The Stories Around Me: Susan Farris
As a small child, Susan Farris was a storyteller.
She recalls telling herself stories as a way to fall asleep, crafting a narrative, creating a world of her own design.
Today, Farris carries on her craft in a way she hopes grabs attention and keeps her audience excited for what’s to come.
A Jackson native, Farris is the marketing director for Mangia Bene, the restaurant and catering group behind Sal & Mookie’s, BRAVO! and Broad Street Bakery & Cafe, based in Fondren.
When the company began looking for previous marketing director Liz Lancaster McIntyre’s replacement, 70 applicants wanted the spot. But Farris’s attention-getting intro did the trick for her.
“The job listing was off-the-wall and I thought, ‘That’s the strangest job listing I had ever seen.’ They hired someone who fell through, but a friend who worked for Mangia Bene steered me to apply, quickly. I was able to write this really insane cover letter (I think I called myself a ‘time lord’) and I got the job in July 2016.”
Farris started life as a self-described “nerd,” always reading and studying, on chess bowl and quiz bowl teams… playing with words, writing.
“I never thought of pursuing that until college,” she says.
After changing her initial major from sports kinesiology, Farris pursued a creative writing degree with a minor in literature at Mississippi College, all while working three or four jobs carrying an oversized course load.
Her first job out of school?
“Unemployment!” she says matter-of-factly.
She took several freelance copywriting gigs, working from a tiny apartment she shared with her husband, whom she married weeks out of college.
“Our original intent was to build up an ad agency,” she says. “I would write and he would build content. But you can’t do that without a portfolio. So I went to work for Edge Theory in 2013 and later was promoted to creative director of my team. I really enjoyed my time there.”
In her current role, Farris says she’s working to reshape the marketing efforts of Mangia Bene to meet current trends.
“We’re becoming much more digitally focused. Much of our marketing has been old-school — very print, radio and TV, and those have their time and place. But, throughout the year, to have a continual presence and consistent voice, you have to take advantage of the platforms that your audience is on all day, every day.”
Farris is encouraging Instagram and user-generated content and working with restaurant managers to be in the mindset of snapping photos of daily specials. She says she is learning how to take advantage of Google maps and reviews that doesn’t necessitate a lot of ad dollars, learning how to speak to diners and engage with them where they already are.
“We have one of the longest standing reputations for excellence,” she says. “Knowing the story behind our food, the quality and the care that’s put into it… that really does change how you view a place. Trying to bring that knowledge into the story of us is what I want to do.”
In her time away from work, Farris is pursuing her MFA in creative writing online from Lindenwood University in Missouri. