Blog: Jennifer Cornell

Jennifer Cornell is a public relations and marketing communications consultant based in Ann Arbor, Mich. A self-proclaimed geek, she specializes in media relations for high-tech start-ups and growth phase companies. Cornell uses her 10 years experience in PR to help her clients build brand recognition and credibility.

Cornell’s love of running, kettlebells and Olympic-style weightlifting inspired her to join 2 other fabulous women athletes to create Joust Strength + Fitness.  Ann Arbor’s Joust Strength + Fitness is a fitness studio that offers small group training through group cycling, boot camp, and yoga classes as well as group personal training, individual training, nutritional consulting and deep tissue therapy. Cornell is certified by the American Council on Exercise and CrossFit.

Cornell is immediate past chair of Automation Alley’s Technology Business Committee. She currently serves on the Governor’s Council for Labor and Economic Growth for the State of Michigan. Her volunteer activities include marketing for St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat Center in Detroit, the Women’s Center of Southeastern Michigan, and the Ann Arbor Art Center.

A proud graduate of Alma College, Cornell currently resides in Tecumseh with her husband, Darrin King, Samantha (their dog) and Schrodinger (their cat).
Jennifer Cornell - Most Recent Posts:

Jennifer Cornell - Post 3: Let's Joust

Let's Joust!

The idea for Joust Strength + Fitness was born about a year ago, over dinner with Pat and Melissa. The catalyst: We were working out in Melissa's basement because there wasn't a place in Ann Arbor that offered functional, results-driven fitness that was both challenging and diverse.

We were all ex-patriots of the big box gyms in town – places that thrive on the so-called illusion of fitness – and of private clubs that offered one style of workout. We knew that there had to be others like us that wanted a functional workout that conditioned the body to move more effectively. We knew that there were people who wanted to be leaner, stronger, and more physically fit.

Pat, Melissa and I all have successful careers outside of Joust. It took a lot of reflection to commit to the idea of starting a consumer business in a down market while maintaining the other jobs we love and support us financially. We knew that we had to be all in to make Joust a success, and we knew that it would be an incredible amount of time, energy and work.

We did a lot of research and homework, just as any start-up should and likely does do. We met with other entrepreneurs, like Cathy Sissel of Brown & Deline, and picked their brains on what we should know and do. We laid out budgets, projected our growth, and debated marketing strategy.

Ultimately, the potential reward outweighed the risk. The idea of pursuing a passion was too tempting to ignore.

Versus moving around some desks and computers, we moved countless 10-45 lbs. kettlebells, balls, bumper plates and Olympic bars. We moved wooden plyometric boxes and heavy bikes. We moved and laid ¾” thick rubber matting. We painted, assembled equipment, and dealt with hundreds of tiny details… all before our grand opening.

The response to Joust Strength + Fitness has been amazing. We've watched friends, family, peers, students, people we'd never met before they walked through our doors get faster and stronger. We've watched them drop weight, increase muscle and get fit. It's been amazing to watch their confidence and happiness multiply in tandem with the amount of weight they can lift or reps they can complete.

As a marketer, it's been intriguing to discover how people come to learn about Joust. We get a lot of leads from our Web site. We recently did an insert in a local paper that we thought would generate a lot of results, but didn't. We presented to a campus organization, an activity that cost nothing but our time, and had members join as a result. We participated in a bridal expo recently and are awaiting the results from that outreach.

Just yesterday, we distributed our first e-newsletter and later this month will participate in an Expo aimed at women. Of course, we execute consistent PR and media relations activities. Like any business, we'll continue to seek ways to be better known and monitor our return-on-investment.

Time will tell whether our entrepreneurial vision will be a long-term success. In the meantime, we'll continue to do what we love doing and help others become more fit along the way.

Jennifer Cornell - Post 2: A Balanced Diet For Michigan

Balanced Diet Gives Michigan a Fighting Chance, Brighter Future

Here’s a true confession: I’m addicted to Cocoa Pebbles. I can’t get enough of ‘em, but I know enough to exercise restraint and not indulge in their sugary, chocolate goodness for 3 meals a day.

