Jess Flack is the last person who you'd think might suffer from "imposter syndrome," the nagging feeling that you aren't quite up to the job at hand.
The 30-year-old Lee University graduate is a co-founder and CEO of the influencer marketing company Ubiquitous which is designed to link brands such as Amazon and Disney to an army of TikTok content creators.
"I'm often my worst critic," Flack says. "We started this (company) and had a vision, but I held myself back in the beginning because I didn't think that I was old enough, or smart enough, or had enough credibility."
Well, the numbers swirling around Ubiquitous speak to Flack's competence. It appears that under her leadership, Ubiquitous (which means "found everywhere") is living up to its name.
In less than two years, Ubiquitous -- which has hubs in Chattanooga, Atlanta and Los Angeles -- has grown to represent about 6,000 creators and serve more than 300 companies. A seed round of venture capital funding raised $5 million.
Then, there are the soft skills that set Flack apart. She is is a musician (she plays piano, guitar and base) -- a cinephile (she can recite all the lines of "Steel Magnolias" verbatim) -- and an accomplished cook (she's practicing for her family's Iron Chef-style competition involving dumplings.)
One of three sisters, Flack was born in Mobile, Alabama. Her father is an environmental and chemical engineer and her mother has worked as a nurse and a personal chef. Flack spent three childhood years, from age 8 to 11, in Puerto Rico due to her dad's work.
After college at Lee University, she worked at Crash Creative, a web design and digital marketing agency here, for four years, before moving to the start-up moving company BellHop as a performance marketing manager for three more years.
Whether it is eventually purchased by a bigger company or becomes a long-term player in the influencer marketing space, Ubiquitous is poised for success. The company has about 50 permanent and contract employees, a majority of whom are based in Chattanooga.
Flack and her co-founders were among the first to recognize that the emerging video platform, TikTok, was a "Wild West" of influencers who really had no idea how to price their services or market themselves to brands. Meanwhile, large brands and their marketing arms were cherry-picking these TikTok creators one by one to push their products and services, which wasn't efficient, either.
During the early months of COVID, Flack was working full-time for BellHop. As a side hustle, she began negotiating deals for TikTok creators, sort of like a talent agent.
While working for a recording label and reaching out to some 200 TikTok creators for their rates, Flack determined that their price-for-services quotes were all over the board. Still, it was much more economical for companies to use TikTok creators than influencers on more established platforms such as YouTube and Instagram.
At the time, she said, "I was using my performance marketing brain and trying to understand the pricing structure," she says. Flack says the average cost of TikTok marketing was "one-fourth of the cost of YouTube and a one-sixth of the cost of Instagram."
Tapping TikTok creators proved to be an enticing business model. Although other companies are now entering the space, Flack says her company has a head start and the technology to stay ahead.
"I view competition as a sign that we are in the right space," she says. "... We already have years of experience in this space. We are in the right lane."
* Age: 30
* Job: co-founder, CEO of Ubiquitous
* Education: Lee University, bachelor's degree
* Hobbies: movies, cooking, pet ownership