As successful as she is now, Jeanne Lavoie wasn’t immune from a boring career start.
After graduating from the Maine College of Art (MECA), Lavoie landed a job in an ad agency – as a secretary. With her foot finally in a door and her career path seemingly set in motion, she picked up her very first brand new car.
And on that very same day, Lavoie learned the agency would be closing.
Just like that Lavoie was forced to pound the pavement. She quickly rebounded and landed a job with Union Mutual, designing insurance forms. Not the most glamorous assignment, but now, Lavoie was on the correct path.
Lavoie’s foot was fully through the door. Now it was time to walk on through.
Through her diligence and talent, she quickly moved past that yawn-inducing role designing forms, working her way up to become the senior art director. Eventually, she would be part of the team overseeing the branding transition from Union Mutual to UNUM.
Her career changed course when she and her boss at Union Mutual decided to open their own ad agency. After a successful partnership, Lavoie looked to focus on a more personal approach to her creative passion, and sold her portion of the business.
Soon after, she began JL Design Marketing.
Along the way, Lavoie has counted among her clients LL Bean, IDEXX Laboratories, MEMIC and Habitat for Humanity, just to name a few. She’s won national and international awards for her design work through the years, but what keeps her motivated? The people, and their own passion for success.
After opening JL Design Marketing, she enjoyed life as a solo entrepreneur. She could reinforce that personalized service and focus her attention nurturing client relationships, like she still does today. But after 20 years, the time came to double her workforce.
Lavoie recently hired her first employee.
Lavoie credits her parents for instilling the family mindset of hard work, perseverance and a ‘can do’ attitude. Raised in Westbrook, she currently lives in Gorham with her husband Tom and two children. Both grown, she continues to pass on the same wisdom and positive energy to her children that her parents passed to her: “If you can think it, you can do it.”
At her first agency, she and her business partner had a 99% success rate with pitches. Now, however, Lavoie can judge her accomplishments by the lack of pitching she has to do. Her clients trust her, and she continues to do the superb work that produces the results they expect.
She credits her success not only to her talent for design, but also to her motto: “Be a good person, do good work and only work for good people.”
It’s a standard Lavoie feels she’s earned thanks to her reputation and her track record of success. She looks to work with people who have the same core values and business principles that she believes in.
“It’s really important to partner with companies who are like-minded and can communicate on the same level,” Lavoie adds.
In Maine, Lavoie says, you can’t burn any bridges. This business community is so integrated and the quality of your work and your relationships are all you have.
“All effective relationships add to job security, cultivation of new work and referral across industries,” says Lavoie. “Maine is super for setting a networking stage for all this to occur, and it was like that long before the internet and the word ‘social’ came around. The web just makes it even easier to connect.”
Lavoie also stresses the importance of listening, explaining that it’s a crucial part of earning her clients’ trust. She is respectful, but not afraid to share her experience. And her clients count on it.
Having real conversations, says Lavoie, actually can make a huge impact on the success of a marketing strategy at the end of the day. Sometimes pointing out the ‘little things’ that go unnoticed, or perhaps even taken for granted, can make a world of difference, she mentions.
With such high-level clients and decades running a flourishing business, it might not seem like Lavoie is the type to relax. But when there is down time, you’ll find Lavoie kayaking on the lake, or with a glass of wine by the fire at camp on Moose Pond.
She’s down to Earth, successful, talented, family-oriented and proud of her roots. She’s someone Maine can be proud of – not only for her business, but for her attitude and reputation.
That’s why Jeanne Lavoie is a Maine icon.