How She Got There: Jennifer L. Mann '91, President of JL Mann Consulting, LLC

Name: Jennifer L. Mann

Year Graduated: 1991

Major: Government & Economics

Favorite Lehigh memory: I am sure you have all heard the stories of “how it used to be.” But by far some of my favorite memories were during “Greek Week” and during Lehigh/Lafayette weekend. I think because both provided opportunities for students to come together and express pride in their fraternity, sorority or in Lehigh!

What does your company do? My firm provides diverse support services from strategy for Government Relations to identifying and entering new markets for non-profit as well as for profit organizations. Our clients range in size from Fortune 200 to those of million dollar annual budgets.

How did you go about starting your own business?

I started in business right out of Lehigh. I was in the insurance and financial investment world. That lasted a couple of years when by chance, I was referred to a longtime family friend who wanted to sell his wireless communications business. This was in 1994 when cell phones were just becoming more affordable and more common and when it was more likely someone would own a pager than a cell phone. In hindsight it is hard to believe! In 1998, I was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives (1998-2012) and subsequently sold my business. These 14 years were some of the best years of my life as I served my hometown in Harrisburg. It was such an honor to do so and was a true “dream come true” for me. I even had the honor of serving as only the 3rd woman in House Democratic history, to serve in Leadership. In 2012, I could see the dynamic of politics and governance changing. I noticed that adherence to ideology was becoming more important than serving the citizens and getting things accomplished on their behalf. That is when I decided to return to my roots and to once again enter into business for myself. The relationships I had built and the experience I gained prepared me well to serve the needs of my various clients.

Recommendations for future entrepreneurs:

Identify a need in the marketplace and come up with a sound plan to meet it. Don’t be afraid to take chances, but also be realistic. There is a fine balance between the two. Be honest with those you wish to serve as customers and clients, as too few are today. It is an easy way to differentiate yourself in the market place. Find someone in the community, a family friend or an alumnus of Lehigh to act as your mentor. It is always helpful to have someone with experience to act as an advisor and “sounding board.” Lastly, be curious, and never stop seeking ways to improve your product, your service or yourself!