Jennifer Gardella is todays’ version of a renaissance woman. Despite of—or some may say driven by- being a single mother, she has established a path of helping business owners with their online media and marketing. She is a professor and founder of the NJ Divorce Mom blog which has lead to being a contributing blogger for other major media outlets. She does all this and still enjoys life, her family and close friends. She may be busy but I doubt that she’d change a thing.
Since nothing done there ever stays there tell us a little about your fun days spent there while earning your Bachelor of Arts Degree at Fordham University?
I loved every moment of exploring New York City and took advantage of it all right from the moment my parents dropped me off freshman year. Trips to the village, sitting in Central Park, walking down Fifth Avenue, even the smell of the subway (I know, weird right?).
I worked at Yankee Stadium for a summer which was a great experience. Yes, we went out a lot at night…Webster Hall, Limelight, McSorley’s, Bear Bar. It was all just fun.
What has been the highlight and benefits of teaching on the college level?
With your own business, do you offer classes for businesses, online or in person, concerning social media?
I teach statistics. Most students hate their statistics teachers before the semester even begins and start out white knuckled with great fear. I break concepts down in very small pieces and help students see practical application right away. I have a knack for being able to explain complicated things for understanding. I once had a student who had previously failed the class with another professor and when working with me on a computer stood up and cheered because she finally understood standard deviation. Helping students connect with difficult information and succeed in statistics is very rewarding.
I do offer classes and individualized instruction to small business owners wanting to start and build their social media accounts. I speak often for groups giving detailed instruction on LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. I also speak often on how to brand yourself as an expert with different tools on the internet (website, blog, social media) and how to build a web presence for a business. Recently I have had lots of requests by smaller groups and individual business owners for private instruction.
Tell us the best part of your eight years as a full-time stay at home mother? Worst? How was the transition back into the workplace/business?
The best thing about my years as a stay-at-home mom was witnessing every magical moment of my children’s younger years. The wonder and discovery as they grew and started to move around in the world was fantastic to witness. I knew I could never get those days back with my children and wanted to be there with them. I liked that they had the stability in one person. The worst was when they were ill, those days were long.
My initial attempt at reentering the workplace was nothing short of horrible. Corporate America does not at all value the skills that previous full-time stay-at-home-moms bring to the table. And let me just say, “there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.” I was stunned when doors were closed for me because I had not worked in eight years. It was clear I had to build something for myself and absolutely love building my business on my own values.
You have three daughters. Knowing what you know now, what’s the biggest piece of life advice you would give them once they hit age 18 and embark on their own lives?
Follow your dreams and passions and find your own path in the world. Do not try to make anyone else happy, because you cannot. Never ever think “will my mom be happy I am doing this?” I will be happy if you are happy and only you can define your own happiness. I will also be happy if you fly the nest and start to pay your own bills.
All jokes aside, I cannot emphasize enough “follow your passion.” I absolutely love what I do and really do not consider it working. If you find something you love it really doesn’t feel like work.
NUGGET QUESTION: You have just been hired by another woman in business needing your services for her new business. During your first meeting, she becomes overwhelmed and bursts into tears and shares that she is currently going through a divorce. In short, what do you say to her to make this experience work?
Many moms hire me for this very reason. They know I can help position their business with their budget and time constraints in mind and also know I will understand their personal circumstances.
If this happened in real life the first thing I would do is give the woman a moment to calm down and assure her breakdowns are part of both the divorce and business start-up process. Then I would give her the best two pieces of advice I ever received “Getting divorced sucks, being divorced does not suck,” and “everything will be ok in the end, if it isn’t ok, it’s not the end.”
Once she was ready, we would of course get back down to business and turn her fears and doubts into positives. Developing an editorial calendar, writing from the heart, and connecting with others to grow your passion can be a cathartic experience. I connect with my clients on a regular basis so following up on her business and personal developments would be part of my plan moving forward.
I’m the divorce welcome wagon in my town. So many people have reached out looking for support because they know I weathered the storm of divorce and came out the other side. I have an amazing friendship with my co-parent and others want that same peace in their lives. Giving extra time to clients to help them through a personal situation is a true pleasure and honor of mine.
In your bio you mention a “circle of trust”. I like that term. Explain what that is and how every woman would benefit from having their own.
