Back in college, Jared Kelly realized he had a knack for marketing. He was instrumental in bringing high-profile talent, including musicians and comedians, on to the campus. He loved it. Today, Kelly is the principal consultant of CEI Media Group, a Chicago-based digital intelligence firm and award-winning supplier of media, marketing and mobility solutions.
Growing up, Kelly was always fascinated with film and photography. But it wasn’t until his time spent at Drake University that his entrepreneurial spirit began to unfold. A well-rounded and creative scholar, Kelly often embraced leadership roles for a variety of student activities. “All of those things shaped my perspective of being interested and getting involved with what I felt was the business side of entertainment and media,” said Kelly.
Kelly’s talents on campus didn’t go unnoticed. The university recognized his technical skills and creativity and eventually asked him to develop their first website. But as a senior in business school who was holding down two jobs during his spare time, Kelly had to turn down the offer.
A former INROADS intern, Kelly was thoroughly prepared for a career in corporate America after graduating from college. Although he immediately landed a job with a pharmaceutical company in Kansas City, Missouri, Kelly ended up in Chicago where he transitioned into a sales position. “I worked in sales and marketing, but my passion for entrepreneurship was always there,” he recalls.
The Turning Point
Kelly was living minutes away from one of the country’s most iconic and tallest buildings when the events of September 11th shifted the nation. “I was all of five blocks away from the Sears Tower. I’m staring at this tower thinking that if something happens to me on this day, and if it happens in Chicago the way it’s happening in New York, I don’t know what’s next for this nation of ours.” Kelly’s fear and anxiety translated into a realization that it was time for him to start doing work that he was passionate about. This is how Complete Entertainment Inc. (CEI) began.
Kelly’s corporate experience was not in vain. Dating back to his college years, he noticed the disconnect between artistry and business. He wanted to know why so many artists, especially African-Americans, were filing bankruptcy. To satisfy his curiosity, he began learning as much as could about contracts and utilized his corporate skills to launch into consulting for his own business.
A certified minority business enterprise and affiliate of the National Minority Supplier Development Council, CEI Media Group is a sole source provider of creative services and technology solutions. They are a necessity for small businesses, targeting companies that generate $1 to $10 million annually. CEI can fill in the gaps for their clients whether it’s on the marketing or technology side. “We think for our clients; we act on their behalf, we have to communicate on their behalf. We have to understand their voice,” says Kelly. Communication can be in the form of a website, photography, video production or publishing. CEI also generates data reports that analyze a variety of internal and external factors that can help influence companies to make better decisions.
When asked what he’s most proud of, Kelly humbly mentions the longevity his company has endured over the years. “This has been a rollercoaster, and we’ve been on this ride for 15 years. I’m most proud that not only am I able to sustain myself, but I’m able to meet payroll every two weeks. My staff has earned it, and I don’t ever want to let anyone down.”
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