As a first time mother and Founder of M studio in Asbury Park, New Jersey, Jenna Zilincar knows the only constant is change. This mantra not only inspires her staff in the ever-evolving world of creative communication and marketing, but also fuels Jenna as a role model to the sisterhood of women-driven businesses in her community. NJMOM was able to learn about Jenna’s family history of artistic influence passed down from her mother and how her father’s successful business taught her how to run an organization. Plus, an inside look at her passions for cooking and public speaking, and her family’s best tips for adventurous outings like hikes at Hartshorne Woods and the annual Lighthouse Challenge of NJ.
Creative Director & Founder of M studio
& NJMOMpreneur: Jenna Zilincar
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Jenna: M studio is a woman-owned, integrated branding and communications agency located in Asbury Park, New Jersey. The M studio team, led by myself and public relations director Shannon Furey, has generated work across various sectors of industry and continues to serve a growing, diverse national client base consisting of established businesses, start-ups, and virtual entities. M studio has been in business for over 13 years and in that time, the one constant we have found is change. Marketing is an ever-evolving industry, and since our inception in 2004, M studio has made it our goal to recognize emerging trends in the industry. This foresight allows us to best serve our clients by providing insights and solutions that will be effective and relevant for years to come. Employing this approach, we continue to be sought out by a wide range of clients for our fresh creative approach, effective marketing strategies, and extensive services. In addition to detecting trends and employing best-practices throughout our work, our team embodies an innate level of caring and creativity that can’t be defined by datasets. This degree of thoughtfulness, creative vision, and personal investment in our clients’ goals drives M studio to provide the highest caliber of customer care and ultimate results.
NJMOM: What inspired you to get into your line of work?
Jenna: I fell in love with art at a very young age. My mother and grandmother are both artists, and while growing up I spent many hours in studios learning about the limitless world of creativity. That early exposure turned into a passion. I was eventually offered a scholarship to the Maryland Institute College of Art, where I became infatuated with design, and my career path was set. Looking back, I also recognize the influence my father and our family business, Metaline, had on my future endeavors. I was able to experience firsthand what went into owning and operating a business: the victories, the upset, and the team culture. I loved getting to know the employees and seeing the factory run, and I definitely liked the idea of being a boss.
NJMOM: How did M studio get started?
Jenna: Starting M studio was truly a wish granted. When I was only a few years out of college, I found myself in a position that felt limiting with regards to where I wanted to be in the industry. At the same time, my sister-in-law, Natalie, was looking to make a change and leave behind the New York City grind. With her communication and writing background combined with my design experience and creative drive, we decided to pair up and give it the ol’ girl scout try. So at the age of 24, hand-in-hand with my sister-in-law, I decided to dive headfirst into the world of business ownership.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Jenna: Aside from being able to provide for my family by doing what I love, my favorite part of owning a business is the team and the community we have created. M studio would be nothing without the team we have built both in and out of the office. Every single person that has entered our office doors has made a huge impact on the company. As a boss, I try to offer a space where employees know they have a voice and I’m always open to hearing new creative insights and ideas about how to improve operations.
I learned very early in my career that limiting oneself can be toxic and harmful to the overall health and well-being of the company.
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Jenna: My background in business stems from opportunities with amazing agencies in New York City such as Baron & Baron to Ogilvy and Mather, and my time at Smith (the brain children behind Porta and Pascal and Sabine here in Asbury Park). My experience at all of these companies helped develop the foundation for what became M studio. But the most impactful experiences in shaping where the business and I are today have been the firsthand challenges and successes I have faced in starting and running the agency for the past 13 years.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Jenna: In addition to our amazing clients and the wide range of projects we get to work on, I am most proud of the positive influence I am able to have on women starting their own businesses. Over the last few years, I have had several opportunities to speak about my experiences as a business owner and creative professional. I was recently invited to speak at a Babes in Business event where I had the opportunity to address fellow business-owners and women looking to make the next move in their careers. I felt confident in my role as a leader and loved being in front of the crowd, and it was incredibly humbling to know that the insights I shared would have a positive impact on those in attendance. Knowing I made a difference in so many ladies’ outlooks made me proud that my hard work could affect people I had never met before.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Jenna: Few people know that I love to cook and walk around the house naked (not at the same time, of course). My love for cooking started before I was allowed to use the stove or oven, so I began experimenting with new and exciting ways to use a microwave, even using it to “bake” a cake. In fact, I love cooking so much that I even considered a career in the culinary arts before the inception of M studio. My grandmother watched me create dishes from scratch since before I could reach the counter, and encouraged me to take that journey. However, I ultimately decided to keep that passion within my home and into the bellies of those I love.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you in the new year?
