Q&A: Jackie Huie
Editor’s note: Each Q&A in the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a woman from the region who’s influential, a rising face in her industry or doing interesting work. Submit tips on potential Q&A subjects to tgortsema at grbj dot com.
Firmly believing life is too short not to do what you love, Jackie Huie has had "the privilege and honor" to do just that.
Starting her career in Chicago and Los Angeles, where she worked for ad agencies Ogilvy & Mather and TracyLocke, Huie is now CEO of St. Joseph-based JohnsonRauhoff, a creative agency her entrepreneurial dad, Don Johnson, started in 1969.
In her philanthropic life, Huie is a Rotarian and leads The Rotary Student Program, a global mentoring initiative that aligns students with professionals in dream careers.
Biggest career break?
My biggest career break came when Ogilvy & Mather Chicago asked me to come on board as a senior art director. While I’d already worked at other companies on sexy programs like the Jovan sponsored Rolling Stones American Tour in 1981, landing at Ogilvy opened a world of opportunities, including working with Walt Disney World, McDonald’s and an Asian hotel we named Yeabishi. My time at Ogilvy influenced my more creative side, including a freelance project to create a friendlier McDonald’s "Hamburglar" in 1985. In 1987, I was given an amazing opportunity to train under Norman Berry, the hand-picked international creative successor to ad legend, David Ogilvy. For the intense Creative Training Seminar, today’s version of “X-Factor Boot Camp,” 20 of us were flown in to New York for a week of long, grueling brainstorming sessions that went well in to the night. Through the process, I learned a lot about reaching above our creative limits and apply that to everything I do in business today.
My proudest professional moment was when JohnsonRauhoff was ranked No. 8 in the PROMO 100. It was 1997 when we were nationally ranked for helping clients break company sales records. The recognition put our little company on the map with some of the most admired industry giants, including Ogilvy & Mather. It was an especially proud moment to hear the news of the PROMO ranking, since our company wasn’t well known at the time, even though we’d been placing in the top 40 of the PROMO 100 for the 5 years prior. One particular promotion we were proud of was for Bayer Corporation, which came to us to help boost sales of Alka Seltzer Plus. In a time when promotions were giving people prizes, it was my dad’s idea to promote sending the winner to the “coldest place on earth.” In small, fine print, we offered the alternate of a Hawaiian vacation or $10,000, which the winner actually ended up taking. The promotion was a huge hit. After the news hit, the phone rang off the hook with companies wanting to work with us — Abbott Labs, AT&T and Coca Cola Foods. It was a fun time when we were really small and doing some pretty creative things. We all were super excited for the chance to do more, and we continue to have the honor of working with top global companies, most notably, BOSCH, Newell Brands, Sur La Table and Whirlpool.
Best advice you’ve ever received?
My dad who told me years ago to, “Never give up on reaching your star.” He was right, and I encourage others to do the same. It is my core belief there are no happier people on earth than the ones who follow their dreams.
How did you make your first dollar?
I made my first dollar picking blueberries at a small farm along I-94 in southwest Michigan. I originally took the job, because my mom, Audrey Johnson, gained a strong work ethic picking cotton as a child, and I thought hard labor would be good for me. It was really hard working all day in the scorching hot sun. I only lasted one day, but learned a lot about myself and about how hard it is to pick blueberries. While I am grateful to not have had to work as hard as my mom did, I did learn many good life lessons from the experience and a deeper appreciation for how hard it can be to make a dollar.
If you come to my office, my most-treasured possession is up on my wall — a beautiful little plaque given to me by the Rotary Club of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor for my Rotary District 6360 Nomination of Rotary International Global Women of Action in 2015. The honor recognized the Rotary Student Program, an initiative that aligns students with business professionals in dream careers. My husband and I presented the program at Rotary International Conventions in Lisbon, Portugal in 2013 and Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2015. Today, the Rotary Student Program has been adopted by Rotary Clubs in almost every country in the world. If you come to my home, my most-treasured possession is a fairytale painting my dad made of his children. The painting has a lake and a castle and a hidden fairy. It’s just magical. When my sister, Dawn Williams, executive vice president of JohnsonRauhoff, reads this Q&A, I know she’s going to ask me when I’ll finally give her a print of the painting (all I can say is, Christmas is coming Dawn).
