For Jennifer Kaplan, the owner and founder of Evolve PR and Marketing, the ability to network and build relationships is paramount to her success.
Kaplan has used what she calls her “gift of gab,” her entrepreneurial spirit and her passion for marketing and public relations to build her own company from the ground up. She also relied on years of marketing and sales experience to create an impressive resume.
With Evolve, Kaplan works with many types of clients, from large corporations to small mom-and-pop stores. Her hope is to help all of her clients reach their business goals.
In 2017, she was named one of the 50 most influential women by AZ Big Media, the publisher of Arizona Business News.
Where are you from?
I am one of the few born-and-raised Phoenix natives. Most people I meet are from Chicago or New York or somewhere else.
What did you want to be when you were younger?
One of the things I wanted to be was a comedian. I loved making people laugh when I was a kid. Another idea I was throwing around was a sports agent. But, really I knew that I wanted to do something with communications. I was pretty young when I realized that I wanted to go into public relations as a
I see you were voted “The Most Talkative Senior” at your high school. That must be a great title for someone who works in public relations.
Correct. I had the gift of gab from a young age, which I utilize every day at work. And the funny thing is that the high school award would go to both a guy and girl. The guy who got the same award is also in a career where he’s utilizing that talent. It was our claim to fame.
I feel blessed that I was able to know that I had the ability to network and connect with people at that age too. I probably could’ve gotten that award in every grade since kindergarten. It’s just who I was (and who I am now), but it was never in an obnoxious way or a rude way. I loved talking and engaging with people in a genuine way.
I was very social growing up and that label has stuck with me for decades now.
What led you into marketing and public relations?
When I went to (Arizona State University), I majored in communications with a focus in public relations. I didn’t necessarily know that I was on a mission to own my own business one day, but I knew that using that gift for speech and passion that I had could somehow be channeled into a career.
I was fortunate to be able to study something I loved and learn to love it even more. Some of the subjects I studied were nonverbal communication, interpersonal communication and intercultural communication; all of which helped me expand on the communication I had as a kid to a whole other level and make a career out of it.
How did you create Evolve PR and Marketing?
Even though during college I had fabulous internships and great training, I couldn’t find a job after I graduated. My brother’s girlfriend at the time told me to work in some kind of media realm so that I could get some experience. I worked at The Phoenix New Times and for a radio station in sales, and it was not something that I would say was for me. I definitely wanted to get out. I heard a few of my friends were working as pharmaceutical sales reps and thought that would be good career switch.
I decided to go to a job fair because I knew that there would be some pharmaceutical companies there, but I ended up getting enamored with the UPS booth. I worked there for a few years in sales as well and I was building this strong career, but after a while I reevaluated my career goals and passion. I knew I could always fall back on sales, but I wanted to follow that passion for PR and marketing.
A girlfriend of mine knew the owners of Tutor Time, which are children’s day cares, and they hired me to be their director of marketing. I realized that I was having a lot of fun out in the field, schmoozing and taking people to lunch and I loved what I was doing. And as I was working there, the idea of starting my own company became more enticing.
I assume that creating Evolve didn’t just happen overnight.
It took a while, but it was an organic process. At first, I didn’t have a name for a company or anything, but I would meet other companies in the community and start doing some freelance PR work for them. I didn’t start my own company until I created Prime 3 with a former business partner in 2005. I was there for a little under five years and then decided to go out on my own.
Right after I left, I created Evolve PR and Marketing just over eight years ago. I brought over some clients from my former firm and hired a girl right out of college. Now here we are with about 80 clients and 10 people work for me. Over the years we’ve managed to establish ourselves as one of the strongest PR firms in town.
What would you say was your mission for creating Evolve?
I come from an entrepreneurial family, so I think just wanting to succeed at building something on my own that I was passionate about was my main focus. It was a struggle at the beginning because I only had a few clients that were with me and I had to build the business. I think that I just had that passion for the industry and that entrepreneurial drive to want to make this on my own.
What’s the best part about your job?
There are so many things I love about this job. I really love helping the client and building their business, which is their livelihood. It’s also great interacting with my team. For me this leads to the most important part, which is building relationships. I totally thrive on that interaction and helping people grow what they’re passionate about.
What do you in your free time?
There’s a limited supply of that, but I definitely do yoga. That’s a daily ritual of mine. I love to travel and spend time with my family. Those are the main things I like to do, but I like to explore new things as well.
What’s a surprising fact about yourself?
I love watching all sports and following different tournaments and athletes. I even have the ESPN app on my phone. And I’m always rooting for the Sun Devils. JN