Julia Harrison Finds Opportunities as an Unexpected Entrepreneur
Julia Harrison didn’t set out to launch her own marketing company in the community where she had lived for less than a month. However, her personal and professional lives intertwined in too many ways to ignore the community of Roseburg, Oregon.
Sometimes, the entrepreneurial opportunities find you.
A straightforward start
Harrison had been following a fairly traditional career path. She had earned a communications degree from Portland State University, her second following an associate’s degree in business management and administration.
While in school, she volunteered at a local radio station in a fundraising effort for local youth programs.
“I thought, ‘This would be a great opportunity to meet people, and I have an open time slot, why not?’” Harrison said. “I went in and I had such a great time.”
On her way out of the Salem Media Group station, she asked about any similar opportunities. She was directed to the job postings web page.
“I applied online, because that is the way they do it,” Harrison said. “But I printed out my resume and went back to the building. I never told anyone I was coming in.”
While waiting for the elevator door to close, she heard footsteps approaching and decided to hold the door. A moment of small talk provided an opportunity.
“I mentioned I was here to bring my resume to the marketing department,” Harrison said, “and she said, ‘That’s what I do.’ She ended up taking my resume for me and delivering it right to the director.”
Within 18 months, she had moved up to be the promotions and marketing director for the English speaking stations of Salem Media Group in Portland, including 104.1 The Fish, 93.9 KPDQ, TrueTalk800, and AM860 The Answer.
As the pandemic started taking people out of the workplace, Harrison lost an assistant and a webmaster. She folded those responsibilities into her own day-to-day schedule, teaching herself the necessary skills as the need arose.
“I don’t feel like I had any one big success at [the radio station],” she said. “I feel like there was a long string of small successes. Increasing the social media reach on Instagramincreasing the engagement on their Facebook page, those were all exciting things to see.”
Her on-air work included a few commercials, numerous parody songs, and the Drive Thru Difference.
“I was the voice for the Drive Thru Difference,” she said. “We would go out and pay for people’s coffee or breakfast and come back and tell the stories on the air.”
Julia Harrison, always looking for new challenges
As a result of her on-air time and network of marketing connections, she was in negotiations with a radio station in Albany, south of Portland, to move up the dial and on to the air.
“The general manager and I were pursuing the option,” Harrison said. “[We] met a few times to discuss all of the possibilities. I was going to begin helping with their marketing and, as soon as he found a male voice to co-host with me, I was going to be the morning drive time voice.”
An unexpected twist
During this time of transition, she met someone in Roseburg and visited the community several times. The relationship didn’t work out, but the community stuck with her. Everywhere she went, she made a new friend or a new connection.
“I just started to build community here and that’s really important to me,” Harrison said. “And it helps that it is just beautiful out here. This was the right choice for me.”
She declined the job offer from the station in Albany and quickly saw opportunities to put her marketing experience to work in Roseburg.
Everything is coming up Roseburg
“There was a huge lack of marketing,” she said. “What I see is people are afraid to enter into the realm of self-advertising. Or they don’t know what to do and they need help understanding. How do I use Facebook? What is a username handle? There is just this whole realm they just aren’t used to. But, it’s funny. One of the first people I worked with needed help figuring out how to delete their Facebook page.”
New clients started coming out of the woodwork before she even had a chance to hang out her own shingle. Opportunity after opportunity presented itself for the taking.
“No one knew what I was doing,” Harrison said, saying she never made any sort of formal announcement. “I wasn’t even sure. But I was able to turn it into a business. I can help people understand what’s going on , what they should do, and why. That is the lighthouse idea, providing that guidance.”
The possibilities of pursuit
The idea of navigating her own path wasn’t part of her five-year plan. It wasn’t on her bucket list and it wasn’t a goal suggested by a mentor.
“My mindset has shifted so much in the past year,” Harrison said. “I have begun to dream more, or to see more possibilities. I don’t even know if I can explain this well, I feel like I am being led to make certain decisions. Things start falling into place when you start pursuing.
“When people think of entrepreneurs, they think about a job or a career. Entrepreneurs are people who pursue. Someone who has idea, ambition, and drive. Someone who is pursuing something.”
Reach out and network
For people looking to follow a similar path, she has two pieces of advice. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
And she never hesitates to take her own advice.
“I had someone help me get my own web site started, just because I needed some support,” Harrison said. “I needed someone to brainstorm with. I knew how to do it, but, with everything else I was involved in, I just needed some help. Everyone does.”
Gary Schuetz is a Columnist at Grit Daily. He brings more than a decade of experience as an editor and correspondent for a weekly community newspaper. His focus is on distilling complex ideas and interesting personalities into clear, straightforward, accurate narratives. Gary has served a news correspondent for a news publishing company and was the producer, on-camera personality and writer for a community lifestyle television program, Talk of the Trollway. Bachelor of Arts, Journalism, University of Wisconsin, River Falls.