Jenna: Professionally, M studio will be working on our first fully integrated global campaign and producing our first commercial. On a personal level, I look forward to mastering the art of motherhood and exploring the advice that other NJMOMs have to share, plus finding time to relax (as contradictory as that may seem). Most importantly though, both professionally and personally, I’m going to be enjoying the journey.
NJMOM: What charitable causes are you most passionate about?
Jenna: M studio has had the opportunity to support many charities and non-profits over the years, but those who truly stand out to me are those run by women who have created business models that give back in a fun and unexpected ways. Kerri Martin from Second Life Bikes as well as Beth Herbruck from Good Folk Supper Club continue to amaze me with what they have created for the communities and individuals who benefit from their love and imagination.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
Jenna: First and foremost, I have to say my mother was my first and is still my biggest role model. Watching her raise two children and put herself through graduate school while creating a future for herself and her family reinforced the fact that with hard work and dedication, women can do and be anything. My mother has been many things – an artist, a teacher, a florist, a sailor – and in each of these endeavors she has given her all.
Secondly, I greatly admire the powerful local community of women business leaders that has flourished over the past few years throughout Asbury Park and New Jersey. It has been amazing to be in arm’s reach of many truly inspiring women, and I’m awestruck and inspired each day by the ladies that push boundaries and pave the way for one another.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice a role model ever gave to you?
Jenna: I have to say that my father, Augie Zilincar, wins in this category. There is an “Augieism” for almost every occasion, but the best advice I ever received from him was, “Don’t be afraid to ask. The worst thing they can say is no.” This has stuck with me from day one, and I certainly would not be where I am today without this piece of advice.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules. – Paul Arden
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Jenna: One of my favorite places to go with my family and friends during any time of year is Hartshorne Woods in Atlantic Highlands. I love being among the trees, with the fungus, on the trails, breathing in the fresh air, and experiencing nature. We also love to explore Sandy Hook in the spring and fall because it feels like every time we visit, we discover something new. It’s truly a blessing to have a national park so close to our home and with such a unique history. We also just recently discovered the Lighthouse Challenge of NJ, which is one weekend every October when lighthouses throughout New Jersey are opened to the public and families try to visit each one in the span of two days. It’s a must-do for us next year!
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Jenna: Though I am just 11 months into my membership of this club called “motherhood,” and I know it’s just the beginning, the journey has already been so powerful for me. I can’t exactly put the feeling into words, but the best moments of motherhood are the daily discoveries such as the first word, the first step, the blowouts, and the laughter. The fact that I would rather get drooled on, pooped on, and covered in food over anything else is how I know that this is the best job I will ever have.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Jenna: I can thank Red Moon in Asbury Park for my fabulous earring collection and planters, and Good Karma Cafe in Red Bank is a must for me and my husband when a solid vegan meal is calling our names. Guaranteed Plants in Locust is where I like to escape and surround myself with a fantastic array of house plants. Cafe Volan in Asbury Park is where I go for my daily pic- me-up and/or coffee induced anxiety attack. Finally, the amazingly talented teams at both Ayatana and Lady Is Strong are responsible for keeping my body in good working order.
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Jenna: I have called Wanamassa, New Jersey my home for the past 10 years. Just outside Asbury Park, it’s a quick walk or bike ride from the beaches and downtown. Plus there are plenty of woods and lakes nearby for hiking, paddle boarding, and general outdoor exploration, so it pretty much feels like a vacation any time of year.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Jenna: My advice is to make sure you surround yourself with people who encourage and inspire you. Having that additional support, drive, and sisterhood can help turn negative thoughts into your next big idea.
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Finding success and joy, in business as well as motherhood, is a lot harder without sisterhood.
I think it’s very important that as moms and leaders in our businesses and households, we keep fear and doubt out of the minds of our peers, as well as the next generation. Remember that you are not alone and don’t take yourself too seriously; tell jokes and always be kind to each other!