Alumni Entrepreneurs

Meet JCU Art History Alumna Mackenzie Garrity, Founder of Papavero Marketing

May 27, 2016

By Paola Pagani 

MackenzieOriginally from California, Mackenzie Garrity graduated from JCU with a Bachelor's in Art History in May 2013. She is the founding partner of Papavero Marketing, a consulting firm that helps startups and small and medium enterprises maximize their reach and effectiveness while staying within budget. The company provides digital marketing services from start to finish, everything from content creation to posting and engagement to advertising. The Institute for Entrepreneurship recently welcomed Mackenzie, who gave a talk entitled "How To Start Marketing Your Startup Without A Budget."

Why did you choose John Cabot University?
When my US university decided to eliminate the program I was pursuing, I was struggling to find a university that would take into account the credits I had earned. I started looking both in the US and abroad, but when I learned about John Cabot I knew I had found the program for me. I was truly amazed by the quality of the Art History department, given it was such a small school. The knowledge and experience of the professors was inspiring, and having most classes on site made the learning experience unique.

Where did the idea for the company come from?
After studying at John Cabot, I decided to pursue a master's in International Marketing at Hult International Business School, where I could apply my visual content expertise to the business world. While I was studying, I was able to work as a freelance marketing consultant in different fields, including fashion and real estate technologies. Eventually, one of them decided to hire me full time after I graduated…but they decided to be bought out after two weeks!

I was so tired of having other people in charge of my fate; so I thought, “I have been working as a freelance consultant for about a year now, why don’t I just do it full time?”

When did the idea transform into a real project?
Every year there is a big pumpkin festival in my hometown, I say big because the pumpkins actually weigh about a ton each. It was a popular event with hundreds of thousands of attendees, but the festival's marketing strategy needed some help. One day I decided to call the organizers and tell them how I thought they could improve. They surprised me by saying: “We agree, why you don’t get us a proposal?”. That was my first big client and it allowed me to have enough funds to build Papavero Marketing. I also started doing a lot of networking and joined business groups. By spring, I had too many clients and that encouraged me to bring on Carmen, my current partner. That was when the official business was created.

What have been the main challenges, both for your business and as an entrepreneur?
Normally we do long term engagements, so we can only take on so many clients at a time. This forced us to collaborate with a couple of independent subcontractors who helped us keep up with our work. Taking other people onto the team takes time and can be hard to manage. However, their specialties are all different from Carmen's and mine, so this allowed us to expand and cover all the basic needs of a marketing consulting agency.

One very important challenge of being an entrepreneur is making sure you do not work too much: working very late at night, seven days a week is simply not sustainable. Sometimes it has to happen because you are the boss and you need to get everything done. But day to day you need to find a way to recharge and release. I have seen and heard stories about people burning out and that is because they push themselves too hard.

How is Papavero Marketing unique?
We have a very holistic view of internet marketing, offering services that are all connected to each other and that result in an efficient marketing campaign. The other aspect that is unique about Papavero is that working with small businesses, non-profits, and startups, we have been able to gain experience in a variety of industries and apply successful strategies across sectors.

What do you like most about having your own company?
Being my own boss and being able to make my own decisions. I have always felt very independent and I am the type of person who needs to be accountable completely to myself and live up to my own standards. Opening a startup has allowed me to build my confidence and live the sort of life that fits my character.

What is the next step for Papavero Marketing?
Expanding into Italy is definitely the next step. Partially because of my Art History background, I would really like to work with tour companies, galleries, and museums. I have also noticed that the startup landscape here in Italy is very young. After growing up in Silicon Valley, I would love to apply my knowledge and experience to the businesses here.

How has JCU helped you?
Coming to Rome was a shock, especially after they cut my program in the US. However, I felt right away that it was the best learning environment for me. The city itself offers so many activities, at the same time the school is small enough so that you feel you are receiving the attention you need. At JCU you have the best of both worlds. For me that created the perfect balance and allowed me to have both room to grow and the guidance I needed.

I am also in touch with basically all of the friends I made here, which has created an amazing network around the world. 

Any advice for our JCU entrepreneurs?
Don’t jump the gun just because you have a great idea, you need to test it, you need to talk to your target market and figure out if it is a viable concept. I have seen a lot of people who start building a business even before they have a plan. You do not need to spend a year continuously writing down every step you are going to take, but you need to think it through before you run with it, because your time is valuable and you do not want to waste it.

Learn more about the Department of Art History and Studio Art.
Learn more about the John Cabot Institute for Entrepreneurship.
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