I Love My Job: Marketing Genius Tina Wells Talks Work-Life Harmony
The Buzz Marketing Group CEO has been juggling a lot for a long time. Here's how the leader stays grounded.
How many people can say they launched a business in their teens that’s successful over two decades later? Buzz Marketing Group founder and CEO Tina Wells is among the few who can. The marketing maven launched what would become Buzz Marketing Group when she was just 16. The business she’s built is now sought after for its spot-on expertise in marketing to everyone’s favorite generation to hate — millennials. Wells has earned the title “millennial whisperer” because before the generation even had its collective identity, she was far ahead of other researchers when it came to understanding the needs and inclinations of the group.
Along the way, she’s added on some pretty cool responsibilities. Wells is the academic director of Wharton’s intensive Leadership in the Business World program, and she the youngest person ever to join the executive committee of the Franklin Institute where’s she’s been a board member for eight years. Author is another title of hers. Wells is behind the popular children’s series Mackenzie Blue and writes about all things lifestyle and entrepreneurship on a separate blog. The entrepreneur tells Philly Mag how she stays on top of it all and why she’s currently looking to achieve what she calls “work-life harmony” over work-life balance.
I grew up in… southern New Jersey, but I was born in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. We moved to Jersey when I was around six years old.
An important lesson that’s stuck with me throughout life is… if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. My dad would always say that to me, and I took that to heart. The older I get, the more I realize that plans can change. You can do whatever you want but you just have to set a clear path to get there.
A big goal of mine for 2018 is… driving awareness of my relaunch for TinaWells.com as a destination for women, but especially a huge focus on women of color to help them launch, grow and lead companies. I’ve been spending a lot of time highlighting women, especially women of color, to see what their potential is for what they can do.
I’m inspired by… the spirit of young people. For example, no matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on when it comes to gun control, how can you not be inspired by students who’ve decided to take the lead. This is the first time in this discussion that we’ve seen students say, “We’re not going to be victims, we’re going to be part of the solution.” As the academic director of Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World Program, I meet 160 young bright minds who are willing to spend their summers creating a business and pitching ideas. They come up with things that I would never think of. I’m really inspired by the will that they have to see what’s possible and make something happen.
I get most excited about… good branding on new products! There are so many old systems right now that are being innovative, and it’s so inspiring to see how products are new, fresh and have a different approach.
I launched my own business when… I realized that I liked trying products more than I liked being a fashion editor.
A project keeping us busy… is a new client that is local to Philadelphia called Alyne. This is exciting for me because for the first time we’re focused on boomers. And it’s a product for incontinence. The tech it uses is amazing and what it does overall is amazing. I like feeling like I’m solving a puzzle. And with this, the question is, how do you get a new product that’s so innovative in the hands of the people who need it? And I firmly believe that this product will actually improve the lives and dignity of people using it. We are in the beginning stages of figuring out who the target is and how to talk to them.
Some of my strongest skills are… creativity. I really think outside the box, to the point where the box doesn’t even exist. And I understand that it’s important to focus on understanding the consumer.
A skill I’m still honing… is balance, but more like harmony. I want work life harmony instead of balance because I think harmony is where everything works together. I’ve been really focused on changing up my schedule to leave room to get the actual work done. How can you take a minute, breath and do big thinking when you aren’t giving yourself that opportunity? Everyone thinks being extremely busy is so great, but it’s not. If I didn’t give myself the space, then it wouldn’t be so fun.
The hardest part of my job is… understanding what I need to do versus what I want to do, and empowering my team to do what they need to do. It’s been a huge lesson for me to step back and let the smart people who are capable solve the problem.
People call me the millennial whisperer because… when I started in ‘96 as a teenager, I researched what we used to call “youth marketing,” which were young people who eventually grew up to be millenials. 10 years later, in ‘06 and ‘07, I understood this emerging generation and demographic because I just happened to be at the right place in the right time. So much of my business and my career has been built on knowing them better than anyone else. It’s really those insights that helped me continue to understand this demographic that’s so different than other people.
Something people misunderstand about millennials is… this idea that they’re lazy. I think millennials have an aerial view to the lives of their parents, which allows them to observe more and figure out new ways of doing something. You have to consider that they were graduating college when the 2008 financial crisis hit, and they saw their parents, who worked at a company their entire lives, lose everything. I think in that moment they decided, that’s not the way they want to live.
I don’t leave the house without… about three to five different oils. I get made fun of for being really obsessed with natural remedies. I’ll travel with the oils everywhere I go to combat against almost anything you can think of.
I’m really afraid of… fake news. One of the things I love most about my job is that you take information or facts and you form an opinion. I come from place where facts and science are important, especially with my profession. It scares me to think that people use alternative facts.
Working with Oprah was…life changing. Working with her team even more so. It transformed the way I think about work because of her concept that everything has to have an intention. In her meetings, you would say, “the intention of this meeting is…” I felt that I was making that connection in my personal life, but not my work life. It really helped me understand how to use harmony between setting intentions in both my personal life and work life.
The last book I read was… Judgement Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein. It’s about steps to take to focus more on yourself and to not be so judgmental of other people, which I think is something we all need right now.
Being a children’s author has taught me… that you’re never too old to be creative. The book is about how to navigate middle school, and all the challenges that come with it. I hope that it is an example to girls that it’s okay, we all go through these things and we can figure it out together. I think having a series that’s touched over a million children has been awesome, just to know that they’re reading it and that they love it.
A Philadelphian I have my eye on is… Melissa Lee from The Green Program.
Nationwide, I have my eye on… Yara Shahidi. She’s like from another planet.
My secret talent is… being a super connector. My friends will always call me to ask, “can you connect to me so and so?”
Go-to clothing items in any wardrobe should be… a pair of high-waisted jeans. They’re great for work, you can wear them with heels, but something about it looks really elevated. I like a cape blazer because it gives you freedom for your arms to carry your stuff, but you still look really put together. And always, a really great scarf. It’s my secret for everything. Scarves solve everything.
The first concert I ever went to was… probably a Backstreet Boys concert, when they were still selling out arena for 100,000 people.
My morning routine involves… reading something that’s very inspirational, like Marianne Williamson or a book by Oprah called The Wisdom of Sundays. I also do a morning practice inspired by Kevion Stirdivant. It focuses on setting intentions, and reaffirming them every morning. And finally, I consider what my three goals are for the day.
Writing a blog in today’s day and age is… a question of, how is that content helping readers in some way? And if it’s not being helpful, then it’s not worthwhile. I think we’re past the point of people being inspiring just because of who they are. It’s not just about, “Hey, I’m here. Let’s talk about me.” But instead, “Let’s talk about you, and what it is that I can help you do, and am I the right person to help you?” I feel like you really have to have a strong point of view and you have to offer something that is going to be really beneficial to people.
My top piece of advice for anyone looking to launch a blog is… to understand who your first five readers will be. Think about that and how to create a community around that. Not including friends or family that will read your blog either way. So, if you can’t even figure out who your first five readers are, then you probably shouldn’t be writing that blog.
The buzzReport is a space for… curiosity and learning.
Branding yourself on social media is all about… authenticity.
A social cause I care a lot about is… STEM, getting girls involved with math and science. I did really well in math and science when I was younger. Although I ended up in a career involved with entrepreneurship, fashion and beauty, I think it’s really important for girls to get excited about math and science and for us to make a path available to them if they so choose.
In 10 years, I see myself… investing in and advising startups, and running some kind of media company.