I mean, it’s pretty basic common sense.

Diversity is good when it comes to what you eat, how you workout, how you live life, how you run a business. It defies logic to think you have a solid business when you rely on income from one, maybe two, big customers. Sure, you generate income and are seemingly successful, but if that big customer folds their operations or chooses another vendor, you’ve likely taken a fatal blow to your business.

Remind you of Michigan’s auto industry diet? We can’t expect to be successful, long-term, by subsisting on a diet of cars and trucks.

Bright stars in our economy are showing how it’s done, and give a peek at our future economy:

Adaptive Materials, a growing Ann Arbor fuel cell company, represents Michigan’s green collar potential. As one of the only fuel cell companies in the world actually manufacturing product, Adaptive Materials is hiring by re-training our state’s displaced automotive and manufacturing workers and producing new economy talent.

Biotechnology Business Consultants has helped growing Michigan businesses secure more than $40 million in undiluted, grant-based funding. It’s helped multitudes of displaced biotech workers start their own business, ultimately retaining valuable knowledge workers in our economy.

Michigan’s University Research Corridor -- Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — has generated 552,328 alumni who live, work and pay taxes in Michigan, and represent 7.2 percent of the state’s adult population. URC partners help create thousands of new jobs, working with businesses to turn ideas into commercial enterprises.

Industries that leverage our engineering and technical strengths are the backbone of where our economy is headed. A mass of smaller, thriving businesses can produce as much income, hire as many talented people, and support Michigan just as well – and even better – than 3 big businesses. As a state, as peers, as leaders, we need to continue to support these growing businesses.

There are thousands upon thousands of small, growing businesses in Michigan that are committed to growing our economic future.

I invite you to post in the comments below those growing businesses in our state that you see representing our healthy, balanced economy.

Jennifer Cornell - Post 1: Dear Michigan

Dear Michigan, 

It’s been a tough time for you and I thought you could use some words of encouragement. Contrary to what you may think, there are plenty of people who love living here, working here, innovating here, growing a business here and raising a family here. There are people who love this state because it’s affording them an opportunity to be successful, personally and professionally.   

It’s not all bad, Michigan. I, for one, am here to stay, and I know lots of young professionals and young businesses who are, too.   

You are a fine state with so much to offer. From my home just south of Ann Arbor, I can tap into multiple options for entertainment, culture, dining and recreation within an hour. I love that my commute is through honest farmland where people are working hard everyday to feed us. Fresh food through CSA supports my neighbors and my health. I don’t mind having to pass a tractor on my way into town –- the "best of both worlds" combo of country living and world-class culture is top notch.   

Add just a few more hours to the commute and I can be in the gorgeous wilderness that makes you such a unique place to play. You can’t beat your Great Lakes, sand dunes, or miles and miles of forest for hiking, camping and fishing.  Swing by Bell’s Brewery on your way to the dunes and you’ve got a winning combo that can’t be beat.   

I love that I can actually afford to live here in this fine state. Unlike friends of mine who left Michigan for a perceived better life (in postage stamp apartments because they can’t afford a home), I own a home that’s on a river with lots of acreage. My property taxes are fair. I can walk from my house to downtown where people actually shop on Main Street and support small local businesses.   

You may have been worried that my work in other states and big cities would lure me away, but you’ve got my heart. The hard work ethic of the people I meet everyday inspires me and is truly unique to our Midwest heritage.   

The dizzying amount of innovation taking place across the state – software, hardware, fuel cells, biotech – is incredibly cool and makes me incredibly hopeful that your "new" economy is thriving. The fact that we can create new industries based on our heritage, like training auto talent to work in the alternative energy sector, shows that Michigan’s brightest aren’t simple, one trick ponies. 

Instead of leaving you, I’m committed to doing my part to supporting your continued growth. I’m excited to be part of your future. 


  As a PR consultant who works with growing companies, I'm fortunate to have my finger on the pulse of who's innovating in Michigan and growing key industries that are our future. Tomorrow I'll take a look at a few bright stars -- and what they're doing that others can copy.