Christy Ferer began her career as an Emmy Award winning television correspondent and anchorperson, and remained a contributor to morning news programs on ABC, NBC and CBS for the next 25 years.
In 1981, Ferer founded two businesses. Vidicom became the first to videotape fashion runway shows and an out-of-home television network in hotels. The lifestyle video news release Vidicom created 30 years ago has morhped into branded content, native advertising and an interactive, game-changing , digital InteracTV. This links major brands with consumers directly through their own digital outlets.
Citybuzz became the first in-hotel TV network, which grew to include mobile Wi-fi screens in subways, taxis, in-flight and online and traditional broadcast radio and TV, as a home for branded content. In addition, her firm creates video solutions for clients including Disney, Johnson & Johnson, AARP, LVMH, Donna Karann, Nintendo and General Motors. Vidicom is a video marketplace for bloggers and journalists to download branded videos to fulfill their editorial needs.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I was born and raised in St. Louis. I credit those Midwestern values "What -you -see -is -what -you -get." Honesty. Perseverance. Teamwork. Nothing was beyond reach. This may sound corny...but my first Girl Scout Badge was "Dabbler". This was my first memory of tackling tasks I never dreamed of and looking for entrepreneurial solutions. Learning to fail and move on was one of these skills. These values became built in propellers. In addition, having lost my parents at a young age I didn't know it at the time but now I realize. "What does not destroy you makes you stronger" and that you cannot control what life deals you sometimes you can only control how you respond. My choice was to re-energize and strengthen character to become my own individual. This hard learned skill prepared me for plenty of failure and loss of what was to come in my personal and professional life. You just keep on "trucking".
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Vidicom?
As one of the first female TV news corespondents you learn to adapt,understand others and story tell. And,the skills of a TV producer/reporter, ingrained at the age of 23, taught me organization, speed, judgement and an attempt at grace under pressure. Production skills require that one works as a team, multi task, stick to deadlines and communicate. Take what you can and run with it even if you don't like the story from a mafia rub out to popping manhole covers in the Bronx to the pelican round up at the zoo. WORK IT.These skills were crucial in developing a vision for my entrepreneurial efforts and managing others.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Vidicom?
Learning to be self sufficient and propel onward even in the face of failure or having to dig into your personal rolodex to achieve, were difficult at first. However when you see what these efforts can create or how they win praise from peers, clients, family it is always reinforcing.
The biggest challenge has been turning a traditional media company that dealt with radio, TV as platforms into one that interfaced seamlessly with the digital age, has been an enormous challenge that we have over come by experimenting with solutions and seeing what sticks. Highlights include winning an Emmy for news coverage of NYC politics and later realizing that "soft news" could be more original and feed creativity. Who knew that when I convinced my assignment editors at WPIX-TV to allow me to cover fashion shows in the late '70's. ..that I was creating a first?Eventually my company was the first to videotape fashion shows and beam them across news feeds and I became NBC'S first fashion correspondent. It was fun to try new things ..little did I know the word "entrepreneur" would be applied to me. I wasn't pursuing a contest of firsts. I was having fun implementing the breadths of my imagination naively..How cool would it be to create a news program about NYC for the many visitors I had camping out at my apartment? This ignited my second business...the first destination TV network in hotels. That same implementation of wild ideas led me to produce the first interactive online branded content and currently the first video content for wifi systems in NYC subways.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
Fail upwards is a great motto. Try to turn every failure into something else...not just a lesson but a new opportunity. It is also important to show your team that you care and you are grateful...something I still have to work at every day!!!
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
It is important to compartmentalize as much as you can. I made mistakes. My children complained that I was on the phone too much. If you have to follow up during evenings with work...set aside the same time every night. You do your work while they do their homework. Family First. Job second. Remind yourself of these priorities. Most importantly have fun.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I am really harsh on this subject perhaps even ungrateful for the movement that made so much possible for women. I think women have to stop thinking about the fact they are women and just do the job better than anyone else. After the job is done -then analyze if your gender helped or hurt you. If you are entrepreneurial enough and learn to identify and seize opportunities gender in my experience did not make a difference. But I am not a Wall Street partner competing for bonuses of male counterparts.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
How many interns can one have in the life of a business? Never enough They are amongst my inadvertent mentees who learn by osmosis and do by example. You never know what will stick and what they will become but it is gratifying to see them do a tour of duty elsewhere and then some even return to my company. With no formal training program,they are often sponges who learn by seeing others at work. Mentorship also comes in the form of working your rolodex to circulate resumes or place competent junior professionals.
I think Eleanor Roosevelt said something like "there is a place in hell for women who don't help other women" and I find that many of my "mentors" have been other women who share the same challenges of running a business. Many have also been men who gave me a chance . How could that news director in St. Louis, KSDK put me on the air without any prior experience ?..Only in 1974. Right? Or how could my male friends invest thousands in my failed internet startup and allow me to tap them as resources today?
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I love Sheryl Sandberg. Besides leaning in. She reaches out. Her organization skills are sublime. Cool under pressure, she is the ultimate problem solver.
What do you want Vidicom to accomplish in the next year?
Everyone and every brand has a story to tell.
If you can continue to tell people something they don't know the interest will come. My hope is to increase the platforms for all of our editorial and branded content. A particular focus will be the Citybuzz minutes we have created for the Wi-Fi system New York Subways. That same minute that sums up bits of video news of whats happening daily in NYC can be applied in the top DMA's everywhere. Our goal is to see it syndicated in all platforms of social and digital media.