Jennifer Jackson has been involved with Hungry Howie's Pizza since age 10, helping out at stores and at the corporate office during summer vacations. Jennifer officially started as a Hungry Howie's employee in 1998 as the Fundraising Coordinator and was promoted in 2000 to Director of Marketing. In 2005, she was named Director of Marketing & Franchise Development. After taking a brief hiatus to work in various other marketing and franchise positions, Jennifer returned to Hungry Howie's as the Director of Franchise Development. Jennifer restructured the department and qualification process. Additionally, under her management, Jennifer has helped grow the now 600 unit pizza concept focusing with growth in new and emerging markets.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
Life experience is full of character builders and I believe starts at a young age. I think working at the store level and understanding the operations side of our business helped me become a leader. I know what our franchisees are going through and have the ability to assist them with facing issues.
How did your previous employment experience aided your position at Hungry Howie's Pizza?
I took the opportunity to step away for HHP for a few years and work for other companies in different positions. For me, this was an eye opening experience to realize that HHP was my true passion. When you don't enjoy what you're doing, it gets old very fast. I truly love what I do and having the opportunity to come back makes me appreciate it even more.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Hungry Howie's Pizza?
The biggest highlights in my career at Hungry Howie's Pizza are always seeing our franchisees succeed. I meet them right as they start looking into the business, and have a relationship with them through each step. It is an amazing feeling knowing that I helped them achieve the American dream of owning their own business. On the contrary, seeing a franchisee give up or walk away from the business is always a challenge, because I feel that I personally let them down when this happens.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It is very difficult to keep the work/life balance, and even harder as I am a single mother. I am always working, but I make sure to make a lot of time for my daughter and let her know I am there for her at all times. Part of what makes it difficult to maintain a work/life balance is that I do not see what I do as a job because I am so passionate about it, it's fun- and I always make time for fun!
What advice can you offer to those who are thinking of becoming a franchisee?
My advice for someone who is considering becoming a franchisee is to do your due diligence and make sure you know exactly what you are getting into. I tell candidates that I am not going to try and sell them something, and for the most part I try to talk them out of it as much as possible. My ultimate goal is to make sure our business is the right fit for their family as well as for us. It is important to never make an emotional decision, gather all the facts and make sure you're going to be passionate about the business you select.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
Women have overcome so many hurdles in the workplace. I feel that if we continue to be strong, knowledgeable and focused I do not see any major hurdles. We have come a very long way and have gained the respect deserved.
What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's 'Ban Bossy' campaign?
I am in support of Sheryl Sandberg's 'Ban Bossy' campaign. I encourage my daughter to lead by example diplomatically. Being bossy at a young age with girls can sometimes be viewed as being a bully, and can carry into adulthood. I believe it is entirely possible to be a leader without being bossy.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has been a huge part of my professional and personal development. My parents built everything from the ground up and I respect them for that. Their mentorship throughout my entire life has formed me into who I am today. I've also had the opportunity to network with many colleagues who have taken the time to guide me throughout the years. I'm always open to anyone who is looking for a mentor, it allows you to see life in different lights and grow personally and professionally.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I admire Sara Blakely, Founder of Spanx. I admire her passion and belief in the product. She started Spanx from the bottom up- wrote her own patent and personally showed department store buyers the value. She is a true inspiration to women in business, showing that hard work, passion and never giving up does pay off.
What are your hopes for the future of Hungry Howie's Pizza?
My vision is that Hungry Howie's Pizza will continue to grow and become an even more successful pizza franchise. We have restructured the past few years, and are positioned for a rapid growth campaign. I believe that we are just getting started and am excited to be a part of what is to come.