Jolene's creative journey began at age seven, when she arrived in the U.S. as a non-English speaker. She quickly turned to art as a way to express herself, and she never looked back.
What restaurant are you always excited to get back to?
My favorite restaurant in NYC is Rubirosa on Mulberry Street. It's not the best place I've ever eaten or even my most favorite meal, but it's a place that is both iconic and feels like home. From celebrating my husband's birthday with a big group squeezed in way too tight in the private area in the back, to watching my not yet three-year-old son inexplicably house three slices of pizza, to countless nights dropping in after a long night at work with co-workers turned friends to share some Vodka pie and pasta, it has a lot of fun memories wrapped up in there.
How did you end up in your industry?
When I first came to the US I didn't speak a word of English. Being seven years old, in a school for the first time, and in a strange new environment where no one could understand me, art quickly became my go-to form of communication and catharsis. What seemed like a creative outlet quickly became my way of expressing myself and sharing my experiences. As I found words, writing became my other love, and it seemed natural that my passion for storytelling - both visual and verbal - led me into the world of advertising. One of my favorite professional experiences was working with a large CPG client on new product innovations. It was my first foray into brand development, and the strategic insights, consumer personas, building the brand framework, the brand identity, packaging, and all the foundational elements that go into a new brand were so much fun. Over time I decided to replicate that process with new founders I was being introduced to and consulting with them. I developed the LLC The Working Assembly because these projects led me to work during the day and assemble myself and my talented friends to support these startups that were beginning to pop up and accelerate in NYC. I especially felt compelled to use my talent and time towards marginalized groups who may benefit the most from having access to creative support. When we very organically got an RFP from a large Fortune 100 company that had heard of the work we were doing and wanted us to potentially partner with them on their massive rebrand, we knew we were onto something. Serendipitously I was also pregnant with my daughter and realized I wasn't going to be able to do both The Working Assembly and a day job, so decided to take the leap and go in on building the agency. We've since scaled and have now been doing this full-time for five years, and I'm incredibly grateful we still get to work with clients at both the emerging/fast-growth stage and evolving/later stage and really bring our expertise and passion for both branding and storytelling together in a holistic offering.
First piece of music you ever purchased?
I don't remember the first piece of music I bought but I do remember listening to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours for the first time in my room and really falling in love with music and the power of someone to make you feel both joyful and super melancholy at the same time. I think a lot of my music history and taste were guided by Stevie Nicks. That and Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation.
Favorite activity to pass time when you're not working?
Among many lucky circumstances in my life, the biggest one by far has been meeting my husband, best friend, and creative collaborator, Lawrence O'Toole. Besides being my biggest champion and advocate, he is always game for any wacky ideas I throw our way. The most recent one being to buy a 1950's ice cream stand near our home in upstate New York. We spent the last year renovating it and just reopened the shop under the same name - Cherries - this past May. We have lots of fun plans in the works for what we are going to do next including expanding the property to have a candy shop and event space that is going to offer art classes to local kids and families. Being creative and contributing to the community and trying to leave the world a little bit better than we found it is my favorite thing. That and being with Lawrence and our two kids, traveling or being at home - we have the best time and fun adventures.
What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
"Everything to achieve and nothing to prove". I think I wasted a lot of time trying to prove myself or justify that I was worthy of someone's time or deserved to be in a room. It was all just looking for external validation. When I let all that go and realized that there are a lot of things I want to do, create, make and be that are truly for me and not to prove anything to anyone, it was liberating and opened my whole life up. I always tell people who ask me about business to throw away any preconceived expectations or roadmap or a linear path. You don't need to follow anyone's rules or plan and life can be absolutely everything you design it to be. It can be wild and wonderful and make no sense to anyone but you, and that's ok.