesson, I started to build a team to help me with all of the other important things happening in my business. That was really one of the very first times I experienced massive growth in my business — all by freeing myself up to do the most important things and learning to delegate and get support.
How would your best friend describe you?
I think my best friend Erika would describe me as fiercely loyal, incredibly supportive, and driven. I get along so well with her because we’re really similar in those traits! I actually just asked her and she said, “generous, caring, ambitious, and loving… to start!”
Honestly, I also think my husband (who’s my other best friend, of course!) would describe me in the same way. He would probably add that I’m a dedicated mother who’s always there for the people around her.
I’ve tried to embody all of those characteristics in my professional life and the online communities I’ve built for other PR professionals, too. Keeping those communities supportive, open, and welcoming (along with drama-free) is incredibly important to me.
You have been blessed with much success. In your opinion, what are the top three qualities that you possess that have helped you accomplish so much?
First, I think being super driven toward success has always helped me to accomplish my goals. Ever since I was young, I wanted to please my family and find success. I always pushed myself toward the next thing and worked to set bigger goals for myself (and then achieve them). Especially after experiencing a little bit of a challenging childhood, I really wanted my parents to be proud of me, and the roots of that have always driven me toward success. Even though I now have my own ideas of success and other goals that drive me forward, those roots helped initially push me to accomplish things in my career.
Next, I believe that having the ability to balance a lot of things at once has helped me succeed. A huge part of why I started my own business was so that I could have my professional life serve (and blend well with) my personal life. I always have a TON going on, and I’m the type of person who is able to balance and manage a lot of different projects and goals, both personally and professionally. This has really helped me find success in my agency — I can make sure my kids are getting their homework done while I’m growing my business — which I’m so grateful for! Running an agency with different clients requires a lot of bandwidth to do different things, and so I’m lucky to have had that quality throughout my life.
Finally, I’ll share the quality that I think is the MOST important for what’s led me to success. I really trust my instincts and bet on myself. When I make a decision, I try not to second-guess myself, because I know that I make all of my decisions based on what’s best for me, and what feels right. Even if it’s not the most popular decision, I’m willing to take a chance on what I believe in. A huge example of this is leaving my career in law to start my own PR agency (which we’ll get to more later!). I know that I’m resourceful enough to make things work, and that quality of believing in myself and trusting my own decisions has led me to accomplish more than I ever thought was possible.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about ‘Second Chapters’. Can you tell our readers about your career experience before your Second Chapter?
Before I started Jeneration PR and all of the other programs I’ve since worked on in my business, I was actually a civil litigation attorney practicing law in Los Angeles. I worked at a prestigious law firm and, by all definitions, I was successful in my field.
After almost four years of practicing law, though, I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted for my life. Law is incredibly intense and competitive, and I didn’t see a lot of women living the lifestyle I knew I wanted in the future. When I (kind of accidentally, actually!) started to discover public relations, I wasn’t just good at it, but also was super excited and passionate about it. That’s what led me to make the leap later on!
And how did you “reinvent yourself” in your Second Chapter?
I was really frustrated with the lack of creativity in law. But, more importantly, I was missing out on seeing female mentors who I could look to as role models and had the type of lifestyle I knew I wanted! I didn’t see many women who were finding success professionally while also having an abundant family life at home — and that’s something I knew I wanted.
I reinvented myself in a pretty bold move: I decided to leave my promising career in law at a top firm in LA, and start my own PR firm (with no experience, no training, and no contacts). It was a huge risk, but I’m so glad that I made that choice.
It’s changed my life for the better, and this Second Chapter has been so much richer with happiness and opportunities to find success in a way that I actually loved. I was able to get back to my creative roots and pursue what I really was passionate about on a more holistic level.
Another thing that comes to mind when you mention reinventing myself is actually just about how I have expressed myself to the world in my professional life.
Law is so formal. I remember having these really boring, monochrome business cards with a super formal font and no color. In my law career, I also only went by my full name, Jennifer. When I started my agency, I added so much color, life, and personality to my branding. Everything was so vibrant and felt like me, personified! I also started to go by Jen — and these changes might seem small, but I felt more like myself than ever before.
Can you tell us about the specific trigger that made you decide that you were going to “take the plunge” and make your huge transition?
The specific trigger that made me take the leap was actually kind of an accidental experience doing PR for a beauty brand! Let me share the story.
PR was not even on my radar when I was practicing law! But I discovered a fragrance company in Europe on my Bar trip and loved it so much that, when I ran out, I actually reached out to the company to purchase more because it was so hard to find in the US. The founder of that company personally thanked me for my order, and we formed an instant connection!
