Wednesday, September 1, 2010

6 WOW Wednesday: Tina Wells

Tina Wells, today's WOW Wednesday guest blogger, earned her B.A. in Communication Arts graduating with honors from Hood College in 2002. Currently a Wharton School of Business student for marketing management, she continues to create innovative marketing strategies for numerous clients within the beauty, entertainment, fashion, financial, and lifestyle sectors. She resides in Southern New Jersey with her vast collection of shoes. For more information on Tina Wells visit: her author page at HarperCollins or http://www.buzzmg.com/ 
 
Think outside the box. How often do we hear that phrase? I choose to take it one step further, and live outside of the box, making my own boxes. I never realized how hard that could be until I, a marketing executive for 15 years, decided to pen a middle grade series.

You see, in business, we like to keep people in boxes. Marketers are not writers, and writers aren’t marketers. My book announcement, an exclusive given to the New York Times, stated I’d be “marketing to kids through my books.” Hmm. That’s an interesting thought. But given my research, I know how smart 8-12 year-olds are, so I knew that I wouldn’t even attempt to get over on my readers. But, it would make logical sense, right? A marketer could only have an interest in writing a series for girls if she could sell them facewash, right?

Not exactly. I started my career at the age of 16 as a writer. I got my first job writing a column for a newspaper for girls called The New Girl Times. I would always send a copy of my column to the kind PR person from Company X who’d send me things to review. And each time, I got the same response: if I send you more stuff, will you keep telling me what you think?

This was 1996, and teens and trendspotting were just starting to evolve in a big way. This was pre-Britney, Teen Vogue, The Hills…you get it. I quickly found out that the insights I offered to these marketing executives were much needed and pretty special. And as a teenager, it felt great to know that these companies actually cared about what I had to say.

Talk of my services started to spread throughout the business, and eventually I had more clients than hours in the day to review their products. I was, of course, still a fulltime student, managing school, field hockey, yearbook, choir, and so many other activities. So I hired some friends, who had other friends, and thus my buzzSpotter network was born. What started out as a team of 1 now boasts 9,000 members worldwide.

So even though I had a thriving venture, I still thought I’d end up being a journalist. I got my B.A. in Communications with a concentration in Journalism from Hood College. I also wrote for the college paper, and even had the title of News Editor for a year. And it was in college that I started writing for trade journals.

I can still remember sitting in my advisor’s office senior year, discussing my desire to go to law school. My point is, even though I had a business that was doing well, and actually making money, I still wasn’t committed to the idea of entrepreneurship or even running my own company. My dream had always been to write for a magazine or even run a magazine. I also considered a career in law (to this day, every lawyer I hire tells me I should be a lawyer!). Running a marketing company seemed so far from that dream.

I was really reluctant to continue on with my venture, Buzz Marketing Group, post-college. Up to that point, the narrative had been really…cute. I started at 16, worked for the biggest brands in the world, and I was this cute girl doing this cute thing. But could I really be a power player in the marketing world? And how would I do it? What would it take to get there?

I decided to focus on research – specifically research no one else seemed to be doing. How did young people my age (at the time I was 22) feel about drinking? Illegal downloading? Religion? My research started getting a lot of media attention, and within three years, Buzz Marketing Group was one of the biggest players in the youth marketing business. And many accolades followed, including inclusion in Inc’s 30 Under 30, Billboard’s 30 Under 30, Essence’s 40 Under 40, and AOL’s Top 10 Black Female Executives List.

By age 27, I was coasting through what seemed to be a really nice career as a youth expert. And that’s when it hit me. Is this it? Will this be the story of my life? I ran a nice firm that I started as a teen and then just coasted by into retirement? I had always been heavily involved in philanthropy, having spent a summer in Honduras (at 19), and volunteered in an orphanage. I also worked with a charity that catered to battered women and children, served on the board of a food bank, and catered to my cultural side by serving on the board of an orchestra. But my true passion in life has always been inspiring the next generation of female entrepreneurs and leaders.

I really started to pay attention to my research on girls – tweens specifically – and the content that was being targeted towards them. And it all seemed so…mean. When did girls get so mean and stop supporting each other? In my late twenties and now thirties, I can’t say enough how much I needed my female friends and mentors. The entire reason I have a career is because women invested so much in me and my dreams. I felt we were on the verge of creating a society where it was acceptable for women to hate each other. And so I decided to create a girl, everygirl – not a glamorous, celebrity type – but a girl every girl – white, black, and everything in between, could relate to.

Her name is Mackenzie Blue Carmichael. She’s not perfect, and she knows it. She’s struggling to survive middle school, make friends, and figure out what it means to have a crush on a boy. She loves her friends dearly, and always strives to rise above mean girl behavior. She has big dreams, and will do whatever it takes to make them come true. Her goal is to inspire her fans to follow their dreams and make good, moral decisions.

Writing this series changed my life in so many ways. It made me more patient (coming up with good ideas takes time!), collaborative (no one tells you how many people it takes to pull off a good series), and thoughtful (having girls discuss their real life issues with you will make you much more thoughtful). But most of all, it helped me get out of my box. And it made me realize that thinking and living outside of the box is scary. Your protective shield is nowhere to be found, and people can attack you. Trust me, I know first hand! My initial reviews were scathing to say the least, but by the second book, even my reviewers were hooked. Writing the Mackenzie Blue series has been one of the greatest joys in my life. I love the fact that her adventures can live on for generations to come.

I still don’t know if I’m a writer who ended up in marketing, or a marketer who ended up writing. Either way, it works for me. And I hope that you find that thing that works for you, and that you go for it, no matter what your critiques say.

If you want more Mackenzie Blue, check out http://www.mackenzieblue.com/

Fill out the form below to win a signed copy of all three books in the Mackenzie Blue Series from Tina Wells. Two winners will be picked at random on 9/7/10 and notified by email.


6 comments:

  1. Great post. It's tragic to see the way we treat each other and how we perpetuate what's acceptable.

    Also, yay, Penn! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Loved this. I'm glad you've been able to find what works for you and go for it no matter what. Great advice.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a wonderful story. Mackenzie Blue sounds amazing, and so you you, Tina. I'd love for my daughter to read those books. I entered the contest but if I don't win, I'm definitely buying the series for her (and for myself, too!).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the informative post! And the Mackenzie Blue website is so fun and bright. I confess I spent ten minutes trying on clothes on the characters (regressing back to my paper doll days). :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. I love the layout of the Mackenzie Blue book on the website. It looks like a great book for MG readers, soon to be my daughter. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I've mentally put this book in my TBR pile. We need more uplifting books. Thank you for writing them!

    ReplyDelete

Tell us what you think. We'd love to hear from you! :)