Window of Opportunity
During the summer of 2013, I was living in Columbia, working 25 hours a week with a marketing team at Mizzou, taking one online class, and preparing for my senior year of college. I thought about pursuing a more classic internship, as thousands of my classmates did, but it was around this time that I was contemplating living in Columbia after graduation, so I wanted to hang out for the summer to see what life was like. It hit me a few weeks into this summer break that I was potentially putting myself at a professional disadvantage by not interning at a big company in New York City or Chicago, and I decided I wasn’t going to let that lead to me falling behind my peers.
In early June I decided that I wanted to specialize in marketing for the hospitality industry, more specifically hotels. I made a list of the 32 hotels that were in town at the time and ranked them in terms of their current marketing and branding efforts. I then started backwards by calling the hotels that I thought could benefit from what I would provide the most. I quickly learned that the phone calls weren’t going to work, and I needed to get more creative.
One day in June 2013, after I got off work at Mizzou, I changed into a suit in the parking garage at Mizzou and drove to Budget Host Inn, a motel off I-70. Behind the front desk was Leela (Mrs. J), and I asked her if I could have a few minutes of her time to share a presentation I created with some mockups of a website and marketing materials for their hotel. She said I could, but I’d have to present to her and her husband, George (Mr. J).
LONG story short: Leela and George owned one motel and two other hotels across two states, and they were looking to update their marketing for all three, re-brand one, and potentially sell the other if we could increase sales. From June 2013 until June 2017, we did just that. Leela and George were able to sell all three properties over the course of those five years, and then retire. I was able to create an incredible amount of experience that I’m not sure any internship in any city would be able to provide.
I mentioned in episode 6 of the FinalVibe Podcast that it freaks me out to think about the past, and how making a different decision back then would have impacted my life today. Leela and George taught me more than I learned in any business class. They connected me to some special people and opportunities in town. Mr. J told me stories about starting a business from scratch that, over the course of decades, employed hundreds of people and resulted in true financial success. You can’t put a value on relationships like that, and I’m forever grateful that they trusted a 22-year-old dork in a suit to help out.
This unique period of my life was only possible because of my desire to improve myself a marketer. I think it’s easy to look at a person’s resume or portfolio and wonder how they got so lucky with the jobs that they have had, but it’s rarely luck that creates these opportunities. It takes small actions on a daily basis to keep windows of opportunity always opening, whether or not another one closes.