J Strategies Inc. started over dinner at a Thai restaurant in Syracuse. Now, a decade later, Julie Miner’s company has three offices — in Albany, New York City and Boston — with 20 employees and some major clients.
Miner said yes, but she hadn’t been thrilled about her options — she believed she was being offered less money than what her male counterparts were earning.
Venditti had a solution: What if they went out on their own, together?
Now, a decade later, J Strategies has three offices, 20 employees and some major clients.
You started J Strategies working out of Jaime Venditti’s house in Syracuse. Why did you move your business to Albany?
Within a few years, J Strategies was growing. We had grown our Albany business and had to be at the Capitol a lot. I decided to make the move.
We worked out of my house before we had this office. People were able to be comfortable. They didn’t care if they worked till 7 or 8 at night because they were sitting in a living room on their laptops. We were able to form an internal staff culture that mirrored Jaime’s and my relationship.
We went from that one employee [to] now we have about 20. We have offices in Albany, New York City and Boston.
We are a mix of alliance development, communications and media relations, and lobbying.
What are the ways that you might be interacting with one client?
We may have an initial meeting with a client and we talk about what is their issue of concern. If they have a piece of legislation they want passed, we say, “OK, we are going to map out the legislative targets that you have to interact with.” We’re also going to look at who influences those legislators. So, is it a chamber of commerce? Is it community groups? What kinds of people, what kinds of organizations are most influential to those legislators and most influential on this topic?
We put together coalitions. We produce letters of support. We do press conferences, lobby days, things like that.
You have some huge clients listed on your website: Bank of America, Churchill Downs, Pfizer, General Electric and more. How did you build that kind of client base?
We have pretty much built our business 100% on recommendations and word of mouth. We cold-called and recruited one client in the course of all of J Strategies. We don’t have contracts with some of those right now. We usually have 20 to 30 clients at a time.
How many people would you hire if you could find enough candidates to fill the jobs?
In Albany, we are always hiring, year-round, because we can’t fill positions fast enough. We’ve done that in New York City as well.
Most of your employees are female. Do you find you’ve been able to recruit more women partly because of the benefits, like flexible schedules, you offer?
The flexibility has been huge. But I also think in recruiting women of a very high caliber, women in politics for years have been dealing with mansplaining. They have been dealing with not being paid equally. And they’ve been dealing with being marginalized and not having the same potential for growth, because people assume that they’re support staff. Jaime and I both dealt with that early in our careers.
We provide an environment that is merit-based, where they can grow, where we believe in them.
I think our challenge was finding more men.
What percent of your staff is male?
It’s gotta be a quarter.
What’s one specific thing people should watch out of this year’s legislative session?
One of the biggest things is going to be the legalization of marijuana. That’s going to be the first time we have a brand-new industry in New York. The legalization of marijuana will really change the dynamics in New York, not only in terms of criminal justice, but also with having a brand-new economy.
What has it been like to build your career here in the Capital Region?
I’ve loved it. I was a native of Connecticut. My mother’s family’s from the Syracuse area. Moving to Albany was awesome because I felt like I got the best of both worlds. I’m close to my Connecticut friends. I’m close to my Syracuse family, but also, the culture of the Capital Region is awesome. There’s so much to do. In the fall, I bought a house here.
You spend some of your time living in Brooklyn, too?
I am down there some weekends. I’m also down during the week for client things.
You are involved with Great Pyrenees rescues, among other charitable work with Big Brothers Big Sisters and Grassroots Givers. Tell me why you love that dog breed.
I’m an animal nut. [Great Pyrenees dogs] look like giant polar bears. They are beautiful, loving, sweet dogs. They’re a pretty tough breed to train. They’re independent, they’re smart, they’re stubborn.
There’s a lot of really sad stories among Pyrs. They’re a dog that there’s a ton of them in rescue.
I have a Great Pyrenees, Logan. He’s about three and a half. He travels everywhere with me, with my Lhasa. She’s about 15 pounds and gray, and he’s white, fluffy and 120 pounds. They come to Cape Cod with me. They come to New York. They can travel in hotels. They can go hiking. They’re really a big part of my life.
I am in the process of adopting another Pyr.
Title: Managing partner and CEO
Company: J Strategies Inc.
Grew up: Morris in Litchfield County, Connecticut
Resides: Albany and Brooklyn
Family: Eight nieces and nephews; mother; two dogs, a Great Pyrenees and a Lhasa Apso, and two cats
On the resume: Regional director for Sen. Chuck Schumer; political director for Empire State Regional Council of Carpenters
Education: Bachelor of Arts in political science from Syracuse University, 2006