Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Pappas.
Jessica, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I started Jessica’s A-List on something of a dare. Working five 10-hour days a week, year after year, at a similar job, I was depleted and demoralized. My love life was no better. I was trapped in a recurring hell romantically as well. Yet I was too scared to make a change. The breakthrough came when my mother died of cancer. Losing her was a wake-up call to end everything that wasn’t working in my life and start over.
My first leap into the unknown was a literal one. On a post-funeral trip to Puerto Escondido, Mexico,I jumped out of an airplane at 14,000 ft, wearing nothing but a bikini. It was exhilarating, and it gave me the confidence to finally quit both my soul-sucking job and my torturous relationship. Leaving both behind, I was free-falling, yes, but I was liberated. Now all I needed to do was trust that something bigger and better would reveal itself before my money ran out. It was the first time since I was twelve that I didn’t have a job. A few months passed quickly. Doubt began to corrode my trust, and I panicked. I needed a job and fast, but I refused to settle. I had come too far. That’s when I decided to open my own business.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
When I had gone into my boss’s office and given my notice, he kicked me out with the parting words: “You even think about opening a business, I’ll make your life a living hell.”
Honoring the threat, I did nothing at all to interfere with his business. I made not a single call to lure away his clients. Mine would be a different sort of place, anyway: a boutique service whose roster featured only the best of the best. I would recruit no one. If someone wanted to join, they would have to reach out to me. This way, I figured I would not be a threat to my ex-boss. It didn’t take long for me to see how wrong I was.
He did everything he could to ruin me, forbidding the casting directors of his mothership company to book my clients. Even though he was flexing illegal monopolistic powers, I was unfazed. Only a few people signed with me, but I didn’t care. I would ride out the storm. I figured if it was meant to be, it would be. If it wasn’t, and I sank, that was fine, too. It was a precarious time of waiting. Thank god I had the support of other casting companies. I didn’t have many clients, but at least they were working.
After about four months, the ice broke. A phone call came, announcing that the ban had been lifted. Word got out that the biggest casting company was working with me, and within two weeks my roster went from 40 to 250. It only grew from there. I stuck true to my business model and represented only the cream of the crop. Clients weren’t just a monthly fee, as they had been at my previous employer’s place. My staff and I talked to them all the time and knew them as people first, talent second. It hasn’t always been easy. There have been ups and downs, yes, but mostly I look at my experience with the A-List as a gift, for which I am immensely grateful. Jessica’s A-List is my family.
Jessica’s A-List – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are the middle man between background casting directors and background actors. It used to be called a “calling service,” but now, the correct term is “schedule management company.” We submit the background for jobs on movies, television, and commercials to the casting directors. In recent years, as the economy has changed, it’s become more and more difficult to find work. We offer a sense of job security. The client knows there is someone out there, hustling for them. It’s hard to say what sets us apart. My competitors and I each have our unique qualities. But I do take pride in the fact that in a cold digital age, we are truly like a family.
What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I believe success is all about what achieving makes your heart happy. Yes, we all need to make a living, but more important is greeting each day with optimism and serenity.
- Website: Jessicasalist.com