About Jean Freeman and Christy Hiler

Jean Freeman is Founder and CEO of Zambezi, the largest, female-owned advertising agency in the country.

Jean: During her time at the agency, Jean has successfully grown Zambezi from a startup to a thriving business with a focus on creating tailored solutions that propel brands forward, and nurturing an agency culture of supportive collaboration. Zambezi has been recognized as one of the “Largest Women-Owned Businesses” and “100 Fast Growing Companies in LA” by the Los Angeles Business Journal and was a DIG Award recipient for the agency’s outstanding diversity, equality and inclusion efforts. Additionally, Jean has been included in Adweek’s “Disruptor List”, Campaign US’s 40 over 40 honors, named one of the 4A’s “100 People Who Make Advertising Great”, as well as a “Working Mother of the Year” by She Runs It.

In addition to her work with Zambezi, Jean plays a central role in leading her family’s privately held $100MM personal planner business, Blue Sky.

Christy Hiler: Christy Hiler is president of Cornett, a full service agency based in Lexington, Kentucky that creates, maintains and restores relevance for brands.

Hiler has worked at Cornett for almost 20 years. She joined as an account planner and transitioned to chief strategy officer before becoming the agency’s president. And along the way, she’s been instrumental in driving its vision and growth by applying strategy to business challenges across accounts such as A&W, Valvoline, Tempur+Sealy, Buffalo Trace, Keeneland, and VisitLEX. The independent shop has more than doubled its headcount and revenues since she arrived, and its creative output rivals that of any large agency.

Hiler is very much at home diving deep into consumer motivations and industry insights and she knows Cornett’s clients’ businesses inside-out. She thrives on spurring the agency’s curiosity and commitment to ideas that make brands relevant. People and relationships are at the front of her mind at all times whether that’s the Cornett team, clients, friends of the agency, her family, or the community at large.

When she has free time, Hiler volunteers at Common Good, Step by Step, and other local organizations dedicated to helping young people excel and achieve their goals. She is also one of the founding members and leaders of BLAC—a newly formed independent agency internship collective designed to bring more young Black people into advertising, preparing them to survive, thrive and lead.

Show notes

There are 20,000 agencies across the U.S. right now. Less than 200 are female-owned. After joining this small group, Christy Hiler and Jean Freeman decided it was time to make some moves to increase that number. They created https://untilyouownit.com/ to first get an accurate head count of female-led agencies and provide support for females looking to purchase or start their own agency. They talk with Jason about why woman-owned agencies are so few and far between, how we can change that, and why we need more in this country. This episode is obviously such an important topic, and we're so grateful for Christy and Jean's efforts in the agency landscape.

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