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updated: 7/24/2017 4:33 PM

Coffee Break: Jill A. Kerrigan, president and owner, JAK Creative Design, Darien

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Q: Describe your company.

A: We are an independent marketing and design agency. Our clients include nonprofits, startups, Fortune 500 companies and everything in between. We get to know each client's brand inside and out, and then we create high-quality, high-impact marketing materials for both print and digital channels.

Q: What's the hottest trend in your industry?

A: Digital advertising is so important right now. And as digital standards have become more broadly accepted, our industry has been able to finally take advantage of new web technologies that satisfy our whole range of clients while effectively achieving their goals. Minimalism has also been big thus far in 2017, and my design team uses this approach to create marketing materials that get straight to the point, with clean lines and fewer words for a big impact.

Q: What makes you different from your competitors?

A: JAK is efficient and personal. Because our agency is small, we can respond to and meet each client's needs with agility, flexibility, and a personalized approach. I have a team of 16 employees. They are the best of the best and all of them are dedicated to making each client's vision a reality.

Q: What will your company's main challenges be in the next year?

A: Being in the professional services industry, even though we have tenure with Fortune 500 clients, it is still incredibly difficult to gain access to the appropriate contact within the supply chain to get that initial capabilities meeting with a potential new client. This has been a constant hurdle for my company; but, through perseverance, we have broken through that barrier before and I am beyond confident we will continue to do so.

Q: If you had one tip to give to a rookie CEO, what would it be?

A: You will experience great ups and some difficult downs, but never give up. Asking the right questions and asking for help are signs of strength, not weakness.

Q: Do you have a business mantra?

A: Embrace each and every "failure." How will you ever really know what it is to succeed without learning how to brush off your knees and stand right back up?

Q: From a business outlook, whom do you look up to?

A: Last year, I completed the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. It was a challenge, but well worth it! During the process, I was fortunate enough to be paired with an experienced, insightful mentor, Darryl Tolbert, who offered guidance to myself and my cohorts along the way, and I keep in touch with him today.

I look up to Darryl and many others from Goldman Sachs who taught me throughout the duration of the program.

Q: What is one interesting fact about you or your company that most people may not know?

A: People may not know that I am extremely goofy with a great sense of humor! I bring it every day. In my next life, I would love to do stand-up. Right now, I have a few other things on my plate.

Q: What do you like to do in your free time?

A: I'm an artist. I love to paint in my free time -- and spend time with my husband and three children.

Q: What book is on your nightstand?

A: "The Business of Design: Balancing Creativity and Profitability" by Keith Granet.

Q: If you were not doing this job, what would you be doing?

A: I would take time to paint in my studio each day and put time aside to mentor young women about the potential each one of them has. It's so important for young women to know that there is someone who started off where they are now. Young women should feel empowered to shine bright and pursue their interests and talents with passion.

Q: What was your first paying job?

A: Believe it or not, I worked at the age of 14 as a waitress in a very small, old restaurant in Hinsdale. My worst nightmare came true when I went to the kitchen to get my order for my first table of eight only to hear that I had never placed the order with the kitchen. The 50-cent tip was a huge red flag. I realized that this may not be the best career path for me.

Q: If you could put your company name on a sports venue, which one would you choose?

A: If I had to choose, it would be a rink for the Chicago Blackhawks!

Q: What is one thing you learned at home while growing up.

A: My mother was a hardworking single mom who raised six children in the suburbs of Chicago. She is my role model. My mom's strength, determination, and perseverance inspired then and still inspire me now. When my mom saw how badly I wanted to find my special niche in life, she said, simply, "Why don't you go draw?" Those words set me on my path in art and design, and ultimately led me to found JAK Creative Design.