I started to realize that this brand was so beautiful and visually appealing, but had no meaningful retail presence or consumer demand here in the States. So I offered to help them create that presence. I asked her to send me a big box of products — perfume, body lotion, bar soap — and offered to help get the products to celebrities and featured in the media. I couldn’t believe she’d send a stranger on the internet so much free stuff, but she actually went for it!
At the time, I didn’t even realize what this service was (or that someone could charge for it!), but I landed a print placement in US Weekly Magazine and it immediately started to drive sales and retail inquiries for this company. I was amazed that it had such an immediate, significant impact on them. It was a tangible result (one that I could physically hold in my hands!) that positively impacted a business I loved and believed in.
Being able to support brands and entrepreneurs in this way was kind of addicting — it felt amazing! In my career as a litigator, everything was about tearing companies down through protracted and costly litigation. I much preferred building up businesses and experiencing impactful results almost instantly.
At the time, I was doing it for free, but I couldn’t help but think “If I was getting paid for this, it would be my dream career!” So in 2005, I took a chance and left my career in law to start my own PR agency — and I’ve never looked back.
Since then, I’ve also kind of reverse-engineered that journey to create resources, programs, and communities for other PR professionals!
What did you do to discover that you had a new skillset inside of you that you haven’t been maximizing? How did you find that and how did you ultimately overcome the barriers to help manifest those powers?
In law, everyone has the same set of facts, evidence, and discovery documents to examine. From there, attorneys craft the most compelling argument possible for their clients to try to achieve a certain result. Although I didn’t have any specific PR training or experience, I figured out that I already had the skill of using all of the facts available to try and craft a unique, effective story. I was a good writer (law school requires lots of writing!), which was super helpful in transitioning to PR. Once I figured out that I could use those same skills to craft relevant, targeted stories, I started to find success positioning brands and pitching to the media. It’s crazy how transferrable those skills ended up being!
Of course, there were barriers when I was getting started. The biggest barrier for me was the lack of contacts, training, and experience I had (zero!). To overcome those challenges, I had to trust my instincts, bet on myself, and realize that the risks I was taking could pay off and change my life. I knew I could work harder, do lots of research, and even network to try and figure things out along the way, even though I was starting with nothing. And that’s exactly what I did!
How are things going with this new initiative?
I started my “Second Act” in 2005 and I’ve now been running my PR agency for 16 years! I’ve loved my business so much that it actually served as a catalyst for me to want to teach other women how to build businesses like this for themselves. That’s why, 3 years ago, I started the Profitable PR Pros community so that I could teach other women how to create a business that fully serves their lives and their passions.
That community, as one of the newer initiatives in my business, is going extremely well. This educational side of things lights me up and helps me feel like I’m living my purpose every single day. We’ve been able to serve women all over the world and bring them on a success path that allows them to grow and scale a profitable agency.
But, more importantly, we teach them how to run a business on their own terms. I love being able to connect people around the world, so creating such an incredible community has meant a lot to me.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’m so grateful for my husband, Kevin, and how supportive he was through the transition I made from law to running my own business. I’ll be honest — I was SO scared to tell my parents that I was going to leave law. I knew they were really proud, and that they felt like I was so successful. Plus, at the time, I had just purchased a home by myself, and I wasn’t married yet, so I knew they would worry about me facing financial challenges after making this decision.
And I was right…at first, they weren’t happy about it (to put it mildly!). My now-husband Kevin, who I was dating at the time, went with me to tell them, and he was so incredibly supportive even when I was upset about how poorly the conversation had gone. He believed in me 100%, and he was the one who gave me the confidence to stick with my decision.
He helped me realize that my life is mine, and that making good decisions for myself is what mattered most. I really believe that Kevin gave me the confidence to never second-guess myself, and to know that I never had to look back after making this leap. I’m so grateful for all of his support that he still gives me on a daily basis.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started in this new direction?
The most interesting thing that has happened to me since starting my company actually began from just a simple conversation. One day, I connected with an old friend from law school over Facebook. This guy was at the top of our class and everyone really looked up to him — I wasn’t shocked to learn that he’d ended up landing an extremely high-profile job in corporate law for Apple. As we were chatting, I was actually kind of embarrassed to tell him that I’d left law, since he had become so successful… but he seemed genuinely impressed by the fact that I’d started my own business. Speaking to someone who’s in such a senior position and seeing him be so supportive of my career was really surprising!
Honestly, I thought that he was just being polite. But the next day, he sent me an email letting me know that he’d had a conversation with the head of Apple Global Brand Positioning about me (about ME?!), my agency, and how I use Apple products to run my business as a busy entrepreneur on the go… and they wanted to feature me on their website! I couldn’t believe it.
