Leyna Jackson thinks her friends from high school would be surprised at how she earns a living. Back then, she wasn’t very involved in social media, but the 26-year-old currently serves as the senior digital marketing specialist at Vermont Teddy Bear. She’s so good at her job that Vermont Business Magazine named her one of their 40 Rising Stars of 2017.
Jackson received her award at a ceremony on Nov. 10. “It was such an honor and such a nice event,” she said. “It was inspiring to see how many cool Vermonters there are.”
Jackson joined Vermont Teddy Bear after managing a Twitter account as legal/marketing assistant at the law firm of Merritt & Merritt. During her time at the firm, she became interested in learning more about small businesses. She began doing social media work for Fresh Tracks Capital’s Road Pitch, where investors on motorcycles travel the state in search of new ventures to back.
“I had never been on a motorcycle and I was petrified,” she admitted. “My mother told me horror stories but I rode on the back of a bike and loved the fact that there was no vehicle between me and the scenery. I saw places I’d never been to and learned about new start-ups across the state. It’s something I look forward to doing year after year.”
It’s surprising that Jackson was nervous about getting on a motorcycle given the fact that she used to spend summers scuba diving with sharks.
Born in California, Jackson’s family moved to Vermont when she was 3 years old, although they spent two years in Europe, which helped kindle her love of travel. Her half-sister dated the owner of a scuba-diving resort in the Bahamas so Jackson worked there as an intern, taking part in various activities including night dives, so-called “blue hole” dives into vertical caves or underwater sinkholes, as well as diving with sharks.
“That made me realize I wanted to have a job I loved,” she said. “That’s why I’m obsessed with entrepreneurship.”
In addition to her work with Vermont Teddy Bear, Jackson, who just moved to Waterbury Center with her boyfriend, runs a company called PawsON Marketing with a former colleague. For now, the pair only works with one or two clients at a time but they hope to grow the firm. “This year one of our clients had a goal of getting 500 new customers,” she said, “and we were able to get them over 1,000. We’re really happy with the work we’re able to do but we both have full-time positions elsewhere.”
Jackson thoroughly enjoys her job at Vermont Teddy Bear. “It was a tremendous challenge to build our social media almost from scratch,” she said. “The engagement we have on that page is unlike anything I’ve seen. We’ll have a contest winner and after I send congratulations, 100 other people will also send congratulations.”
Jackson’s responsibilities at Vermont Teddy Bear have been increasing which makes her very happy. “There is endless learning all along the way,” she said. “I think it would be a struggle to find another company where I could do this.”
Jackson sees one possible downside to being named a Rising Star. “What am I rising to?” she asks rhetorically. “What’s the next peak I have to look forward to? I want to be equally impressed with myself next year. It’s back to the drawing board.”