#HearHerStory: Carissa Justice

Interview with Co-Founder of Nimble Creative

About Carissa

Carissa is a copywriter and co-founder at Nimble Creative, a brand storytelling studio in San Francisco. She has an insatiable appetite for finding just the right words to express complex ideas while always striving to engage people on an emotional level. She’s had the pleasure of working in-house and on the agency side across products, services, and industries far and wide.

Maya Frai: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where did you go to school and what did you study?

Carissa Justice: I went to Clemson University in South Carolina. I was a media journalism major with a sports writing emphasis. I thought I wanted to be a sports writer and was even the assistant sports editor at my school newspaper, but ultimately, it wasn’t my long-term passion. Of course, I still root for the Tigers wherever I go!

MF: When did you decide to start Nimble? What was it like building it from the ground up?

CJ: I was working at an agency in San Francisco and was feeling the pressure of agency life. I had a baby at home and a newfound drive to build a career that I was excited about. My business partner was in the same boat (new baby, new sense of purpose) and we started talking about our ideal situation. We discovered that we had the same vision in mind and had some really great ideas of how we could help companies tell their story. What started with coffee-run ramblings turned into building an actual business plan and biting the bullet. We just passed our year mark and are blown away at how well it’s worked out so far.

MF: What do you find personally fulfilling about your work?

CJ: A few things get me pumped to work everyday — great clients who appreciate a well-told story and the chance to learn new things everyday. We’ve been lucky to have some really cool clients that push us to deliver great work but also have fun along the way. We have worked with such a diverse group of brands that span lifestyle, biotech, consumer electronics, hospitality, and healthcare. If a topic is brand new or scares us, it’s usually a great fit. We jump at the chance to get out of our comfort zone.

MF: What inspires you at Nimble?

CJ: I’m constantly inspired by the incredibly creative people I get to work with — from designers to writers to founders. We might be biased but we know some insanely talented people that push us to do better work all the time. I’m also in constant awe of my business partner, Diva Dimartini. She has a natural ability to pull meaning out of anything and is amazing at articulating a brand’s purpose. She’s also just a great time and a rock solid work wife which makes coming to work everyday a lot of fun.

MF: How has your perspective changed on what it means to be a modern working woman?

CJ: My perspective changed profoundly when I became a mother. I realized it’s a lot harder to be away from home if you don’t love what you’re doing. Yes, I need to provide for my family and make a paycheck, but I also need my job to be fulfilling and challenging. I’ve discovered a different kind of hustle in myself that I wasn’t expecting. I went back to work when my son was just 3 months old and found it agonizing to work on projects that weren’t inspiring or with clients that weren’t appreciative. If I’m going to miss out on moments at home, it better be because I love what I’m doing not just because I have to do it.

MF: How have you tried to support the women in your life?

CJ: I have a close group of female writers that I stay in touch with, support, and promote on a regular basis. We all met over the past 8 years while working and writing in the Bay Area and have always found time to help each other out. It can be as simple as chiming in when someone is creatively stuck on a headline or as big as someone needing a new job. We constantly show up for one another whether we’re celebrating someone’s book deal, helping someone negotiate a higher salary, or filling in when someone is on maternity leave or just needs an extra brain on a project. That group of friends, collaborators, and women have given me more confidence in myself and my worth than anything else.

MF: What do you think is the most important skillset a woman needs to handle today’s work landscape?

CJ: I don’t think women need a set skillset for today’s work landscape but I think having the right mindset and attitude is everything. In my experience, specifically in branding and marketing, the landscape is competitive and fickle. You need to have a strong backbone to handle criticism and the ability to roll with the punches when plans change.

MF: What advice do you have for women starting a job at a new company?

CJ: Don’t be afraid to be you from day one. I used to temper my quirkiness and sense of humor for months in fear of not being taken seriously. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized it’s what makes me fun to work with and a great collaborator (or at least that’s what I’ve been told). I also try to set boundaries from the get go. It’s tempting to want to stay late every night and prove yourself but I’ve found that doing so sets unrealistic expectations.

MF: What is some career advice you would give to younger women?

CJ: Focus on the industry or brand you want to work for and less about the title or job. I always wanted to be on the agency side but spent years working in-house because it felt easier and more stable. Do the grunt work early and pay your dues in the industry you want. Hopefully the rest will fall into place.

Be sure to check out Carissa’s company at www.nimblesf.com.

Nimble Creative is a brand storytelling studio that helps shape brands, define voices, sharpen stories, and name things. With a unique partnership of strategist and copywriter, clients get the best of both worlds — an eye to their brand objectives and an experienced master of words.