The next thing I know, they scheduled a two-day shoot with a photographer and crew from Apple’s marketing team, followed me around LA, and created a beautiful video and brand profile on me and Jeneration PR that lived on the Apple website for over five years. I was featured alongside huge companies like Nike and Nestle, which seriously boosted my credibility and led to a ton of new business inquiries. And it all started from a conversation where I just shared what I do and how much I love my business. My PR agency really took off from there, and that just goes to show the power of sharing what you’re passionate about with others.
Did you ever struggle with believing in yourself? If so, how did you overcome that limiting belief about yourself? Can you share a story or example?
I absolutely struggled with Imposter Syndrome (big time!) in my business for a long time — actually, for over five years. Overcoming the limiting beliefs of Imposter Syndrome was a huge part of my journey to getting where I am now, running a successful, profitable PR agency.
Even though I had personally been featured in top media placements and secured some major wins for my clients, I still spent 5 years thinking that I was a complete fraud. Honestly, I just thought everything that had happened so far was all a huge stroke of luck. Secured an amazing placement for a brand I worked with? Wow, that was lucky! Scored a great new client? Luck was on my side again!
In May of 2011, I finally beat my Imposter Syndrome once and for all. I was backstage at the Ellen Degeneres show, sitting in the green room with two of my biggest clients, watching their products get featured in the coveted Mother’s Day episode. And, earlier that same day, I’d also had a client in New York City who made her very first appearance on The Today Show!
Sitting backstage at the Warner Brothers lot on the set of Ellen, my clients were absolutely bursting with excitement. Ellen Degeneres was mentioning their products BY NAME and millions and millions of people were seeing it.
At that exact moment, I realized that my success wasn’t luck, and it wasn’t a fluke. I started to really believe in my skill, knowledge, and ability, and it changed the direction of my business and my mindset!
In my own work I usually encourage my clients to ask for support before they embark on something new. How did you create your support system before you moved to your new chapter?
Actually, I felt like there wasn’t a support system anywhere in the PR world at the time when I made this leap. I found it really challenging to find mentors in public relations that would give me information, answer questions, or provide support. Mentors in the PR realm as a whole were almost impossible to find.
That’s why I decided to create my Profitable PR Pros community and the different programs I’ve developed. Since it was SO challenging when I first started, I wanted to change that experience for everyone who’s joined the PR world since then. I wanted to create a community where the “vibe attracted the tribe…” and now, we have the most open, giving, supportive, savvy, and warmhearted PR professionals in our community.
Everyone in the community realizes that when one of us succeeds, we all succeed — and that there’s plenty of work to go around in our field for everyone. People are so willing to mentor others, and to share what they’ve discovered along the way that’s made them successful.
So, to be honest, I didn’t have support when I made this transition. I learned through a long trial-and-error process. But now, I’ve been able to cut that learning curve down for people and create something incredible for public relations professionals around the world.
Starting a new chapter usually means getting out of your comfort zone, how did you do that? Can you share a story or example of that?
I actually have two stories I’d really love to share with you about getting out of my comfort zone. Both impacted my career in different ways, and both show how important it is to step outside of what you’re comfortable with.
First, I already mentioned that I really struggled with Imposter Syndrome for a long time in my business. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to hire an ex-lawyer to be their publicist! So, in the beginning, I tried to bridge that gap between law and PR to ease those feelings of anxiety. I taught Principles of Entrepreneurship at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown LA. Honestly, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And definitely a LOT different than my last experience in a classroom, when I was back in law school surrounded by Harvard and Yale graduates who looked at me, the bubbly “beach girl” from UC Santa Barbara, like they thought I was trying to star in my own brunette version of Legally Blonde.
In my mind, teaching a class like this was a way to help make the “story” of going from law to PR a much more logical one. If I didn’t show the world that I could do more, they’d just think I was a lawyer foolishly pursuing her passion of running a PR agency. But I knew that this wasn’t just a side hustle. I was for real, and I wanted everyone else to see it, too. This teaching job gave me credibility, even though it was way outside of my comfort zone — and then magazines and newspapers started writing articles about my career transition!
The other story I want to share is about getting out of my comfort zone in terms of clients and pricing. After 11 years of working with our very first client, I was feeling really limited and ready to change. Because so much time had passed, we were charging them way less than we were worth, and had been working below market rate for years. Especially since that client kept us small and limited within that niche as a whole, I knew it was time to make a change. But I was so uncomfortable with the idea of letting go of our first client (who we’d worked with for so long!).
