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Meet Jennifer Weg of Soapbox Women

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jennifer Weg.

Jennifer, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Soapbox Women was born six years ago out of my desperate desire for community among the women in my industry. I was working at the junior level on a very tough team in an even tougher corporate environment. I needed guidance from the women around me who so clearly seemed to have it “all figured out.”

As a result of my position on the team, I was not the “top decision maker” assigning work out to our agency partners or making the call whether something lives or dies (in a creative sense, of course). I was not encouraged to go out and make connections outside the studio walls or form relationships with my colleagues on the other end of the phone/email. After an evening spent celebrating the year’s most brilliant work created by the most brilliant minds in entertainment marketing (an event I was only given a ticket to attend because someone higher up on the food chain backed out of going), I was finally presented with the opportunity to meet so many women I had come to know intimately – as colleagues and as people – over the last two years. I immediately felt bonded to these women; it’s an incredibly bonding experience to be with someone who just ‘gets’ how you spend 80% of your time. The Creative Advertising/Entertainment Marketing function within the Entertainment Industry is a small but integral piece to the larger puzzle; there are only so many of us within this tiny bubble and to have the chance to embrace so many in one night… I was overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed with joy, appreciation, respect. Frustration and confusion, too. Why was there not a place/network already in place for us to connect? Why did it take the promise of an open bar and free parking to motivate me to introduce myself in person? I felt so great – so deeply a part of something – that night. How could I feel that way more often? I woke up the next morning and wrote an email to every woman I had ever worked with explaining how desperate I was for us to connect more and why. I needed help. I needed mentorship. Could one of these women relate to what I’m going through and if so, guide me through it? I hoped so. Could we all come together and build a network and see what happens when powerful women unite? Within five minutes of my hitting send, every single recipient of this email responded with a resounding “YES! And whatever you plan, here are five names who will want in, too.” I was blown away. This was lightning in a bottle. This was the beginning of Soapbox.

For the next four years, Soapbox events were mostly networking/meet and greet style events held at restaurants and lounges throughout LA. We met every 3-4 months. I was marketing, maintaining and organizing Soapbox and the events on my own at the time; all while navigating a new job (some of the best advice I was given by a Soapbox member early: “Not every fight is worth winning. Leave before the fight takes more out of you and you start resenting the work.”), living on my own and pretending to have something resembling a social life. I knew Soapbox deserved more – better. So I reached out to the community and called on the members to step up and help.

If you needed proof that divine timing is real – look no further. Right around the time that I could feel Soapbox deserving more energy and TLC than I was able to give on my own, The New York Times and The New Yorker articles broke detailing the abuse of Harvey Weinstein (the first on a Friday, then the following Tuesday). We happened to have a Soapbox event planned the following week, hosted by an agency partner. It just so happens that the floor plan and layout of this brick and mortar was more cozy, and the seating area they had designated to us was lined with couches and bean bag chairs. 80 women sat in that room, some on the floor, some curled up on the couch and held space for one another. Several women shared their own #MeToo stories; those overcome and many currently happening. For the women who shared they were suffering through hostile or abusive work environments currently; they were encouraged to quit the next day and assured they would be taken care of by the community. Sure enough, they did quit and sure enough, they were hired by women in that room the next day.

Since that night, Soapbox and its role in the Entertainment Industry has expanded beyond anything I could have imagined. It became clear that Soapbox was more than just a networking organization; I knew after that night in October that it deserved so much more dedication, attention and experience than I was able to give. I reached out to the community for help – and our Executive Board and Leadership Committee was born. Together, we are shepherding Soapbox into its next phase. We decided to undergo the frustratingly complicated and painstaking process of becoming a 501c(6) organization, as well as filing for registration and recognition (for tax exemption purposes) with the CA and Federal governments. We’ve gotten more serious and organized around our mission: amplifying the perspective and power of women in the creative marketing and entertainment industries. We still meet every 3-4 months. We will mix it up with panels, live Q&As, workshops and networking events. We show up for each other. Soapbox is a place for connection (oftentimes re-connection, in the case of many women who’ve been in the business for more than 20 years who come to see colleagues from years past), friendship, mentorship, leadership, growth.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Yes and no.

No, because I waited too long to ask for help (I could go down this psycho-therapy rabbit hole for pages, but I won’t I promise!). For a while, Soapbox suffered because I couldn’t dedicate enough time and energy to it. Life (WORK!) got in the way, as it so often does.

Yes, because the women in this community are so damn generous with their time, energy, experience, et al. The moment I reached out for help and we formed our Executive Board and Leadership Committee, I have 16 incredible women at my side helping me organize and improve. Since we’ve been officially recognized by the appropriate federal and state entities and are able to operate as a business, we’ve begun fundraising via ticket sales for our events. The community of women who consistently show up for Soapbox know its value and have been so extraordinary with their generosity. Our agency partners have gone above and beyond, donating food and beverages for our events and allowing us to use their spaces to meet. We’ve also expanded our outreach to brands with similar missions and values who are happy to partner with us and provide resources for our events and members. We would not be able to operate as we do without the help of our community of members, agency and brand partners.

Soapbox Women – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Our events are really special and becoming more diverse and dynamic as we grow.

2019 was the year of Diversity. Every panel, Q&A and networking event had a theme that laddered up to the topic of Diversity. Our first event of the year featured a panel of women of color, ranging in experience from entry-level to CEO. We have a private Facebook group where our members can give us feedback and ideas for future events. One member voiced her concern regarding little to no programming for the LGBTQA community at our events thus far. We addressed that head on by organizing our summer panel around an illuminating and educational discussion around representation all with members of the LGBTQA community.

Through member feedback, we also learned that there was a large desire for events focused on how to succeed as working mothers in our industry. At the end of last year, we launched a subgroup called Soapbox Moms to give our members a place to connect and support each other on all things motherhood and family planning.

2020 is the year of Empowerment. Our first event, back in February (just before COVID-19 halted life as we know it), was a workshop facilitated by Cyndi Yee on how you can empower yourself to be your best every day, no matter your role or experience level. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive; so much so that we are planning a Part 2 for the next event (date TBD).

We are not Women in Film. We are not The Wing. We are not a dues/subscription based organization (not yet, anyway). Women come to our events out of a genuine desire to connect to each other; to speak to someone who just ‘gets’ how we spend our days. To see friendly faces, to listen empathetically and without judgment to others as they outline a frustrating situation they’re facing, to celebrate enthusiastically as our counterparts finish a trailer or lock a piece of art. The coming together with no other purpose than community. That’s Soapbox Women.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
I define success by how I feel when I get up in the morning. If I’m excited and enthusiastic about greeting the day with the intention of tackling challenges, celebrating wins, learning from defeats or missteps, fine tuning a new skill, honing my craft, enjoying the work. That’s success.

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Image Credit:
Jill Greenberg & Kharen Hill

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