2013 Game Changer: Jennifer Benz
Founder/CEO, Benz Communications, San Francisco
When Jennifer Benz quit her job as a communications consultant at Hewitt Associates in July 2006 to take a position with another company, she had no idea that her career was about to take a dramatic turn. The new job fell through, and before she had time to worry about her future, freelance projects began flowing in.
Benz, 36, never looked back.
“Within weeks I had all these new clients coming through,” she says. She partnered with a graphic designer, Isabelle Englund-Geiger, and began hiring Benz Communications’ first employees in 2010. Today there are more than 20 people on staff while Englund-Geiger is now chief operating officer and creative director.
“It’s been so rewarding,” Benz says. “We work with some amazing companies. We have clients across all industries, including seven of the best companies to work for. We have clients who were among the first to use social media for employee communications and a client that has had a results-based wellness programs for four years.”
Fueling the dramatic growth of her firm is health care reform, which passed in 2010, the same year Benz Communications started hiring. However, Benz points out that reform is just one of many issues that have led to her success.
“Early health care reform gave us a topic to show the value of Benz Communications,” she says. “In 2010 we started talking about reform, but there have been no dramatic changes among employers until this year. It’s been a great topic for us, but there are so many factors coming together that push the envelope in terms of communications. We have incredibly diverse workforces, new technologies, and people are more aggressive about changing their benefits strategies.”
Besides launching her own business, Benz has applied her skills toward helping La Cocina, a San Francisco-based organization that helps low-income women who are street-food vendors become successful entrepreneurs. She developed a communications and social media strategy for the organization.
An ardent traveler, Benz has traveled throughout Central America where she also volunteered her services to a number of nonprofit organizations.
“I really love the craft of communication,” she says. “It’s something that I’ve done since high school when I was the yearbook editor, and in college I studied journalism. At Hewitt I learned what employers can do in terms of effective communications.”