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By any means possible: The Janelle Brown story

Published:Monday | December 12, 2016 | 12:00 AMKimberly Goodall
She is driven, determined, and succeeds by any means possible.
Janelle Brown smiles even in difficult times.
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Janelle Brown was born to succeed. With an associate's degree in building technology, a bachelor's degree in architectural studies, and a master's in business administration, 32-year-old Brown had to endure many bumps and bruises before finding her place as head of marketing at Honey Bun Limited.

At the age of three, Brown and her family migrated to the United States, where her parents worked tirelessly to ensure that she and her sister could have a better life. Having to contend with issues of racism and inequality, Brown and her family faced many trials but were able to persevere, and returned to Jamaica in 1991.

In Jamaica, Brown had a lot of adjustments to make. The education system was different, and her accent separated her from her peers. Nevertheless, Brown worked hard and was selected by Conde Nast Traveller to represent Jamaica in its 'My Caribbean Essay' competition in The Bahamas. She also won a government scholarship to Immaculate Conception High School. There, she was successful in 11 subjects, including technical drawing, and won a scholarship to attend pre-college - the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut.

 

HER FIRST PASSION AND

 

 

SPIRITUAL TURNING POINT

 

Growing up with a grandmother who was an art teacher, Brown spent much of her time painting. "I remember always begging Mommy for the newspaper to spread it across the veranda to paint. I would also take out the cardboard that comes in the stocking package to draw on it with Mommy's lipstick or pen during church. I was always drawing," she told Flair.

When Brown completed her pre-college studies, she wanted to explore her passion for the arts. Though her mother did not agree with her choice, she encouraged her to apply to art schools. After applying to more than 20 schools, Brown was accepted to 10, including her first choice - Rhode Island School of Design.

Brown's family did not have a lot of money, and she was discouraged by the head of her art programme from pursuing this path. However, determined to see her daughter excel, Brown's mother took out a loan to meet the expenses. But after her first term, Brown found herself at a crossroads and in a state of depression. She had been working while studying, but she and her family still could not afford to pay for another term of school. Brown was faced with the possibility of losing grasp of her dream.

"I remember walking in a daze and being stopped by the head of multicultural affairs, Deba Patnaik. He asked me to see him in his office, and when I got there, he told me that my friend had told him that I could not pay for school. He then offered to pay for my next term. He believed that my parents would be able to repay him. I thought he was crazy!" she recalled with joy. This marked a spiritual turning point in Brown's life.

She was able to complete her first year, but still had to return to Jamaica because of her financial situation. In 2003, Brown decided to attend the Caribbean School of Architecture (CSA) at the University of Technology, to challenge her creativity. After four years at CSA, Brown worked in the architecture field before realising that she did not have a real passion for it.

 

AGAINST ALL ODDS

 

With no job, Brown went back to her love for art and started to showcase and sell her paintings. She got a step closer to her destiny when she discovered her interest for advertising. This came with a lot of rejections, which left Brown feeling demotivated. But, she was determined to succeed by any means necessary.

For a while, Brown worked as a freelance writer, and entered into a marketing competition with Scotiabank. Her ideas won her second place, and she used her prize money to help her take up a teaching opportunity in France. In 2010, Brown returned to Jamaica and got a job at Panmedia Limited as a copywriter and content officer. Brown then moved on to being the accounts manager at Breakthrough Communications Limited and then marketing manager at Bookophilia Limited. This job allowed her to be creative and to study for her master's degree in marketing at Mona School of Business and Management (MSBM). After leaving Bookophilia, with the help of MSBM's Minna Israel, Brown got a job in the department as a marketing coordinator so she could pay for her studies.

After completing her MBA, Brown's friend motivated her to apply for the marketing executive position at Honey Bun. "I went into the interview expecting to fail because I've been rejected so many times. But I went in, shared my knowledge, and three days later I was offered the position," she shared.

Brown describes her life at Honey Bun as happy, and refers to her co-workers as family. She said Honey Bun allows her to be creative and to grow as an individual. Brown has hopes of one day helping Jamaicans to appreciate their culture and monetise their talents in visual and performing arts.

kimberly.goodall@gleanerjm.com