I am in my dream job, working in a family business alongside my dad, my brother, my sister and now, my husband, Mike Huie, who recently left his position as a global business unit director of KitchenAid to become our chief strategy officer. It’s an amazing gift to have the opportunity to work with family, but also alongside so many talented people as the highly dedicated team that makes up the heart and soul of JR. There is nothing better in life than to spend your day doing what you love, working alongside and for great people and companies you admire and knowing that tomorrow, you get to do it all over again. That privilege has inspired my passion for helping young people find their paths.
If I were president for a day, I would…?
I was president of a small business for several years and just recently turned the reins of running JohnsonRauhoff over to my brother, Mason Johnson. If I were president of the U.S. for one day, I would sign an Allergy Awareness Bill that would supply funding to educate people on the importance of understanding food allergies. The bill would make mandatory the labeling of ingredients for all foods packaged and served, properly train food service providers in all industries and provide a path to alternative healthier food choices in all venues. Traveling the world, I have found it to be a global problem in a lack of understanding that gluten free does not mean allergy free and that eggs are not dairy. For some, the confusion in this area can be life threatening to others, and we simply are not educated enough to understand the consequences. Through personal experience, I have found a deep passion and calling for doing something about this in a bigger, broader way. After I signed the Allergy Awareness Bill as president for a day, I would end world hunger, bring eternal peace, find homes for homeless pets and give everyone an opportunity to fulfill their dreams.
Last book you’ve read?
Preferring non-fiction, educational or biography, I usually have several books going at once. Currently, I am reading “The One Thing,” by Gary Keller, “Blog Inc,” by Joy Deangdeelert Cho and re-reading “Out of Africa,” by Isak Dinesen. We are planning a family safari, and I am trying to get my head back in to the land of open planes, elephants and acacia trees.
Last thing you googled?
I would have said the last thing I googled was the word “achievably,” which I found out actually isn’t a word. But needing to answer the question of last book read, my new answer is that I just googled the proper spelling of Isak Dinesen.
Your worst habit?
My worst habit can also be my best habit. I keep a framed ad on my wall that says, “Life should be gulped, not sipped.” Loving that phrase, I do not want to take one day for granted and feel each day and each hour is a gift and opportunity to do something positive and useful. Squeezing as much as I can out of every single day, I can easily say my worst habit is always trying to do too much within too short a space.
To unwind, I like to…?
To unwind, I like to spend time with animals. It doesn’t matter what kind of animal or what I am doing with them. I just love animals — pets and wild, big and small. We have a lot of animals at home and on our property: a 180-pound English Mastiff named Theseus, an 80-pound English Bulldog named Oberon and a 24-pound Daisy Dog named Puck (all inspired by the Shakespeare play, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”). We also have a majestic German Hanoverian named Rollo Rock Star, three indoor cats, two outdoor cats that recently adopted us, two parakeets that are completely in love with each other and an unlimited supply of outdoor critters: deer, raccoons, wild turkeys, chipmunks and birds.
I went on my dream vacation in 1997. It was my honeymoon, and we went on an African Safari in Kenya and Zimbabwe. When my husband and I first met, we realized we both had ties to Africa — Mike through his father, John Huie, who was born in Zimbabwe and I through my love of nature, animals, photography and the dream to visit Kenya inspired by the movie “Out of Africa.” In Zimbabwe, we visited the grave of Mike’s grandfather, Carl Huie, who was a Methodist missionary and school teacher. He is buried at the mission station near Africa University where my father-in-law still does mission trips. While in Kenya, my husband and I went on private Safari, staying in thatched roof huts on stilts in Amboseli National Park, flew in a bi-plane over Mount Kilimanjaro and visited the home of the Karen Blixen, the Danish writer behind the story “Out of Africa.” I am not emotional about standing in a place where someone famous once stood, but it was moving to stand on Karen’s property. She was a strong woman and a pioneer who trekked in to the most beautiful place on earth. It’s quite moving.
I have many favorite foods, including cheese, apples and Triscuits (a favorite nighttime snack) and rock lobster and Oreos (not together). At the top of my list of favorite foods, however, is fresh Unaki Sushi with lots of wasabi and soy sauce. There’s nothing like living on the West Coast and having fresh sushi for lunch. Yum.
Person you most admire?
This one is easy. The person I most admire is my dad, chairman of the board at JohnsonRauhoff. He had a dream, worked hard, stayed focused, built something big and did what he set out to do. To me, my dad has been many things — my mentor, my business partner and the inspiration behind a global program that is changing lives: rotarystudentprogram.org