Jake Bailey, one of Emerson’s brightest alumni, was one of those students who come to college with the intention of making a big splash. While his start was marked by a major transition (literally and figuratively), he’s made tremendous strides for the Emerson community in the form of Emerson Launch and his current service on Emerson’s Board of Advisors.
We spoke with Jake over the Summer to recap his experience at Emerson and to somewhat capture an oral history of his involvement in founding Emerson Launch. What you are about to read comes from an interview done in mid-June that started as an alumni spotlight and evolved into a story encompassing Jake’s tremendous accomplishments.
Starting at Emerson:
Jake started his career at Emerson in an entirely different program than the one he’d finish in. He had applied and been accepted as a Writing for Film & Television student but quickly realized that this wasn’t the right track for him.
“I got to Emerson and went to Freshman orientation and, when we were there, they split the students up by major so you could meet other students in your program. The very first day I realized that all the other students in the Film major were so much more passionate about it than I was… I just saw all of these other students who were so passionate about Writing for Film and Television and it just made me think, ‘I don’t feel that same level of passion. It’s just not there and maybe this isn’t for me. Maybe someday I’ll take it on as a hobby but I’m not sure it’s something I want to do with the rest of my life.’
And so I had a massive panic attack after that and I ran to my academic advisor to tell them that this isn’t what I want to do. He calmed me down and told me, you know, that there weren’t too many other majors to pick and that I would either have to pick another major or consider transferring.”
Jake had developed a sense of his interest in business and entrepreneurship and knew that he wanted to take some direction in college that would support his goal of owning and operating his own company someday and so he agreed with the alternative program his advisor pitched: Marketing Communication.
“I had no idea what marketing really meant but I was always entrepreneurial-minded and knew that I had always wanted to do my own thing, start my own company, and kind of be my own boss. So, after all of that, my advisor put me in one film class and one marketing class in my first semester so I could get a sense of how I felt about marketing and if I really did not want to do Film. And I knew, right from that first marketing class, that this is what I wanted to do. I fell in love with marketing.”
“Learning marketing Freshman and Sophomore year really got me interested in branding. And I wanted to really learn what it took to build a brand. So that was around the time that I started building my first company which was a men’s clothing brand that I based out of my dorm room in Paramount. And that really got me into how to build a brand and how to build a business and that got me interested in starting companies, trying to be an entrepreneur, and it all just kind of evolved from there.”
While running a business out of your dorm sounds like more than enough to keep a student busy, Jake went a step further with his professional development. He had, not one, but several internships in his time at Emerson in addition to his involvement with Earth Emerson and EmComm (where he served as the head of Advertising & Publicity for the EVVY Awards).
Between working with tech startups and a slew of innovative companies Jake was able to develop a comprehensive understanding of just what it took to successfully brand products in tech and gained experience that would set him up for the early stages of strategizing outreach for his future businesses.
But throughout this experience he was able to identify some of the resources he was lacking from Emerson:
“I started my first company when I was a Freshman and, in that process, I was able to recognize quite a few things that I did not have access to that would have the process a little more successful. For example, I really wished that I had a designated office space to work out of because, when I was meeting with clients and vendors, I was forced to take those meetings at the local Starbucks, which felt very unprofessional.”
Jake was very active throughout his Junior year. He was in the midst of creating another business, this one being more tech-focused, with the help of some friends who were contributing remotely. His work was primarily vested in marketing and branding the product they were developing while others contributed more on the tech side.
It was in the midst of developing this business that Jake caught wind of a program being offered by the University of Texas:
“I think it was during my junior year, the University of Texas had started a start-up incubator program where you would apply for this class with your business plan and you would spend a semester attending seminars and workshops while you developed your business further and used the facilities that came along with the program. You would have a dedicated office and workspace to base yourself out of for free for the semester and, at the end of the semester, there was this big pitch competition in front of, like, 1,000 people with investors in the audience. I just saw how great this program was and I looked at Emerson and we had nothing like it.”
Jake went on the make arrangements to meet with President Pelton, citing Pelton’s inaugural speech in which innovation was named as one of his five commitments moving forward.
This lead to the introduction of Tripp Clemens ’13, a student who had voiced similar concerns to Pelton. Both Tripp and Jake approached Pelton with a plan to organize what would initially be called ‘The Emerson Accelerator’ and were initially brought onto a committee to help develop the program.
Realizing that the other members of the committee lacked their perspective, Jake and Tripp eventually went on to voice their concerns to Pelton, noting that this approach might not be the most advantageous way of developing a student-focused program. Pelton came back with just one question:
“If you were in charge, what would you do?”
And from there the two of them developed a proposal in an unprecedented meeting between students and Emerson’s Board of Trustees. Not only did the pair make history for the College, they also developed an outstanding program for entrepreneurial-minded students.
Jake continues to do outstanding work in marketing and communications. He’s the CEO of Harvest Delivery, a company focused on B2B service via simplified application integration. Sound like a mouthful? It’s a super impressive product that’s been able to pivot from a consumer-focus on food delivery to a business-focus based on the sophisticated technology that makes its application run.
He continues to be actively involved with Emerson and the community as a mentor and current member of the Board of Advisors. And as wild as this level of involvement sounds it just proves one thing:
Jake Bailey is an Emersonian who knew what he wanted in his time here and, as a result, made history as one of our college’s most active minds.