Mizzen+Main CMO says there’s no such thing as a typical day at the e-commerce startup
Get to Know: Jen Lavelle, CMO for the menswear brand Mizzen+Main
As the chief marketing officer for the men’s clothing line Mizzen+Main, Jen Lavelle drives brand development, while overseeing the company’s e-commerce, social media and advertising efforts. Lavelle has been with Mizzen+Main since its launch in 2012, when her husband, Kevin, the company’s founder and CEO, started the menswear brand.
Most recently, Mizzen+Main put the spotlight on famous athletes in a video campaign to promote its clothing line.
“Mizzen+Main just launched our ‘Step up your game’ video series, profiling America’s favorite athletes,” says Lavelle.
Right now, the series includes appearances from Houston NFL star and brand ambassador J.J. Watt, world-ranked tennis player John Isner, Chicago Cubs pitcher Jake Arietta and CrossFit competitor Jason Khalipa. Lavelle says the series will feature more athletes as the campaign continues.
In addition to overseeing the brand’s marketing efforts, Lavelle has worked with KIPP-DFW (Knowledge Is Power Program for the Dallas-Fort Worth region), an open-enrollement college-prep charter school, and served as the president of the leadership council for Pencils of Promise, an organization that builds schools, trains teachers and funds scholarships.
Prior to serving as Mizzen+Main’s CMO, Lavelle began her career in marketing at The Richards Group. From there, she moved on to the Dallas-based ad agency, Brand Agent, where she worked on new client outreach and brand proposals. Lavelle graduated with honors in 2008 from Southern Methodist University.
What mobile device can you not live without?
Not only can I not live without my iPhone, but it also must be paired with my Apple watch.
Which apps do you use most often for work?
Outlook for Mobile App and Sunrise Calendar — the combination of the two keeps our team on the same page.
What social media network or website do you frequent most when you’re not working?
Instagram — it’s great to look at beautiful pictures as a mental break. My favorite account to check up on is Bagather, Dallas-based Fashion Editor of FD Luxe Bradley Josephine Agather’s lifestyle account.
What’s the first thing you check on your phone in the morning?
Email, especially so I can read TheSkimm!
Take me through your typical workday.
On a typical day, I wake up with my dogs Duke and Beau as an alarm clock, who are the most enthusiastic Mizzen+Main employees of us all. Seriously, they cannot wait to come into the office every day.
Mornings are a big deal at our home because it is quality time that Kevin and I share, even though we work together. We make breakfast, watch the news, and get ready for the day ahead.
Once in the office, we usually have a Q&A with the team and a quick run down of to-do’s at the top of the day. By midday, I try my best to get a workout in during lunch, ideally something outside in the sunshine, because it really is such a great way to recharge for the day.
As a marketer at a startup, no afternoon is typical. I can find myself working on a number of things from product design, to e-commerce management, logistics and fulfillment snafus, inventory challenges — and the list goes on. Also, I know you may be wondering what role Duke and Beau play during all of this — they go office-to-office and collect cuddles from staffers.
After the day ends, Kevin and I are very active in the Dallas community. We like to attend networking events, fundraisers or business dinners in the evening. But my favorite after-work activity, when we can find the time, is going for a walk with Kevin and the dogs.
What has been the most exciting work development during the past year?
Do I only get to pick one? This has been an amazing time of growth and expansion for Mizzen+Main.
Over the course of the last year, we welcomed Houston’s star J.J. Watt as an official brand ambassador. Alongside Mr. Watt, we also introduced world-ranked tennis player John Isner and pitcher Jake Arietta to our team of endorsers. We feel fortunate to connect with the community of pro athletes, as they are some of our biggest brand enthusiasts; they appreciate the fit of our apparel, and we appreciate their genuine (and influential!) support.
In addition to our recognition in the world of sports, we also brought Mizzen+Main to major cities across the US in the form of pop-up shops, which allowed us to create a branded experience for our customers, paying off in brand value and bottom line. Among others, we opened a pop-up in San Francisco for the Super Bowl, bringing us face to face with our target consumer.
This year, we expanded our product base, adding men’s performance chinos to our collection. After searching two years for the perfect fabric, we debuted the chinos to accompany our trademark dress shirts and casual shirts. Needless to say, they sold out pretty quickly!
As business takes off, we become more appreciative of our hardworking staff every day as they rise to the occasion to help expand Mizzen+Main.
What does your office look like?
My favorite item in my office is my desk. It belonged to my great grandmother, and she was a force. I take great pride in the fact that I have the honor of sitting where she sat, even though we probably used it for different things.
How many miles have you traveled in the last 12 months?
In the last 12 months, I have traveled a total of 30,000 miles. Out of all the places I visited — and this may sound cliché — I really feel the magic in New York. It is the one place that matches our energy. There is always so much to do in such a short period of time during each trip, and I live for the hustle of accomplishing it all.
What work challenge keeps you up at night?
One reoccurring work challenge for our business is that we are growing so quickly, we often times sell out of our inventory. I know this may seem like a great problem, but it’s still a problem, and it forces us to re-evaluate our marketing strategies.
A very real bottom line can add an immense amount of stress, but it also keeps the wolf hungry.
Can you tell us about a campaign or work project you’d like to do over?
A few years ago we took out an ad in a major men’s magazine. My first inclination was that it may not be the best decision for our company, and it turned out to be a massive failure. Ladies, always trust your instincts!
Tell me about the people who have been most influential in your career.
I cannot answer this question without first mentioning my husband, Kevin. We work 24 hours a day to better ourselves, our business and the people around us. The greatest influence of all is a partnership that holds you to your highest standard.
In addition to Kevin, another amazing mentor in my life was Paige Poletes, a former colleague at The Richards Group in Dallas. She always challenged me to keep improving — and led by one heck of an example. I wanted to be just like her and hope I’m making her proud!
Also, I have to mention that I was a competitive swimmer during college and beyond, and my swimming coaches were instrumental in my character development, teaching me that hard work truly pays off.
What traits does a person need to succeed in your position?
Humility. Courage. Discipline.
Can you tell us something about yourself that your team would be surprised to know?
Well, I’m pretty close with my team, so I’m not sure how much more would surprise them. But, outside of the three other gals on my team, I think it may surprise most people that I have a pretty nasty junk food habit. It’s bad. Really bad.
Why did you go into marketing?
My mom was actually an advertising major in college and she always spoke so highly of her experiences in the industry. So I when I started college, I majored in advertising and found that working in marketing suits my strengths. Sometimes, Mom knows best!
What other career would you like to try, and why?
If I wasn’t in the marketing industry, I would have liked to be a veterinarian. It’s a totally different career trajectory, but I love animals and would like to be there to help.
What’s the last business book you read, and what did you think of it?
I recently re-read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” on a plane, which is an amazing book. I think I should re-read it every year. Although a lot of the book’s takeaways may seem like common sense, it is important to keep at top of mind that everyone we encounter is dealing with their own hardships.
Outside of your company’s efforts, what ad campaign or video caught your eye recently?
Recently there has been an increase of ad campaigns targeting millennials that empower women, which I think is a huge gain for the industry. A few campaigns that have caught my eye specifically are Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want,” featuring Misty Copeland, Dove’s “Real Beauty,” and Always’ “Like a Girl.”
It is so important for brands to become a part of the conversation and impart a lasting social effect.