In celebration of Women’s History Month, we’re happy to bring our Women in Furniture Series, spotlighting accomplished women shaping the furniture industry. While strides have been made towards gender diversity, the industry lags behind others. At 3D Cloud™, we stand behind and empower outstanding women propelling the industry forward. So, grab your favorite brew, take a seat, and delve into the inspiring journey of —

Jennifer Bryan.

Jennifer Bryan is currently the GM of Content Marketing at Nebraska Furniture Mart. She brings experience from previous roles at Holly Hunt and Gordmans. In this article, she shares her career journey and insights into the furniture industry in this article.

We can start with how you landed in the furniture industry. Can you tell us about that?

Jennifer: I’ve been in retail from the beginning, starting out by working in a clothing store when I moved to Chicago after college. Then, I got a fascinating internship with a jewelry design company for a few years. When I was ready to make a change through a friend of my sisters, I got introduced to Holly Hunt, where my love affair with furniture began. I worked there for about three years before we moved out of the city. Still, it was absolutely a crash course of what luxury furniture is, the attention to detail, the design, and the artistry that goes behind it. The furniture industry was just as fascinating as jewelry or fashion and how those things align and come together. Working for Holly and learning her story was incredible and set the stage for all that would come after.

You’ve been in marketing for a while, correct?

JB: I have been in marketing for almost 20 years. Maybe I didn’t realize it then, but I got lucky when I took that first role at the jewelry design company because it was small. It was just the founder, her father, and six of us, so you had to wear every hat. Some days, I was untangling jewelry chains or packing up products.  Other times, I was planning events or calling magazine editors, trying to get products dropped into an article. I worked on new brand campaigns, developing product names, and scheduling photo shoots. Then, at Holly Hunt, I traveled to our showrooms nationwide to manage marketing materials and execute designer events. I developed brand messaging for our first website and worked with the visual teams. I had the opportunity early in my career to learn about many marketing strategies, and it’s gratifying for me now because so many of those pieces fall under my role at NFM as the GM of Content Marketing.

Can you talk about what you do now in content marketing for NFM?

JB: When I wax poetic, I call us the storytellers, but that’s what I genuinely believe, and it’s meaningful for me because it was all I ever wanted to do when I was younger. I just want to be creative every day, and this is a world where that absolutely came to fruition. Currently, my content team includes events teams in all our regions, the social media team, which includes influencer marketing, and all of our messaging and copywriting. PR and corporate social responsibility are also part of the content team. Additionally, I manage the marketing team for our lifestyle center, Grandscape, where the Texas store is located.

When I started working in social media many years ago, the idea was that you could create really fun content for social media. Still, it didn’t really consider how that translated back to the sales experience. What were you teaching that customer or potential customer about your brand that will be authentic when they shop with you at the end of the day? Now, it’s more about making sure that you are considering all the channels where customers might engage with you and then developing content to bring them back online or to your store to shop with you.

I graduated in 2003 from the University of Iowa, and I originally wanted to be a creative writing professor and then went back to school for fashion design. Now I laugh, especially with my kids, about the fact that what I do today didn’t really exist back then.  There are so many new channels that we play with right now across digital, social, and streaming content. If you aren’t thinking about how you’re talking to people across all of those channels and how those things connect at the end of the day, then you won’t be successful. Stories that resonate feel authentic, and stand behind who you are as a company are the most meaningful.

What do you love about working in the furniture industry the most?

JB: I think furniture and building out a home is such a lovely concept. When you walk into a room, it tells a different story depending on the style, space, and mood. One of the things that NFM does well is creating that inspirational feeling when you walk into different spaces within our stores. Another thing I think is special about furniture is that it could be built with old-world craftsmanship and become an heirloom for the rest of your life, or it can be something driven by super cool modern tech innovations. Finding that balance where you’re creating someone’s safe space, creating something inspirational, and creating something innovative, you can do all that with furniture; it’s somebody’s home. It touches on so many different things and, at the end of the day, can also be practical. It’s one of the only things that blends a want and a need because you might need a kitchen table and chairs, but you can also want them to be beautiful and have both. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

“Finding that balance where you’re creating someone’s safe space, creating something inspirational, and creating something innovative, you can do all that with furniture; it’s somebody’s home.” – Jennifer Bryan, GM of Content Marketing at NFM

It’s so important to have that emotional attachment. What unique challenges have you faced in the furniture industry?

JB: Some of it is about being thoughtful about what is a trend versus something lasting. I’ve had the privilege of working for several family-run companies throughout my career, and appreciate and value the story behind NFM, founded by Mrs. B, and how her family has continued to ensure the same culture and sense of beliefs over the years. Sometimes, chasing what’s unique or considered trendy can undercut those values. I’ve seen that happen in other businesses where they lose sight of that. It’s important to stay connected to those core values and always provide something that’s quality, even if it’s for the short term.

What advice would you give to younger women considering a career in the furniture industry today?

JB: It’s super important to be curious. There is so much to learn, and things are constantly changing. When social media is part of what you do, I see how my team must constantly be researching the next thing and evaluating whether or not it’s worth it for us as a brand. For any young person starting out, it’s wise to educate yourself about not only your role and responsibilities but also others.

