Feature photo by Steve Starr
To continue our Latino professionals series, Sí Se Puede Attitude, Gozamos interviews Jessica Priego, founder of J. Priego Communications
“What motivates me every morning is truly winning, truly succeeding, innovating, and being at the forefront of market changers that affect the multicultural space. That kind of passion and desire to be at the front, at the top, and to be successful is something that I think you’re kind of just born with” – Jessica Priego
Gozamos: Tell me more about your background. Where did you grow up and how were your childhood years?
Jessica Priego: I was born in the southwest side of Chicago,Little Village, and my parents then moved to the Marquette Park area where I went to public school all through grammar school. I went to Maria high school in the south side, and then I went to a public high school so I’m a city person through and through. I went out of the city for college and it was awesome, but then my parents thought it would be a good idea for me to come back to the city so I came back and I graduated from Columbia College a couple years after that. I majored-out of all things-in short story fiction writing and poetry. My idea was that I would be a famous writer right about now. I’ll turn 40 in 2 years and I thought that I’d have made my mark in the literature world. I’ve done a lot in the writing side it’s always been part of my life, but I took a very professional and corporate track.
Describe what a day in the life of Jessica Priego would be like.
So this morning when I woke up, I see my son Maximiliano and I found him in my bed. I don’t know what got into him but he woke me up and was like, “Momma what are you?” I didn’t know if he was referring to my runny make-up or what, but the answer that came out of my mouth was “I’m Max’s Momma.” So now, I think about how there is such a big debate about working women and women writers. It almost surprised me because I am so many other things as well, but ever since I became a mother it’s changed, and that has become priority.
So what do I spend my day on? I run my own business, a PR and marketing firm that specializes in sports and entertainment . I have a great 3 person boutique agency that I started in 2005 and I re launched it this November 1st. We have clients like The White Sox, The United Center, Arenas Entertainment, Fox Deportes, National Council of La Raza in addition to other clients here in the market. I’m very focused now in sports and entertainment which is my passion.
My day in the life of is getting my home in order so I can get my 5 year old to school as well as focusing on my client work, growing my business, strategizing for the future. People have asked me a lot of times why I could have possibly left my job as head of advertising for the Chicago White Sox. I was there for 6 years and it’s not a very easy answer to give because it is such an amazing job. There are very few women, and very few women of color heading up general market advertising for any sports team in this country. I did it because I was looking for something that many people look for and that is a work life balance. Particularly in our Latino community family and raising our children is so important that even though I’m potentially pursued to be on top of my professional game, I definitely think that I am, I really needed to make space for being there for my 5 year old and being able to share those experiences with him. In order to have balance you have to create balance.
It doesn’t sound like much of a balance, I pretty much work all the time, but in the middle I do a lot of amazing fun things. Max and I like to raise money for specific causes with children’s events. My good friend and I created a series of parties that we do for young children. For 3 years we did a Halloween themed fundraiser where kids come to a space that I would have donated, along with donated food, and these young(ish) parents collectively donated everything we needed to put this huge Halloween party together for the kids and every kid’s parent would have to pay admission for their child to come to this party where they could be safe, get dressed up, and play with each other. Since everything was donated, we had no overhead and the money was used to provide a check to a family since you’re entering the holiday season. All the kids would get familiarized at a very early age with the concept of having a fun time but doing something for charity. To sum it up, my day is spent working, balancing out with raising my son properly, and exposing him culturally to as much as possible.
Photo Credit: Michael Estrella
What are other ways that you give back to your community?
I don’t want to grow my business too quickly so that I can continue to enjoy my life and I’m very, very involved in philanthropic activity. One of the values I want to instill in my son every day is giving back and supporting causes that we believe in. I’m very involved in the arts. I’m a trustee on the board of the National Museum of Mexican Art, a member of the Board of Directors for the International Latino Cultural Center, I’m co-chair of the communications committee of the Service Club of Chicago which is the longest standing women’s philanthropic group in the city that was founded pre-1900 to help immigrant families emigrate to the city. I’m also a member of the Economic Club of Chicago, which you can imagine it’s predominantly a business, corporate, professional “men’s” club not really a very diverse group but we are really working to diversify the group.
How do you think the advertising industry will change in the next few years and what role do Latinos play in that change?
You cannot deny that social media and online advertising is now a critical part of every single advertising and marketing campaign that targets the Latino community. Unfortunately I think that not all marketers are in tune with that so they continue to perceive more traditional media as ways that they can connect with us. I think it’s changing so quickly that you’re not going to be able to deny it. The ability for online advertising to target and retarget profiles to find consumers that you want to attract is slightly creepy, but it’s absolutely the truth and it’s absolutely effective.
We need to evolve the discussion about the Latino market not as a homogeneous group and as a very diverse group of markets within that. It’s no longer enough for us to say “I’m targeting the Latino market with my ad campaign” I kind of chuckle, because I’m like, “Are you serious, who are you talking about? Are you talking about youth, are you talking about bicultural? Are you talking about urban Latinos?” It’s up to the point where we are able to say, “I’m launching this movie and this movie speaks to bi-cultural, bi-lingual fairly assimilated Latinos, what should our media mix be?” that people will be more successful in their campaign.
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
I feel like in ten years I need to have a very successful sports and entertainment communications firm that is run by someone other than me on a day-to-day basis. I think I would always want to be involved in strategy development because that’s what I’m good at: looking at a situation and coming up with creative solutions. However, in 10 years I hope to be able to hand this off to someone and hang out a good portion of the winter months in my home in Tulum that I’ll be purchasing some day and be able to travel more. I don’t want to wait until I’m 60 to retire or to slow down because I don’t think I’ll ever slow down I think I’ll just keep redefining what it means to be alive for that period of time for me in my life. Although I aspire for great success financially and I think that’s part of the plan, I am also very willing to compromise some of that to be able to take time off and experience the world and enjoy my youth, my son’s youth, and everything that we have around us.
I know you talked about your son and the inspiration he is to you, but what would you say is your biggest motivation to continue doing what you’re doing?
I’m sorry I could probably talk about Max for years….
No, I love it! I would’ve totally guessed it was him I’m just giving you a chance to confirm it 🙂
No he is totally my obsession. Actually, one of the things that is very important and that I’m trying to instill in him is individualism. I do not want him to ever be making choices or living for me. I try to teach and lead by example and make some sort of selfish choices and individualistic choices for my life, so actually my answer to your question it is my own need and desire to have an impact and to succeed. I don’t know if every single individual born on this earth has the drive that others do, but what motivates me every morning is truly winning, truly succeeding, innovating, and being at the forefront of market changers that affect the multicultural space. That kind of passion and desire to be at the front, at the top, and to be successful is something that I think you’re kind of just born with and it has always been the base with me from a very early age.
Any fun fact about yourself you would like to share with our Gozamos readers?
If you look up IMDB me, I am part of the database online. I think I was on the cover of a DVD of a short film that was produced about poets in D.C.
Also, I don’t eat bananas. I haven’t really eaten a banana in like, 15 years.
Any advice for young Latinos who are just launching their careers or fulfilling their aspirations?
There are a couple of things that I would say are fundamental, and one of them is to know and accept who you are and what you want, and that is very hard to do. To be able to at 24 years old so sit there and say “I want this kind of life,” or “I want to do this kind of job” and I know that I am “this kind of person” and to own up to the responsibility of who you are at that very moment is really difficult to do. But, the sooner you can get to that point of knowing those things and writing them down the more able I think you will be to take action that will get you to the places that you want to go. Success is defined differently by everyone.
The second thing is, no matter what career, interest area, or topic that might be on your mind, I feel like reaching out to people and asking for help, advice and counsel is so important. I don’t think I’ve done it enough until recently–is this ability to ask for help because people love to help other people. I think that’s very important.
The third thing, whether or not you enjoy reading at all, I personally have found that the most joy, fulfillment, and the easiest way to open up your mind and make yourself a more well-rounded person is through reading. Whether that be articles from varied sources and types of media online, to the classics, to Latino literature. I just think that in order to remain connected to the past, present and future, reading is critical. That is totally just my opinion because I know a lot people don’t like to read, but it really fuels your mind and feeds your soul to connect you with others who have expressed their thoughts through writing—obviously coming from a writer 🙂