Jackie Krick Trains the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

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This week on JobMakers, host Denzil Mohammed talks with Jackie Krick, immigrant from Colombia and founder, president and CEO of ECU Communications in Manassas, Virginia. They discuss the entrepreneurial spirit of the newest Americans – immigrants – and why they are twice as likely to start a business and create jobs. For Jackie, it took a few tries, but she learned the system, used available resources, and today, she runs a successful digital communications and cross-cultural services agency focused largely on federal contracts. She started an award-winning nonprofit called Impacto Youth to give underserved teens access to education and skills training. And she cofounded Centerfuse, a coworking space for microentrepreneurs to discover, learn, train and be mentored by successful business owners like her, as you’ll discover in this week’s JobMakers. 

Guest:

A native of Colombia, South America, Jackie Krick is a marketing and advertising professional and an entrepreneur advocate of women-owned businesses, and youth leadership. As President and Founder of ECU Communications (ECU), a full-service digital marketing communications agency in Manassas, VA, she brings a three-decade career in providing award-winning marketing, advertising, strategic planning services to a diverse base of notable federal, state & local government, nonprofit and private sector clients. Jackie’s work in the field of marketing began before she founded ECU Communications in 2004. Earlier, in the role of Vice President of Marketing for a government contractor, she led the company to significant multimillion dollar advertising contracts. In addition, she previously held other marketing-related positions in support of information technology services for hardware, software and networking solutions as Director of Marketing, and Channel Marketing Manager. Jackie is also a partner of CenterFuse, a cowork space downtown Historic Manassas that supports growth and development of entrepreneurs, solopreneurs and emerging ventures that need a fully equipped space to do business, attend workshops, network and grow. Jackie focuses her special attention in support of underserved charitable interests, both in Northern Virginia and nationally. Her desire to continually give back to the community, led her to establish IMPACTO Youth, a 501c3 organization, in 2013, with the mission to “shape, advance and improve the lives of economically and socially disadvantaged youth through education.”

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Please excuse typos.

Denzil Mohammed:

I’m Denzil Mohammed and welcome to Jobmakers.

Denzil Mohammed:

Arguably entrepreneurship is what sets the United States apart from the rest of the world it’s made by and for entrepreneurs. And it is uniquely suited to capitalize on the entrepreneurial spirit of its newest Americans immigrants. That’s a big part of the reason why immigrants are twice as likely to start a business and create jobs for Jackie Krick immigrant, from Colombia and founder, president and CEO of ECU communications in Manassas, Virginia. It took a few tries, but she learned the system and used the resources available to her available to all Americans. Today. She runs a successful digital communications and cross-cultural services agency focused ly on federal contracts. However, Jackie takes that love of entrepreneurship further. She started an award-winning nonprofit called impact to youth to give underserved teens access to education and skills training, and she co-founded CenterFuse a co-working space for micro entrepreneurs to discover, learn, train, and be mentored by successful business winners like Jackie, as you’ll discover in this week’s JobMakers,

Denzil Mohammed:

Jackie Krick, founder, president and CEO of ECU communications in Manasas Virginia. Welcome to the Jobmakers podcast. How are you?

Jackie Krick:

Thank you, Denzil. I’m doing great. Happy to be here.

Denzil Mohammed:

So tell us a little bit about your business and why it’s special.

Jackie Krick:

ECU communications is a leading woman known small business. We’re a full agency specializing in digital communications in cross and cross cultural services. We were founded 18 years ago. We celebrated our 18th anniversary in, at the end of April. So we’re very, very proud of the accomplishments that we’ve done today ECU communications services clients across the us, and we provide a multitude of digital communication services, including branding media website development, app development, all types of communications, very proud to be part of the organization,

Denzil Mohammed:

Even coming up with taglines and slogans for businesses. I know. And you’ve, you have a range of very different, very diverse clients, right from the government to the private sector to nonprofits. Is that correct?

Jackie Krick:

That is correct. Our primary market is the federal government. That’s when ECU was founded, we started with servicing the federal government. We became eight, a certified in the, in the SME small business administration. It’s a certification for nine years and we successfully graduated from that in 2015. So we’ve serviced the federal government for all these years. And along the way, we’ve expanded our services to nonprofit organizations, stayed in local organizations and also the private sector, which is a growing area of interest right now,

Denzil Mohammed:

Really. But did you always want or expect to be a business owner?

Jackie Krick:

That’s

Denzil Mohammed:

Was that in the cards?

