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Conversations with the Inspiring Jennifer Wise

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Wise.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My business is Heritage Makers, a digital publishing company offering heirloom-quality do-it-yourself storybooks, photo books, digital scrapbooking, and very personal gifts from the heart (among other things!) My motto is “Don’t let your babies grow up to be jpegs.” My goal in my business is two-fold: to educate and inspire about why memory-keeping is so necessary to our hearts and souls (and even the best source of self-esteem for kids!), and to give people a high-quality, doable way to accomplish it (Heritage Makers). I’ve been a Heritage Makers consultant since March 2005, so I’ve just passed my 14-year anniversary. I like telling the WHOLE story, though!

When I started as a Heritage Makers consultant, I wasn’t looking for a job, extra income, or even a hobby! I was pretty much just minding my own business. I was a stay-at-home mom raising three kids under the age of seven. I’ve always been very passionate about connections. I’ve always been a journal-writer and a photo-snapper because memories are both precious and fleeting. Things you think you’ll never forget fade over time. I have always recognized how good it is for me to take time to reflect on my own experiences and memories. Anyway, within about a week in March 2005, I’d had phone calls from three friends telling me about a new company that they’d just become consultants for, Heritage Makers. In fact, one of my friends said, “This is like a company made for you!” I looked into it and knew she was right. At the time, I was a scrapbooker and as a SAHM was obviously very involved with all aspects of my kids’ lives. I was absolutely not looking for something else to add to my plate, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Heritage Makers for this reason: Everyone has photos, everyone has memories and stories and experiences they want to remember, but not everyone scrapbooks. I saw so much possibility in Heritage Makers as an incredible tool for helping families connect with each other and helping individuals connect with themselves through story, photos, and memories using a simpler method than scrapbooking.

In a decision that is thoroughly unlike me, I signed up as a consultant within a few days, having never even used the product before. For a solid introvert, social selling was a pretty gigantic step, but the purpose of the product was something I believed in so deeply that I kind of couldn’t help myself. And now, here I am, 14 years later, still passionate about encouraging people to take time to put words and meaning to their life experience by preserving photos and memories. It makes a bigger difference than most of us realize.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
For me, entrepreneurship has mostly NOT been very smooth. I’m a low-pressure kind of a gal—introverted, as I mentioned–and getting “out there,” “closing the sale,” and that kind of thing has always been really difficult and felt horribly unnatural for me. It took me a few years to find my groove. I think embracing your talents is absolutely vital in entrepreneurship! I am not a stick-my-hand-out-and-introduce-myself type of person, but over time I realized I AM some other great things. I’m a problem solver, I’m a listener, I’m responsible and dependable, and I love helping people. I’m quiet at first, but after the general ice-breaking part of a relationship, I’m friendly and funny and supportive, and most people really like me.

Once I learned how to stop backing away because I didn’t fit in the “box” of a direct-sales stereotype, I began to learn what *I* could bring to my business that nobody else could. It took some time and some practice, but “Run With Your Strengths” is a happy place to be. Could I do some aspects of my business better? Sure. But nobody can be all things to all people anyway, so I might as well be myself and let people who appreciate my style be drawn to me. Like many businesses, it can be easy to base your definition of success on how your business is received, how many people use it or buy it, or how much money you make from it. I heard a quote recently that blaming your spouse for failure in your marriage is like saying, “Your side of the boat is sinking.” I think business is often looked at like that: I’m sitting in one end of the boat, and clients or potential clients are sitting in the other end, and successful business means we’re floating, not sinking. The reality of it for me has been that I can’t always define my success that way.

The biggest obstacle I have in my business is that people say they don’t have time to do anything with their photos and memories. Is that my responsibility, or theirs? I’ve written quite a few blog posts about time management, tricks for making time, etc., and I hold online and in-person workshops to give people a chance to block out time on their calendars for memory-keeping, but in the end, someone with photos and memories has to prioritize doing something with them. I’ve written a lot of blog posts and given keynote addresses and classes on scientific studies about why we need photos and memories, how they create connections and even increase happiness and self-esteem, and how telling your own story is therapeutic, but in the end, someone has to believe me and let that information change them and their behavior. My definition of success has had to stop being dependent on other people’s priorities and choices. I have had to start considering myself successful if I am providing information, quality products, help, services, tools, and solutions to the best of my ability. My advice to other women starting their journey would be: 1- Find your strengths and emphasize them 2- Grow by learning new things from an expert or two that could help your business (maybe social media, maybe successful follow-up, etc.) and 3- Believe in yourself and what you’re doing and that you’re an expert in your field (or work on becoming one), because if you don’t, nobody else will, either.

