By Jordan Houston
Jennifer Kaplan hails from a family of entrepreneurs.
It was no surprise when the Phoenix resident decided to tackle the industry early on and it’s safe to say she found her footing.
Now, nearly 25 years after graduating from ASU, Kaplan is celebrating 10 years as the owner and founder of Evolve Public Relations & Marketing.
“I always had this huge plan of a party and lots of people and other things that we’ve missed out on or had to modify because of COVID,” Kaplan shares. “I can remember the first day, and I can’t even believe it has been 10 years.”
Founded in late 2010, the Scottsdale-based company is powered by a team of 14 publicists who manage nearly 100 public relations locally and nationally, as well as social media accounts.
Evolve’s clientele includes the ranks of Waymo, HomeSmart, Senior Helpers, Grimaldi’s and Lectric eBikes, to name a few.
“We do their social media—not for all of them—but we’ll handle building out a calendar and curating content,” Kaplan expresses.
“That’s why it has worked so well; we’re creating content on the PR side. It has been a nice complement adding social media.”
Although Evolve is not a “full-service agency,” Kaplan explains, the firm works alongside other “great businesses” throughout the community to enhance shared-client experiences.
“We might share clients, and they (other community businesses) do the advertising or media and branding,” she says. “We don’t create any assets as far as collateral.”
Evolve also strives to raise awareness about its clientele through out-of-the-box strategies not involving public relations, Kaplan continues, including collaborations and events.
“What other ways can we get our client’s names out in the community that’s not PR? Although a lot of the time it will lead to a PR opportunity,” she discloses.
“Maybe taking a pizza restaurant and collaborating with Phoenix Children’s Hospital,” she adds. “And every pizza sold, a portion goes to the hospital.”
Born and raised in Phoenix, Kaplan has made a name for herself as a familiar face in the Valley with years of startup experience.
After graduating from Central High School, Kaplan studied communications at ASU with an emphasis in public relations in 1992.
The firm founder says she was inspired to pursue those areas of interest based on her love of “connecting people” in high school.
Whether it was through her role in student government or playing matchmaker for various couples—some of which are still married—Kaplan thrived on communicating and connecting.
The publicist was even nominated as “Most Talkative” during her senior year in high school, she says with a laugh.
“This was my path. I don’t get up every day and go to work. It is who I am,” Kaplan says. “I feel super blessed that there was this trait that I had, and I got to channel it through college and now throughout my career.”
Kaplan graduated from ASU in 1996 and opened her first PR firm, PRIME 3 LLC, roughly 10 years later. Kaplan co-founded the firm in 2005, getting her first taste of entrepreneurial ownership.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs, so that risk to start my own business wasn’t as scary, because I grew up around that,” she shares. “I saw my father and my mom do entrepreneurial things in the industry and field.
“My mom jokes that I was basically born doing it,” Kaplan adds.
In 2010, Kaplan founded Evolve.
The businesswoman says she was ready to take on the next chapter and that the transition “made sense.”
“I enjoy when we see our clients’ names out in the community,” she shares of her success. “I really feel like we are helping them whether it’s butts in seats or sales or phone calls or awareness. I really feel we’re making an impact directly on their business, and they tell us that.”
Although the fi rm does not identify with a particular industry niche, working with clients ranging from restaurants, retail and real estate to entertainment and nonprofits, Kaplan says the key to a successful fi rm is the ability to connect with people and convey their messages in an enticing and articulate way.
While the people skills came naturally to Kaplan, the writing portion came later, she explains.
“A press release needs to be articulate in a creative and concise way to get the media’s attention,” she explains. “But writing wasn’t the passion of mine—that is something I’ve had to learn more in school.
“The people skills, the connecting with people and making people feel that I want to help them, is what is just innate in me,” she continues.
Kaplan has garnered numerous accolades and recognitions for her work within the Valley, including multiple AZ’s Finest awards relating to her work surrounding cystic fibrosis, a 2006 Forty Under 40 Award from the Phoenix Business Journal and 2007 Best Corporate Event for Budget Over $25,000 award via the International Special Events Society, among others.
For the fifth year in a row, Kaplan was inducted in September into the ASU Sun Devil 100 Class of 2020. The initiative celebrates alumni who own or lead successful, innovative businesses across the globe, according to its website. Kaplan was ranked at No. 55.
Looking to the future, Kaplan hopes to continue to “evolve” Evolve.
The owner is working to expand more departments and leadership capacities, as well as enhance her social media team through implementing tools like search engine optimization.
“We are heavily focused on growing the business,” Kaplan says. “Pre-COVID, we had a strong trajectory and plan for the company, and that is still in place. We just had a little zigzag and pause due to the pandemic.”
As for Kaplan, her schedule isn’t slowing down any time soon.
She recently established a scholarship at her alma mater, Kaplan shares.
The funds will be available ideally for a female looking to pursue a degree in communications, she says—but is open to considering men as well.
“I’d like it to be a female from here wanting to go into communications,” she shares. “I’m super excited about that.” CT