Today we’re interviewing Jennifer Zivic, who has two businesses. One of them is AdventureTravelGal.com, an adventure travel blog that she founded four years ago before she even branched off on her own. Jennifer’s other business is a branding business called I Brand U. Her particular situation is really interesting because the businesses seem very different on the surface, but she weaves them together in a very innovative way that I think will benefit a lot of people out there who have a very marketable skill and a very different passion. Jennifer shows how you can do both and have them both strengthen each other.
Jasper: I found it quite interesting that she’s really playing the long game on this because her real passion is the travel blog, but she knows it’s going to take time before she can monetize that into a way that she can earn enough of a living from it. So she’s using her skills as a branding expert to make money in the meantime, and I think that’s a really useful lesson for people to learn.
Jennifer: I had a very, very exciting corporate background and position at a couple of different companies over the years, and I realized I enjoyed what I was doing. I was happy there and gained a lot of knowledge and a lot of connections. At some point, though, it started to feel like I needed something new, so I looked at what I love and what I’m good at, and I left corporate America to start my own business. What that became was one hand is about me capitalizing on that background and corporate knowledge and bringing that information and strategy to entrepreneurs. On the other hand, I wanted to develop my passion project, which is my love of adventure travel, and a blog and business based on that. What happened was the adventure travel blog became one revenue stream for my branding business.
Meredith: When was the absolute moment when you knew it was time to leave?
Jennifer: There’s always a moment, right? At my last position in that world, I was offered an opportunity to relocate, and I was very open to relocation. I don’t want to bash any cities in particular, but there was a city that they wanted me to relocate to that I was not very fond of. I didn’t think it was good for my adventurous, outdoorsy lifestyle, or just my personal situation. So I realized if I was to continue with that company, I was going to be making a much bigger sacrifice than I would have liked or that would have been healthy for me as a person and where I’m going in my life. All of a sudden, it became very obvious that the path was no longer in my best interest. It would’ve been in the company’s best interest, but not in mine. That’s where I decided that I needed to make a clean break and it was time.
Jasper: In terms of your passion project, the adventure travel, tell us a little bit about that, because clearly that was something you were doing as a hobby or as a sort of interest. Tell us a bit about how you got that blog going.
Jennifer: Yes, it was definitely a hobby that I had while I was working in the regular job arena, the typical job space. I did it on the weekends. I did it when I was on trips. It was just something I really loved to do. The blog came out of people asking me to share my crazy experiences, so I had it set up, but I definitely was not making any money from it. It was really just to share my experiences and hopefully inspire other people. But when I left the typical job world and the typical job space, I reevaluated what that blog was doing for me and started to do a lot of research about social media, blogging, and how to monetize what I was doing, because I was spending a lot of time and energy and putting a lot of passion into it. You put all that in, and you start to look to get a little bit more out of it. And, frankly, I needed to at that point, so I did a lot research about how you can monetize a blog. What I found was that it’s not so black-and-white, that it winds up being a portfolio of things that equal the revenue stream that can come from a blog. It’s usually a combination of things like affiliate marketing, or maybe you can get speaking engagements from what you’re talking about. You can create online courses and webinars. It just seems to be that it winds up as a combination of things. So my original perception of it being very clear and obvious, “I’m gonna do this, and then I’m going make this money,” doesn’t really work for the blog — but there is a way to do it. It’s just compiling the different things that work your subject matter.
Meredith: Is your blog self-supporting right now?
Jennifer: It is doing pretty well. It’s not as self-supporting as I would like. That’s why I really needed to go back and look at what I’m good at and what I’ve been able to bring to corporate and bring that to entrepreneurs. My business and expertise was branding, so I was all about brand extension and brand licensing and that sort of thing. I realized, though, that I just didn’t like bringing it to the corporate world. I liked what I was doing, but I needed to do it for a community of people that I cared more about at this stage.
So I took that expertise and created what’s more my primary business and then began to use the adventure travel blog as a smaller revenue stream and also as an example of my branding work. This way, when I’m gaining branding clients, I have more credibility, because they can go and see how I branded myself. It evolved in that the adventure travel blog became a sub-income and the branding became the primary source. And I think that’s something people should look at when they’re looking to make a change: how can you use your current expertise to create the revenue stream that’s more self-supporting.
Meredith: Right, and I think that’s something people really need to take heed of. That it’s not all black or white, like I’m going to be 100% in my passion project or not, because it doesn’t work that way. With nearly everyone we’ve talked to, it’s always been a transition of sorts: “I’m a coach, and I got a job with a coaching company for awhile, which is sort of in-between working for corporate and working on your own. Then I started my own coaching business and transitioned out that way.”
But I also think, in your case, having a showcase is amazing, because I think people go so far down the path of “Oh, I’m going to be a branding expert, so I’m not going to show my passion.” I think it’s good having both available.
Jennifer: Right, and the goal can be in the end. You can still maintain the same goal if you want the passion project to eventually completely self-support you. That can be the end long-term goal, and I think it’s possible. It just takes a long time to do that. There’s expectation that it’s going to happen more quickly, and we all need to pay our bills and live, and you can only go so long without having that income. So I think it becomes more of you don’t have to put that goal aside, but the percentage switches. Maybe you’re getting 10% of your income from your passion project and 90% from your expertise area. As time goes by, maybe those percentages start to shift, and eventually you’re 50-50. Then maybe it even shifts so your passion project at the end of the day is more at 90%. I think it’s just an evolution, and you need to be open to that evolution. Otherwise, you’re going to get very frustrated and give up.
Favorite Book: The Happiness of Pursuit by Chris Guillebeau
Favorite Resources: Instagram; WordPress and knowing how to do it myself so I don’t have to pay someone to update my site.
Jennifer Zivic Notes for Meredith
Community and content for a blog take time to build – start that while you still have a paying job.
A blog can be a time suck – but you want it to be good.
When you are branding your blog be aware that branding is an evolutionary process – there will be changes – you want to manage those changes so they help your brand, noit hurt your brand.
Often people are too close to their brand and the evolutionary part can be very challenging. You mightg want to get some help.
Jennifer’s Success Tips
1) Everything these days is about building your network.
2) If you are willing to give to the people in your network, it will come back to you.
3) Really listen to your passion – our intuition is better than we think.
4) Use the skills that you have to get you where you want to be – its not about walking away from them in order to a pursue a passion – its about using them in a different way.
I have spent over 19 years in the children’s consumer products industry working at companies such as Mattel Toys, HIT Entertainment and The Licensing Company. My areas of expertise include Marketing/Branding, Sales/Retail, Licensing & Product Development. Some of the brands I have played a key role developing are Barbie, Sesame Street, Thomas the Tank Engine, Jeep, Fiat, Dodge, Ram, Hershey’s, Jelly Belly and Budweiser across multiple categories including toys/games, apparel, fashion accessories, footwear, stationery, home goods, electronic accessories and health & beauty aids.
In addition, I earned my MBA in Marketing at Hofstra University and have taught as an adjunct professor at the Metropolitan College of New York and a guest speaker at various universities. As a member of the Licensing Industry Merchandiser’s Association (LIMA), I have also taken part in outdoor mountaineering experiences internationally that have raised over $65,000 for the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation in my father’s name successfully tying in career interests & personal passions.
I have a crazy zest for life and want to share it with others…specifically, YOU. Travel and the outdoors are my greatest source of fuel in this crazy world. Seeing 6 continents (Antarctica I will get to you soon!) and countless cities & amazing cultures in foreign lands with the plan to keep seeing & doing & climbing has led me to create this Blog space to share that with you!
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