In August, Elite Creative made the list of Inc. magazine’s 5000 fastest-growing companies for the first time. It’s just the latest accomplishment for Jennifer Rotner, 39, the founder and CEO of Elite Creative, which does business as Elite Editing and Elite Authors. In the past, Rotner has been named Most Admired CEO by the Maryland Daily Record and Woman of the Year by the National Association of Professional Women.
Rotner grew up in Baltimore, a fourth-generation member of Beth Tfiloh Congregation. She studied communications and journalism at the University of Michigan, then lived in New York City for about a decade before returning to Baltimore.
In 2009, she founded Elite Editing, a company that offers writing and editing services. In 2018, she started Elite Authors, which provides publishing services like editing and marketing for independent authors. A fully remote company since its very beginning, Elite Creative operates with a core team of about 15 as well as hundreds of freelancers.
Rotner lives in Stevenson with her husband, son and 13 chickens.
Why did you want to start your own business?
I’m the daughter of an entrepreneur and a successful business owner. My father really modeled that for us. I always loved and appreciated that my dad found success in business, but he really did it in a way that worked around his life. He was at the dinner table every single night of my life. … He never missed a game. Because of the way he prioritized family, and because of the way that felt to me growing up in our household, really just made this something that I was always interested in doing, was creating a business where I was in control of my own lifestyle and destiny.
How has Elite Creative grown over the last 12 years?
We’ve grown in leaps and bounds. We’ve had some years where we’re moving along and then we’ll have a really big week. [In] 2018, we lost our biggest client that was the huge majority of our work and had to pivot. Elite Authors was born out of that pivot. … We started really focusing on doing a lot of content writing, not just editing, and we had a great recovery year in 2018. We almost fully recovered from the loss of our client. In 2019, we doubled in our company size and revenue, and in 2020, we doubled again in our size and revenue. We actually landed on the Inc. 5000 list this year.
What do you attribute your success during the pandemic to?
From an external standpoint, a lot of companies that had traditionally done more traditional advertising and marketing efforts had to pivot into digital marketing efforts, and we’re in that space. We support digital marketing through content strategy, content creation, social media strategy. A lot of brick-and-mortar shops were realizing that this was an opportunity for them to have that level of digital transformation and we were a part of that for a lot of organizations. It was complete luck of the draw, but we were in one of the industries that saw a lot of growth in 2020. That’s external.
Internally, the reason that we were successful is because I have an absolutely unbelievable team that, despite what was going on in the world, they were completely committed and bought into making us a success.
What advice would you have for companies that are newly remote or new to a hybrid model?
Trying to run the same company you did when everybody was under one roof is setting your team up for failure. Really embracing the fact that the culture and workflow has changed when you go remote or go hybrid is a really key thing to accept. Beyond that, what it boils down to in business — our most key and our core value — is trust.