What should we know about Heritage Makers? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I work my Heritage Makers business in two ways: 1- I teach people how to be memory-keepers and how to create their own storybooks, scrapbooks, family history books, etc. (plus personal and unique gifts such as a DIY playing card deck). I help answer questions and teach people how to use the Heritage Makers software either in person or through my online video tutorials on my YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/user/jwiseheritagemakers) and 2- I hire out to create books for people, or any aspect of it.
I’ll sort photos, I’ll get the book started, I’ll finish the book, I’ll tag team–whatever a client needs. I love this aspect of my business. Sometimes people just need a little help with their photos and memories, and sometimes me doing all the work is the only way they’ll get these important things into their hands and hearts. Sometimes people just need to hold a finished book in their hands to get the ball rolling and encourage them to start consistently preserving photos and memories on their own. Whatever helps is what I love to do for people. One of the things I’m most proud of as a brand and what sets Heritage Makers apart from other “online photo books” is quality. These are heirloom-quality books that are meant to last. They are intended to be passed down to the next generation, not a bargain-bin type product.

Another thing I’m very proud of is Heirloom Assurance. I’ve always thought it was fantastic (and I don’t know of any other company that offers it), but it meant a lot to me personally a few years ago as I spent a lot of time creating a life storybook about my mom. Before she passed away, she gave me a few boxes of mementos and asked me to just do something special with them. I ended up with an absolutely gorgeous, high-quality, 80-page book that tells the life story of my mom. There are pictures of her as a baby, scanned items like favorite recipes, and much more. It’s a precious book! Heirloom Assurance offered by Heritage Makers is almost like insurance (except it’s free). Heirloom Assurance is a guarantee that if something happens to that cherished book, from a toddler spilling juice on it to it being consumed in a fire, I can get a replacement copy at half price. That means everything to me. And clients love it, too. Other things I’m very proud of are: Heritage Makers books are 100% customizable, so you can really create exactly what you want without being limited by a template (and even templates are 100% customizable). I’m proud of the huge variety of products, from hardbound books to digital scrap pages to wire-bound books (think cookbooks or planners), to DIY playing cards, mugs, calendars, posters, canvases, and much more. Another thing I love that sets Heritage Makers apart from other photo book or memory book companies is that clients don’t buy digital art collections and don’t pay to use the software, either. A Heritage Makers account is free, and use of digital art is included with the purchase of your product (magazine, board book, softbound book, etc.). My Heritage Makers website is www.heritagemakers.com/jenniferwise.

Something that sets me apart as a Heritage Makers consultant is that I have created helps and information so that I can (and do) have clients all over the country, not just locally. I have a blog with lots of information from time management tips to gift ideas (lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com) and a YouTube channel with over 30 video tutorials (www.youtube.com/user/jwiseheritagemakers). I LOVE to help people!

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
Because I was a stay-at-home mom for so many years, many of the other women I knew were, too. I think one of the biggest barriers to female leadership, in general, is the work-home/family balance. I believe many women find it difficult to make it to “the top” in part because they want to be available for their kids. My specific industry does not have that problem at all. In fact, because I was initially uncomfortable with social selling (or direct sales), I spent considerable effort redefining it for me personally. (I have a low-pressure team where my leadership focus is on help and guidance, NOT on my downline meeting quotas so I get paid more. I think that’s the wrong way to lead for many reasons!) At any rate, in spending time considering what direct sales would look like for me in my business, I did some research for a blog post I wrote on the subject. I learned something I suppose I already knew but hadn’t really realized: direct sales is one of the few places where women earn dollar-for-dollar what men earn! All of my upline leaders in 14 years have been women. Robert Laura wrote in Forbes Magazine, “… Direct selling programs offer very low barriers into entrepreneurship, often providing training, support, and ample encouragement along the way.” Success and leadership is open to me as a woman in my industry at any level.

Pricing:

  • Even with Heritage Makers quality, an average-size book price (8×8 hardbound) is only $27 for 21 pages with extra pages at 92 cents each (smaller books cost a bit less; larger books cost a bit more)
  • I help people get started creating their books for free. My advice, video tutorials, answered questions, etc., are free.
  • If you’d like to hire me to make a storybook, photo book, gift, etc., I charge $35/hour. I can make roughly 4 pages an hour depending on how well organized everything is when I receive it.
  • I’ve collected all the jaw-dropping research on the importance of stories and photos in a free ebook available at my website (in the sidebar) lifetalesbooks.blogspot.com
  • All Heritage Makers products are available at retail price or wholesale (10% less), plus there are monthly publishing specials where you can save an additional 15%. This information is in the tabs at my blog (along the top, in purple) called HM Club and Specials.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
professional photos of Jennifer: Becca Morgenegg, product photos courtesy Heritage Makes and Jennifer Wise

Getting in touch: VoyageDenver is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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