Jackie Krick:

Interesting question. I, I, I think I grew into that.

Jackie Krick:

Hmm. So I started working you know, my first jobs were just you know, normal jobs and but I was, I always felt that I wasn’t really happy in the role that I was. I always felt that I could do things a little bit better in my way, obviously a little bit faster. And I felt myself pulling out of the, the everyday kind of activities to, to want to be more in command of the things that I wanted done. So I, I think over the years I did fall into that role to say that I woke up one day and I wanted to be a business owner, maybe not so much, but I’m very happy with the decision that I made.

Denzil Mohammed:

I think you should be very happy with your decision. It’s been such a success. So a lot of Americans don’t know what it’s like growing up in other countries, particularly south American countries, developing countries. And you yourself have a really diverse background stressing from France to Chile, to Bolivia take us back to let’s say your grandfather and bring it up to today, up with you in Manassas.

Jackie Krick:

So my grandmother, my grandfather was French. He was, his family was a hundred percent French. They migrated to Columbia and that’s where he was born. He and 13 other brothers and sisters, when the oldest kids became eligible for the military, they went back to France. And so my grandfather was one of that first batch of kids that were born, went to the military in France. And when he was done, he decided to go back to Columbia to see the country where he was born. And of course he met, my grandmother fell in love and married, and they had five children. One of ’em was my, my mother moving forward. My mom was an adult. She fell in love with a Jillian man.

Denzil Mohammed:

Wow.

Jackie Krick:

He, he had traveled to Colombia and fell in love, got married. <Affirmative> my oldest brother was born in Chile. I’m sorry. My oldest brother was born in Colombia. And then she went to live in Chile for a few years where my two other brothers were born and then they went back to Colombia where I was born. So I’m the youngest, the only girl and well, I’m the baby. Of course, baby. Not a spoil one though.

Denzil Mohammed:

And then your stepfather came on the scene and he was American.

Jackie Krick:

Correct? my stepfather, my mom met my stepfather when I was nine years old. They got married. He was in Columbia doing a mission with the department of state and was there for a few years. At age 15, he was transferred when I was at 15. We got news that he was getting transferred to Bolivia. So we all moved my mom and my brothers and I, and my stepfather moved to Bolivia for six years. And that’s where we basically lived. I loved Bolivia, wonderful place, beautiful people. The indigenous people were amazing, the food, everything else. I hold Bolivia very dear in my heart.

Denzil Mohammed:

And so you moved at 15 and then you moved again when you were 21, when your stepfathers transferred back to the us, right?

Jackie Krick:

Yes.

Denzil Mohammed:

And what was that experience like moving to the United States of America?

Jackie Krick:

Wow.

Jackie Krick:

So through those years we had visited the United States and we knew what it was like and, and spoke English. But I can tell you that nothing can prepare, would prepare me to come and live here. It was very different when you are visiting one location is one thing when you’re living and working and, you know doing your daily activities is completely, completely different. So it took, it took getting used to it. It took, even though I spoke English, it took getting your ear accustomed to everybody speaking English to you all the time. The way of life was completely different. So it, it really, it was a hard thing for me. I, I remember going to sleep and really crying myself to sleep sometimes, really just because I, I was in a very different environment. I was living with my brother and his wife away from home for the first time and moving into a world of, you know, working and just being an adult,

Denzil Mohammed:

Navigating the system.

Jackie Krick:

Yeah. Very, very different. So it took me a little while, but eventually I, you know, I, I surpassed that and here I am. So

Denzil Mohammed:

We, we talked about your business a little bit earlier, and we’re gonna talk about a little bit more that you started in 2004 ECU communications, but you sort of started your own business at way back in 1990. Didn’t you, you went off on your own doing graphic design, right? Yes. What was, what was that like, tell us why you ended up having to close it. And what lessons did you think you learned from that experience?

Jackie Krick:

I started it because I, again, I wanted to do something on my own. I really felt empowered to try something new that I could drive on my own and make something out of it. The reason I closed it quite honestly, I went through a divorce and it became really hard because I’ll, I’ll tell you in a minute what lessons I learned, but it became really hard for me to be the one going out, looking for work and then coming back and doing the work. So I was an organization of one person, which very difficult to do. You, you cannot be all to everything and do every other work. So it was very difficult. I eventually decided to just fold the business and, and get myself employed again. It was very hard decision. I can tell you that I, I didn’t wanna do it, but I had some of the lessons that I learned definitely is that you need to, if you want to grow your business, you cannot do it alone.

