Modern Original Person: Jennie Wolff

It’s hard to describe Jennie Wolff without sounding hyberbolic. Go-getter? Over-achiever? Mover and shaker? Dynamic and determined? All fitting descriptions of the VP of Marketing and Education at Sola Salon Studios. The old adage “A rolling stone gathers no moss” comes to mind, or at least the modern interpretation of that shop-worn phrase, which is that a person must stay active or risk stagnation. It’s safe to say that Jennie Wolff has avoided stagnation like the plague in her 34 years on the planet.

Wolff joined Sola in 2013 as the company’s first in-house marketing executive. How she got there from her job at a boutique marketing agency in Denver reveals a lot about her tenacity and perseverance. In fact, Wolff’s entire career trajectory reveals a lot about her tenacity and perseverance.

“I had a lot of dreams,” says Wolff, who was torn between music and education while in college at Emory University in Atlanta. “I took a lot of education courses there and also volunteered as a tutor for Refugee Family Services,” she says. “So on the one hand I really wanted to be a teacher, but I was also into music, not performing, but writing about it.”

Wolff spent the summer before her senior year in college in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, working for Strings in the Mountains. “They put on weekly concerts at the Yampa River Botanic Park, mostly classical music, and I was a PR intern for them,” she says. “It was different back then, mostly cutting things out of the newspaper, making sure we were keeping track of where we got mentions, working with artists and sharing their stories with the community.” She had also applied for Teach for America, which was a rigorous program at Emory. “Only half the people who applied were accepted,” says Wolff, who was driving home to St. Louis for Christmas break when she got the call that she wasn’t one of the lucky ones.

“It was not the last time that I’d experience failure, but sometimes the universe steps in and tells you where you should be” she says. “So I thought, okay, I’ll chase my other dream, and instead of moving to New York City to teach, I moved to Denver to try to break into the music industry.”

Not one to take no for an answer, Wolff was undeterred when her calls to Live Nation, the biggest music company in Denver at the time, went nowhere. “I told the receptionist that I’d do anything—answer the phones, work in the theater,” says Wolff. “She told me they weren’t hiring and to stop calling. So I looked up their address and just showed up one day. I remember the girl opening the door and going, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me. I told you we weren’t hiring.’ But this influential person overheard our conversation and told me to come in and tell him my life story. They had this huge prop there, a giant chair that looked like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and I sat in it. Later that day he called to offer me a job as office manager at the Fillmore Auditorium, a concert venue in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.”

To make ends meet. Wolff also worked as a server at the Pepsi Center, a multi-purpose arena and home to the Denver Nuggets and Colorado Avalanche. Meanwhile. she was interviewing for other jobs. At the top of the list was Kroenke Sports & Entertainment, which owned the Pepsi Center. “I wanted to be part of their special events team,” says Wolff, who finally landed an interview. “They told me that they’d heard a rumor that I worked as a server there and wondered why that wasn’t on my resume. I told them that I didn’t think it was relevant, but they said that because I knew where everything was—all the different bars and restaurants, the pantries, the loading dock, the employee entrances—that I could hit the ground running and didn’t have to start from scratch. It’s a really big place.” The moral of that story: Never underestimate the importance of any job, large or small.

Wolff survived massive layoffs in 2008 and a few years later, she was ready for a new challenge and once again, she began looking for other opportunities. She had multiple interviews at a marketing agency in Denver. The problem was that she lacked the specific experience they were looking for, but Wolff knew that juggling lots of projects at once and managing personalities, which she had excelled at working for Kroenke, was more important. Finally, she gave them an ultimatum: if I don’t get a job offer today, I won’t be coming back for any more follow up interviews. Her ploy worked.

“The man who became my boss told me that he didn’t need anyone with my particular skill set but that he liked me,” she says. “So he took me into a room where a circle of people fired questions at me: Would you be a pirate or a ninja? If you could make the perfect PB&J sandwich, what would that be? Silly questions, but they revealed a lot about my thought process.”

Wolff’s first big break on that job was working on the Mars Chocolate account where her special events experience came in handy, but within weeks she was looking for new types of challenging projects. When her boss asked her to create a technology document for a website project by the end of the day, Wolff was flummoxed. “I asked him what a technology document was, and he walked away,” says Wolff, who promptly Googled it and put something together that made sense. “My boss gave me the project. Then he put me in charge of social media for another client. I had to post every day and tag people on Facebook. I didn’t even know what that meant at the time.”

It’s safe to say that Wolff knows her way around social media these days. When she took the job at Sola in 2013, she rebranded the whole company—launching a new website, creating a Facebook page, developing a franchise marketing tool kit. She kept the logo but changed the colors from maroon and beige to blue with pink accents. Wolff also realized that Sola was not about real estate; it was about community and education. “That’s what I built on,” says Wolff, who initially met resistance when she tried to interest the trades in telling stories about Sola stylists. “The conventional wisdom was that if you went to work at Sola, your career would die. I wanted to change that perception.”

And she did. “We now have 11,000 business owners in Sola,” she says. “We have Sola Sessions. We’ve launched Sola Pro and SolaGenius technologies.” In October, the company announced that a consortium of three investment groups have acquired an interest in Sola Salon Studios.

“In the beginning I worried that marketing budgets were too small and this job wouldn’t be any fun,” says Wolff, “but now with nearly 450 open Sola locations and 11,000+ beauty professionals, it’s amazing to have been a part of the growth and to remember back where we were when I made the leap of faith to join the Sola family.”