I eventually decided to step out of my comfort zone and let that client relationship go. When I did, I realized just how much we’d been undercharging our services based on the results we get for our clients. Once we moved on, one of that client’s competitors came to us literally the very next day. I realized how much value we could bring to this new brand, and I tripled our rates from what we were charging before. It was SO uncomfortable for me, and trust me — I went back and forth for probably a whole day trying to decide whether to change my rates!
But the new client accepted my proposal without batting an eye. I really quickly learned that, even though it felt outside of my comfort zone, adjusting my rates helped me start to attract bigger dream clients who were willing to pay for quality services and results like ours.
Both of those stories really symbolize just how important it is to step out of your comfort zone. Every time I’ve experienced growth, it’s been because I took a step outside of what I was comfortable with and dove into something new!
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my organization” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
First, I wish someone had told me to do what you love and what you’re passionate about. I realized how important this is when I secured my very first press mention in Us Weekly magazine. That first little feature actually sparked my desire to leave my career as a lawyer and start my own PR firm! At the time, I was still working full-time as a lawyer and promoting the fragrance brand I mentioned earlier as an unpaid side hustle. I loved that work so much, and it ended up serving as the catalyst for me to take the leap and start Jeneration PR! After so many years of running my business, I still feel the same level of passion and excitement. Knowing the joy and fulfillment that comes with doing what you truly love has changed my life.
Next, I definitely wish someone had warned me about the importance of overcoming imposter syndrome. I really felt like I started to overcome imposter syndrome when I had TWO clients on The Ellen Degeneres Show and one on the TODAY Show, all on the same day! I had this incredible moment of realization when I finally understood that my career isn’t about luck — it’s actually something I’m good at and really passionate about, and worked hard to achieve.
Before I started my PR journey, I also wish that someone had told me that moms can truly have it all. I think that so many women feel torn between being a present parent and achieving all of their career dreams, but it really is possible to do both! Not saying it will be perfect, but it is possible.
When I was working in law, it didn’t feel like it would ever be a reality for me, because I saw so many women have to make that tough decision. So I left my career and started a business that would actually allow me to have the kind of life that I really wanted. When I was selected by Babble.com as one of the “Top 10 Mompreneurs Who Made it Big,” I realized I could actually thrive in both areas of my life. Now, I want to encourage other women to live with the same flexibility and joy!
Owning my own business means I work from home, and on that note, I wish someone had told me how important it is to create a workspace that helps you feel inspired. I get to work in a gorgeous room every single day (which was actually designed for me by HGTV!), and I’ve realized that the way your space makes you feel really does matter. For entrepreneurs working from home (or even if you’re in an office!), I think it’s so important to have a space that makes you feel energized, creative and helps you be productive.
The final lesson I wish I’d known before starting my business is that — in your business, YOU call the shots! This sounds like common sense, but I’m telling you, embracing the power you have in your business takes time (and is so worth it). Time and time again, I’ve seen PR pros (myself included!) bend their policies, lower their rates, do things that don’t light them up, and say “yes” to everything just because they feel like they need to. But the truth is, it’s YOUR business, and you are in charge of every single piece. When you embrace that, everything changes, and you’re able to build a business that serves you on every level!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Creating a movement where women feel empowered to take on both sides of their dreams, the personal and the professional, would be incredible. In my own life, being able to have the best of both worlds — running a successful business while also being a mom — has been amazing.
But so many women feel like they have to choose between motherhood and a career. That’s why my dream movement is all about showing people that you can find success in both your personal and professional life.
You can run a business that serves the kind of life that you want to have. You can create the work-life integration that you’re seeking. You can be a profitable CEO and an involved PTA member. And you can make great money while still being in control of your time as a present and checked-in parent.
When we give moms access to a strategy that helps them build a career where they can find fulfillment and still embrace motherhood, we alleviate this weird dynamic that forces women to choose. I’ve seen firsthand that it’s totally possible to have both, and I’d love to show other women how to do the same thing for themselves. THIS is the movement that I am working so hard to inspire!
What do you want to be remembered for the most?
I love this question. On a personal level, I want to be remembered for being the best mom to my boys and giving them a wonderful childhood. That’s probably the most important thing to me in my life.
But on a professional level, I want to be remembered for helping women all over the world live their dreams, create businesses that empower them, and feel inspired by what’s possible. I teach foundational skills and provide resources in The Pitch Lab that people can apply in running their own businesses. Then, we provide a whole framework for growing a profitable agency that serves your life in the Agency Accelerator!
My goal is to eliminate all roadblocks for as many women as possible to be able to have such an amazing business like this, all on their own terms. That’s exactly what I want to be remembered for the most!
How can our readers further follow your work online?
There are a few really great ways to stay connected.
We’re also now on Clubhouse! @jeneration
The best way to connect is to join our Profitable PR Pros community on Facebook.
Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!