Jackie Krick:

You need to find the people that can help you, the great talent that can help you. You have to have that collaboration and you have to have the, the right the right tools and depending how big you wanna be. Right. obviously I learned a tremendous amount of lessons during that time, because the second time around when I started ECU, I knew it in my mind that I wanted to do something completely different and that I could not be the lead. I could not be the graphic designer. I could not be the writer. And also the business development. When you start a business, you do wear a lot of hats, but you cannot do that constantly because that will never get you to the next level.

Denzil Mohammed:

And you’re also the janitor and you’re also the technician and you’re also the driver. Let’s not forget those things.

Jackie Krick:

That’s right. <Laugh>

Denzil Mohammed:

Your current business, which you started in 2004 is now flourishing. Take us through the different steps and stages of how you grew that business.

Jackie Krick:

Well, one of the things that I learned when I went back and got myself employed again, right. It was working with a, in the it sector, but always doing marketing and advertising and they were doing government contracting. So I learned how to work in that environment. I learned a lot about contracts in managing contracts, although I was not doing that, but I learned a lot about that. And so that gave me the ability to say, you know, here’s an opportunity. The government does a lot of business with a variety of sizes of business. Like you have the small businesses, the, the large businesses, the eight, eight businesses. And so I saw an opportunity there to really get started as a, as a small business first and then apply for the eight a certification, which it’s a, it’s a certification for specific folks.

Jackie Krick:

So, you know, being a Hispanic woman, I definitely was want to be able to get that certification because of who I was. And I knew that with the broad range of competitors, that there are out there having the access to a smaller pool of opportunities would definitely help my business grow up. So I went after that application. And then after that, I started going after the government contracts, it took me a while. It, it really did. You really need to know and have access to a lot of different tools. So if I had to do it all over again, I probably change it up a little bit, but you know, those are the things that you learned along the way, right? And, and now I love to help others and tell others, you know, how they can do it too, because it’s not it, it it’s, you have to try certain things before you can really get that, that the right path. I would’ve waited a little bit longer before getting my Aday certification. I would’ve waited until I had a, a larger base of business. If you know, the Aday certification is only nine years. Once you get it, you get into it nine years, go by and you’re out. So,

Denzil Mohammed:

And just for, for listeners who may not be familiar with it, could you just describe it a little bit?

Jackie Krick:

So the a a is a small business administration program to help underserved people from countries like Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, they can apply to become ADA certified. And what happens is that the government agencies, they set aside a portion of their purchasing contracts of their contracts. They set ’em aside as a, a, a, that means that the, the pool of competitors can only be a, a so that you have a, a bigger opportunity to have access to those contracts.

Denzil Mohammed:

So you found the opportunities and you went after them. That’s, that’s what a business owner does. And, but you spoke a little bit about creating opportunities for others and sort of letting other people, other, probably BU budding business owners know the kind of knowledge and background that you now have. First off, I wanna bring up impact to youth. This is where you want to create opportunities for young people to learn and develop their skills. And, you know, they come from vulnerable communities. And you, you said once I heard you say that this was your real passion. Can you describe this a little bit for me and why you decided to do this?

Jackie Krick:

Yes. So I think that everybody has such great potential to do something with themselves, but it really all depends on the path that they get on. And the reason why impact a youth was founded was to give so many kids, young, young adults, young kids opportunities to dream. My mother used to always say, you know, when you dream high, you need to dream higher because chances are, you’re going to get to a certain point, maybe not as high as you’re dreaming. So I wanna give kids the opportunity to dream as high as they can, and be able to get more than what they think that they can get, you know,

Denzil Mohammed:

More than what they were born into, I guess.

Jackie Krick:

That’s right. That’s right. So the other thing that I believe is that when you give those opportunities to young people, you’re teaching them something, found with a, a great foundation. You’re teaching them that, you know, they’re able to go and do things on their own that they’re capable of being self providers. And that’s really what I, what I want to teach them to go out, be self providers help yourselves learn and accomplish a lot of great things, because that’s the greatest feeling when you, when you go and get it yourself, rather than, you know, be there waiting for something, somebody to give it to you.

Denzil Mohammed:

Does any particular young person come to mind when you think of the program?

