Jessica Morrison, a previous Marketing Director, had worked for other people for most of her life. As a full-time employee Jessica found herself working 50-60 hours a week to benefit the owners she worked for while struggling to reach her goals. She decided to leave her native California in search of a better cost of living. In her early 40’s, Jessica wasn’t sure if she wanted to start over somewhere while working for somebody else and decided to strike out on her own. “You have to have a huge amount of bravery to decide to work for yourself.’ Jessica recalls the uncertainty of her decision at first. “When you have a family and obligations it’s a lot harder than when you are in your early-to-mid 20’s.”
Jessica did a lot of research looking at the different ways she could become an entrepreneur. After interviewing various entrepreneurs, and looking at various business models she decided to become an independent Allstate agent selling insurance. In the back of her mind she thought starting a frozen yogurt shop or a wine bar would be her chosen path, but later decided neither would not be a good fit for her lifestyle. In today’s market there are diverse ways entrepreneurs can create their own ventures, for example Allstate insurance has a model where exclusive agents can work as independent contractor. Jessica, stating that she doesn’t view herself as a very creative person, mentioned that revolutionizing something doesn’t need to be a billion-dollar idea, it really is just about making a company and owning it for yourself.
Getting her grit, overcoming a series of hurdles in the beginning
Jessica recalls some early challenges when first starting her journey with Allstate. “Licensing was a challenge for sure. When you start a business, professional licensing is a requirement and you need to go through the city for various permits. We needed to negotiate real estate space for my company’s office and with that comes a series of obstacles that will cross your path that you did not foresee. Financing, staffing, it never ends. When you’re first starting and you’re not making an income, it can seem like non-stop obstacles and this is where your dedication and a little grit will come in-hand.”
Jessica mentions these skills are “not taught in a classroom.” When you fall-down, you get back up with vengeance.” She says it was her “stubbornness” that kept her going in the beginning. “If you have a goal that’s obtainable, little things shouldn’t stop you. There’s always going to be something.”
Making Connections can be your biggest key to success
After gaining some experience Jessica wishes she would have connected with the Peoria Chamber of commerce sooner. She recalls this would have saved her “some heartache” in the beginning. She says the reason it initially slipped her mind was because she thought of the Chamber as an old school idea, but what it truly boils down to is that you need those connections. When you first start out the best resource for you is to listen to those who have done it and to hear their success stories. She currently connects with various realtors and other city affiliates who have connections already built in. Jessica suggests tapping into the Chamber for their wealth of knowledge, instead of having to “wing” a lot of things when you first start out.
There are so many people who have the knowledge that can help you get to where you want to go, especially in Arizona, people are incredibly helpful and kind. One thing Jessica found surprising was how willing local entrepreneurs in her community were to help when needed.
Strengthening the Peoria entrepreneurial ecosystem
A lot of cities that grow, struggle with culture and identity. When big-box retailers are everywhere you turn, without any unique independent business options, your city can seem generic. A way to really showcase diversity and culture is through having entrepreneurs in business with your city. This allows the support of the community that big box retailers can’t always provide. Being from the Bay area and a California native, Jessica speaks from experience that the big box retailers can bring the money upfront, but the community really needs to advocate for small businesses to be there to allow for a balance and a backbone. She mentions that the identity of the community is through the work and presence of the entrepreneur.
Advice for future Peoria entrepreneurs
“Don’t be afraid to just do it, don’t be deterred.” Jessica mentions that there is a lot of grassroot efforts in starting any new business or being an entrepreneur. She mentions, “There’s a lot of this amazing organization going on near the upper west side. They’ve reached out to so many other people, exactly what grassroots is, a little bit of everything with slightly different ideas on what the city should be and they’ve come together to create a voice.” That would be her advice for future entrepreneurs of Peoria. Currently there are 5,000 business in Peoria, with that brings a lot of opportunity for new faces and new efforts with this grassroots entrepreneurial movement.
Peoria Forward is a strategic partnership between the City of Peoria and ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation Drawing on the combined strengths and expertise of the City of Peoria and Arizona State University Entrepreneurship + Innovation, this strategic partnership places tools, training and resources in the hands of our leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators to build a self-sustaining entrepreneurial ecosystem in the west valley. Peoria Forward is an opportunity for the citizens of Peoria to shape a high-impact (vision) for the future of our city through entrepreneurship/community development.
This article is part of a series of blogs amplifying the wisdom and words of west valley innovators and entrepreneurial leaders building the ecosystem.
Interested in hearing more of Jessica’s story and how you can get involved, follow her on social media https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-morrison/