Jodi-Tatiana Charles, the founder of LCG Brands Consulting, was giving a speech in Mexico in March 2020 when an audience member asked her why Americans were hoarding toilet paper.
“I didn’t know anything about it — yet,” she said of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the previous five years, the Marblehead resident had made more than 200 keynote addresses and panelist appearances at entrepreneurial and innovation events, and regularly judged startup competitions in North America, Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. Yet by the end of the month, she estimates that her marketing and brand consulting business lost 90 percent of scheduled speaking gigs, workshops, and consulting jobs to cancellations.
Never one to dwell, however, Charles recalled the frustrations shared by small businesses and startups during the Great Recession of 2008. In April 2020, she created a podcast as a platform for small business owners who she believes are underrepresented by traditional media, as well as a way to catch up with old and new friends.
A year and a half later, Charles has hosted more than 175 episodes of “Minding Your Business with Jodi-Tatiana,” featuring the stories, struggles, successes, advice, and perspective of entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits, and non-governmental organizations in 18 states and 22 countries. The series of conversations involves how and what owners have done to keep afloat during the pandemic and what they will need to mind their businesses when it ends.
“Hearing all these stories of resilience from innovators and entrepreneurs who are thriving in the new normal is so inspiring,” said Charles, noting that difficult decisions have included downsizing, reducing staff, pursuing new revenue streams, and shifting operations online. “Each one of them has learned to pivot, and each one has a great story to share.”
Noelle LeBlanc, owner of Work Loft, said she was “honored and grateful to be invited to participate” in the fourth podcast episode on May 12, 2020 to discuss her coworking and private office center in downtown Marblehead.
“[The experience] was entrepreneurial therapy,” said LeBlanc, who went on to reflect on lessons learned in “Episode 100: One Year Later With Shironda White, Karen Giuliano, and Noelle LeBlanc” on April 2, 2021.
“I’m not someone who enjoys being interviewed or on camera, so the podcast was the sum of all my fears. Also, this was early in the pandemic, and I had imposter syndrome. I didn’t want to be cast in the light of being a leader, when I was figuring out what it all meant like everybody else,” LeBlanc admitted. “But Jodi-Tatiana made it so easy. She pulled information out of me about how and what I was doing in a very friendly way.”
Marblehead artist Stephanie Krauss Verdun, who specializes in hand-painted ceramics and stitched mixed-media paintings, said she felt so unexpectedly comfortable recording her episode on Feb. 22, 2021 that she forgot she was being interviewed.
“Jodi-Tatiana wanted to know how everything started, and somehow she made it come full circle to where my business is going,” Verdun said, noting that it “hadn’t been part of my plan” to make hand-painted ceramics. “She’s pretty remarkable in helping you open up about challenges, giving advice to others starting out, and talking about issues that are applicable to any small business.”
Podcast episodes, which generally range from 40 to 90 minutes, also have featured Marblehead-based Farm Direct Coop operations manager Julie Pottier-Brown and administration/finance manager Tamara Sullivan; Winchester resident Mark Molloy, principal of Cascade Strategies, LLC; Elnaz Sarraf, founder and CEO of ROYBI Robot in San Jose, Calif. (named one of TIME Magazine’s Best Inventions in Education in 2019); and Karl Birgir Bjornsson, CEO and cofounder of Hefring Marine in Iceland.
Charles, a proud first-generation American, said her Haitian-born parents taught her that “in order to achieve the American dream, you have to hustle and never stop.” She graduated from Brockton High School and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Suffolk University.
While earning an MBA from the Babson College Franklin W. Olin Graduate School of Business, Charles traveled to 14 countries to research global business trends and marketing best practices. A former deputy press secretary for Governor Mitt Romney, NECN producer for “NewsNight With Chet Curtis and Jim Braude,” and associate producer of the “Matty in the Morning” radio show, she additionally holds executive education certificates from Harvard Business School, MIT Sloan Executive Education, and Saint Petersburg State University in Russia.
In 2018, Charles diversified into publishing with her debut book, “It’s Just a Rug,” which encourages children to explore their heritage and celebrate cultural differences. In addition, she is planning to publish four books in the next two years: “Not Another Marketing Book;” “Picking Pebbles” about a Japanese family’s tradition as they mark the new year; “What Makes Wrigley Smile” about an unexpected encounter that led to a lifelong friendship; and “Warm Kisses,” about her relationship with her grandmother.
Still on Charles’s bucket list is interviewing a business leader in every state and country throughout the world on her podcast, which she says she plans to continue “as long as I have Wi-Fi.”
“I’ll continue to spotlight entrepreneurs and small businesses because they need our help,” she said, “and essentially, the world needs them.”
Listen to Jodi-Tatiana Charles’s podcasts at www.mindingyourbusinesspod.com.
Cindy Cantrell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.