Jackie Krick:

We’ve done impact to youth academy, where we brought in kids from the high schools around here and mentor them through soft skills and career planning and things like that. And some kids came back to me and said, you know, everything we learned there we’ve, we’ve, we’ve applied. And so some kids were starting their, their careers as entrepreneurs and learning new things. It it’s really, it touches me a lot. It really does. The one thing that I did learn is that we need to start younger, not just high school kids, because when you’re in high school, you’re already, it’s kind of too late. So we are learning that we need to start more in the middle, middle school to really touch the kids and really get them interested in into thinking about it could be a career. It could be an entrepreneur. It, doesn’t not, everybody’s made to be a, a business owner and not everybody’s made to have a four year degree. You know, there’s other things that kids can do as long as they’re willing to learn something. That to me is the basic thing.

Denzil Mohammed:

Wow.

Jackie Krick:

I get very passionate about that.

Denzil Mohammed:

I can, I can tell but what was the main driving force for you to do this?

Jackie Krick:

Yeah, I wanna give back to the community. I, I, I wanted to share some of the success that I’ve had with the community. I, I wanted to give something to the young kids to help ’em

Denzil Mohammed:

And you’re also helping budding entrepreneurs, because I know that you have a, a relationship with the city of Manassas, and there’s a co-working space that I guess, incubates budding entrepreneurs who may wanna start their business. Can you describe that for me?

Jackie Krick:

So about five years ago, we engaged. I’m a, I’m a, a co-founder one founder, one of four, and we engaged in a private partner, private public partnership with the city of Manassas to open up a coworking space here in the city. And the idea is to help entrepreneurs micro, tiny little companies come and have a place where they can discover new potentials for opportunities to grow for training. We have the SD B C here. I think they come to the office maybe two times a week, and they meet with businesses that either are starting their businesses, or they already are, have been founded, but they need more guidance and more mentorship. So we do that through, through the SD B C and then it’s very economical. It’s only like 10, $10 in a day that they can come here and they can have access to all their resources. You know, a table networking, they can print materials, they can also meet other like-minded individuals that where they can, you know, engage and, and have new business opportunities. And that actually has happened a lot here. So very interested and very engaging. I love everything about growth and entrepreneurship and being able to connect with others. That’s what cent fused us.

Denzil Mohammed:

It’s almost like you’ve come full circle since you first moved to the us and would cry yourself to sleep. And now you’re actually actively giving back to other people, other young people probably from immigrant families as well, vulnerable families, too. Which is really, really very cool, which brings it to my last question, which is the United States has allowed you to thrive and be successful. Maybe it took a couple tries, but you got there. And you, I’m sure you’re still dreaming higher and higher. How do you feel about the United States as a place that allowed you to succeed as a woman, as an entrepreneur, as someone who has dreams,

Jackie Krick:

I love this country. Hmm. I love it. I, I really think that it’s all inside of you and I, I really, I am a force inside of me that really wanted to push forward just who I am. And I am so glad and thankful and appreciative of the United States in, in the ways that yes, we have a long way to go in so many things. Right. But I had the opportunity to do it. And that, I mean, opening a new business here is as easy as going and getting a license for your business.

Jackie Krick:

Mm. Obviously that’s not something I would recommend because you need to know a little bit more than just that. But what I’m saying is there are so many things that facilitate you doing something. And if you put yourself into it every single day and you dedicate and you believe what you’re gonna do, and you have a computer or you have, you know, get and go talk to people, it is so much easier to do business here in Columbia, maybe other countries too, when you reach a certain age, you pretty old and there’s no more work. There’s no more opportunities in the United States. You have limitless opportunities where you can work and you can start your business, even when you’re a senior citizen. It’s amazing. I love it.

Denzil Mohammed:

It’s almost as though it’s built to foster entrepreneurship, right.

Jackie Krick:

Pretty much, pretty much. Yeah.

Denzil Mohammed:

And capitalize on the entrepreneurial talents and desires of immigrants. Like you, Jackie Krick, founder, president, and CEO of ECU communications in Manassas Virginia immigrant from Colombia and business owner. Thank you so much for joining us on Jobmakers,

Jackie Krick:

Denzil, thank you so much. It’s great speaking with you.

Denzil Mohammed:

Jobmakers is a weekly podcast about immigrant entrepreneurship and contribution produced by Pioneer Institute, a non-profit in Boston and the Immigrant Learning Center in Malden, Massachusetts, a not-for-profit that gives immigrants a voice. Thank you for joining us for this week’s inspiring story of immigrant entrepreneurship. Remember, you can subscribe to Jobmakers of apple podcast, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And please leave us at a rating and a review I’m Denzil Mohammed, see you next Thursday at noon.

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