We had the good fortune of connecting with Jennifer Tsay and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jennifer, what is the most important factor behind your success?
I think the most important factor behind both my success and the success of Shoott is the practice of care. It may sound cheesy, but being able to think about how I can care more and better across all aspects of my work has been what has been my focus – can I care more about the people I’m working with on my team, the clients I’m serving, the photographers who work as freelancers for us and balance all of those interest? Can I reflect more care in my individual workstream from the attention to detail I’m giving and how I think through all the different aspects of my business to how I treat others, even if it’s just for a few moments. I truly believe caring deeply about all of these competing interests makes me a better leader and mentor while setting our business up for long term success. After all, I believe what makes things work is the element of trust and there’s nothing that builds trust faster than being the kind of person and leader that cares in a thoughtful, purposeful, humble way about all aspects of their business.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I love the story of my career. I started in investment banking and maintained high-pressure corporate jobs in NYC for the first few years of my career. I then decided to take some time to figure out what else was out there professionally and had a period of time where I worked at a nonprofit, produced a documentary film, took acting and writing classes, worked as an actor (much of my work was unpaid for a while!), and held so flexible part-time roles including but not limited to selling teeth whitening kits, working at front desks, working as an assistant, tutoring, babysitting – I’ve literally worked the entire range of jobs of all skill levels and know what it is to be a poor artist and what it is to have a cushy corporate job with full benefits. I consider my approach to leadership and business as a complete marriage of all of these experiences. I’ve learned how to communicate to different people and what my own voice is – how to speak to others at their own level, how to speak authentically and with integrity to connect with others and make a point when necessary, and how to be flexible in how I approach any issue. It’s never easy to learn these lessons in real time and there were periods of time where I was afraid I’d be doing unpaid gig work at a low level for the rest of my life (and it wasn’t that long ago!) I think the important lessons are to a) always do the work at hand and to do it excellently. Success is often not a story of shortcuts but an accumulation of a lot of groundwork laid patiently and with care over time; and b) make sure you have the right people in your life – the right friends that inspire you and have adjacent and complimentary perspectives, the right support system whether it’s your family or therapist or personal trainer and also, the right people in your orbit professionally – mentors, coaches, team members, partners, etc. What I’d love the world to know about me and the brand story of Shoott is that I am a person that deeply cares about things – whether it’s my clients, or my photographers we hire and support, or my team members – and this care is what I as CEO and Co-Founder bring to leading the direction and strategy each and every day at Shoott. Yes, it’s a business, but for me and my team, it’s about constantly asking what we can do better so we can do right by everyone involved. That’s what matters most to me above and beyond anything else and I think that has been reflected by the brand and business we’ve built so far. “Care” may sound like a fluffy concept, but I think the impact of “care” when you extend it to all areas of the business has amazing ramifications; it’s about how we communicate and work as a team (can we listen, can we productively solve conflicts?), the quality of service we deliver, as well as how well we innovate and continue to innovate in the market. I believe everything starts at the top and flows through so it’s my hope that in the long run, the culture of care continues forevermore for Shoott and allows us to continue being excellent at what we do and how we do it.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love driving through a city and seeing all the great spots and Shoott has a lot of them as photoshoot locations and so I’m partial to: Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, Dallas Arts District, Deep Ellum, the Fort Worth Water Gardens, and Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano. If you’re finding a place to work, I am a huge fan of Common Desk’s coworking spaces. And for a fantastic bite, I highly recommend Tacos Y Vino in the Bishop Arts District. I also love taking a day trip drive to Waco to visit Magnolia of HGTV’s Fixer Upper fame! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?