I have put a circle of people around me who understand me, love me unconditionally, and most importantly tell me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear. They are my true family, mirrors, mentors, and friends I lean on and celebrate with. When I have a success to share they are just as excited for me as if it was their success as well. My children consider them aunts and uncles.
I know I can go to this circle with any issue (good or bad) that is in my life and I will not be judged. That is the most refreshing part of those friendships – that unconditional love.
What is the first question you ask a business who is seeking your services?
What are your goals in working with a social media consultant? It is absolutely fine if they reply with “I don’t know,” or “to just get started.” It is a great place to start a conversation and see how we can best work together.
Sometimes a potential client will start with “I want 10,000 likes on my Facebook page.” I then know we need to back-up and do a little education about the ways to be successful using social media. It isn’t about numbers, it is about connecting and being authentically social.
Describe your typical day as a consultant and blogger?
The great part about my work is I do not have a typical day. Some days I am out networking or speaking to a group. Others include a one-on-one appointment with a client. Some days you can find me sitting at my desk on the phone answering questions and planning out next steps of my business. I have a few clients where I am their ghost writer so they get my attention every day with research and note taking for our projects.
But there are some constants: I always write part of something (blog, website article), text with my business coach and friend Marcus Padulchick, I work constantly in my contact management system, and seem to always be writing down great ideas in my idea book.
Oh, and the biggest constant in my workday – interacting on social media of course!
Do you ever blog anything that embarrasses your kids?
I have three teenage daughters and so let me start off by saying just about everything I do embarrasses my children (except if it involves my credit card and the mall, then I am allowed to dance and hug them in public).
If I am writing something for my blog that involves my children I always ask them about the topic and if it is ok. I was once talking about a subject over dinner and my middle daughter asked me “is this for your blog?” I realized then that they were old enough to have an opinion and had the right to privacy.
As a blogger I also have a rule that I never ever write about the personal details of what they are going through or personal details of my relationship (you can read between the lines on those).
How do you describe success on your own terms?
For me success has been putting all the pieces in place so my personal and professional life are in harmony. I live my life by a set of core values and infuse those into everything I do. My business and the way I interact with clients is run the exact same way I run my life. I expect and demand the best in the way I treat others and the way I am treated.
There are big successes for instance when I launched my website, sign a contract with a client, or have blog post go viral. But I also experience great success when I answer a client’s question and watch them experience an ah-ha moment of understanding.
What do you look forward to?
I look forward to every day of the next few years as I help my three teenage daughters navigate their high school years. This process will probably exhaust me so I also look forward to watching the girls fly away from my nest and then sitting on the sidelines as they create their own amazing lives on their terms.
I found, in the world of online dating no less, a special someone. We are both parents first, matched energy and crazy, and have based our relationship on a deep respect for one another. I look forward to building our relationship around our families, individual selves, and where we want to be as a couple.
I cannot wait to push out new parts of my business that can help small business owners get the knowledge and support they need to market their business online. Being dedicated to just helping at a price that does not break the marketing budget allows me to bring my expertise to many. I am currently strengthening what I offer and have other phenomenal ideas in the works.
At your core, what makes you a connected woman?
First and foremost I am connected to the truest and most authentic version of myself. You see that authenticity in everything that I do. I know who I am, what I want, and consider myself a very whole and complete person.
Next I am connected to my children as their parent and not as their friend. We can be friends when they are 25 and start thinking rationally. Right now they are irrational teenagers who need stability, direction and discipline. Right now they need me to be their parent.
I am connected to people in my life who, along with my children, give me support and unconditional love. My special person, my friends, and my clients all make my life very interesting.
And I’m connected to a whole lot of people, their businesses and ideas on social media.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Yes, thank you. As a single mom building a business it is a great honor to have space with you to talk about my work. I hope that knowing a bit of my story can help other women realize they have it in them to go for their dreams.
Jennifer Gardella, PhD is a social media consultant, professor, blogger and a single mom. She has built her career around helping small business owners with social media and digital marketing. She works within client budgets to develop strategic campaigns that are effective. Jennifer continually reads and researches in the area of social and digital marketing and shares her information with clients and organizations so small business owners can achieve success. www.JenniferGardella.com
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