From the retail perspective, maybe it’s putting yourself in the position of being on the floor and interacting with customers, or learning what our buyers are researching and forecasting on trends. If you’re not paying attention to the logistics of our shipping and delivery; if you don’t understand all of that as a part of a campaign you’re building, then it won’t be successful. Make sure that from the beginning, you’re curious beyond the scope of your role. You’re willing to educate yourself on what the rest of the business is doing so that when you make decisions and plan a strategy, you can do it in an informative way.

How important is having a network of other women as you mature in your career?

JB: So many of my best friends are women I’ve met at work and continue to be very close with. Part of that is you’ve gone through challenges together. They can be your parents sometimes when you need them. They can be the person who inspires you. Seeing what some women I’ve worked alongside have accomplished is amazing. Learning how they’ve overcome challenges gives me a greater sense of empowerment. I believe having that community of women not only makes things more fun but broadens your horizons as a leader in the business because it’s not just about what I’m doing; it’s what I’m doing alongside others, what we’re accomplishing together, how we can help one another and then, of course, hopefully, be inspirational and motivational for that generation behind us.

“I believe having that community of women not only makes things more fun but broadens your horizons as a leader in the business because it’s not just about what I’m doing; it’s what I’m doing alongside others, what we’re accomplishing together, and how we can help one another.” – Jennifer Bryan, GM of Content Marketing at NFM

You started a women’s month program at NFM and turned it into an annual event. Can you talk about that and what it consists of?

JB: I started with NFM in 2019. That was right before the pandemic, and I was learning about the real story behind the business. I always knew what Nebraska Furniture Mart was, and I always knew who Mrs. B was, but it wasn’t until I came and worked with the company that I understood more about her real challenges. Furniture is traditionally a very male-dominated industry. So, the fact that it was Mrs. B from the very start, learning about the decisions she had to make, learning that part of the history was so impactful.

I worked with a team to create a Women’s Month campaign to celebrate all throughout March. We create an empowering women playlist,  we interview incredible women on our I Am Home podcast and have, an awesome program with college female athletes where we create cool content. The whole month culminates with a panel event featuring engaging discussions between fearless females from each region. Proceeds from ticket sales always benefit local organizations in our communities, such as Girls Inc.

This will be our fifth year, and we just won the Best in Show PRSA award for the campaign here in Nebraska at the end of last year. We are bringing people together which I love.

Do you currently have a mentor?

JB: I would definitely consider my mentor my boss. She is an incredible leader. Just watching her in a room and how she will bring ideas to the table and make decisions or communicate with people, she’s just a wealth of knowledge. She’s a great sounding board, and I’m truly lucky to work with her daily.

If you could offer your younger self one piece of advice, what would that be?

JB: Don’t diminish yourself for others. I’ve never been a quiet person, so that was never part of it for me. I came into environments where there might have been people who had more tenure than me but not necessarily the skills I was bringing to the table. I was in scenarios where those tenured people didn’t like that. I was coming in and taking over projects that they wanted. I was called brash and overconfident by someone who wanted to plan an event that the manager gave me, which made me second-guess myself and think I wasn’t worthy. If someone trusts you, then you should trust yourself. You can be respectful and collaborative and willing to learn from those around you who have that tenure and have that experience but also believe that you deserve to do the thing that you’re being asked to do and not feel like you are being brash and overconfident for taking the lead.

“If someone trusts you, then you should trust yourself.” – Jennifer Bryan, GM of Content Marketing at NFM

What values are important to you in a leadership position?

JB: I always want to ensure I’m transparent and open with my team. I’m an open book with people. What you see is what you get. We have to trust that each one of us is going to do their job. I’m not a micromanager. I want you to ask a ton of questions. If you don’t know something, let’s talk about it. Let’s figure it out. I don’t know everything either, but we will figure it out together.

You’re going to test things, and you’re going to fail at things. That’s fine. But I want my team to go to work with passion, excitement, and creativity for the job they’re doing and the things that they find super inspiring.

What keeps you grounded and energized?

JB: I’m a big reader. I love books and the escape of going somewhere else and being with different characters. I also love running and being outside if I can to exercise. I have woods behind my house, so I can go hiking. The quiet and beauty of being by yourself help refresh you.

I also feel very proud to work for a company with six female executives on our team. Just seeing how they are taking NFM  into the future makes me want to stick around to see all of it happen and be a part of it. Our CEO, Tony, is incredible, and he has that vision and passion trickling down through everybody; you feel excited about what’s coming next. I always want to know there’s going to be something fun, challenging, and exciting in the year ahead. There’s never a lack of that in my role or at NFM. These women have such great perspectives. They’re supportive of others and help everybody move forward. NFM is doing a great job of putting forward the face of what we want to be.

 

Jennifer Bryan’s career trajectory mirrors her transparent leadership and commitment to developing inclusive, forward-thinking environments where every voice is acknowledged and respected. We feel privileged to recognize her remarkable achievements.

Thank you, Jennifer, for sharing your career journey with us.

Industry group participation

AHFA Logo
Home Furnishings Association
National Kitchen and Bath Association
NADRA
City of Hope

Recognized by experts in tech growth and security

Google Cloud Partner
AICPA Award
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VR/AR Association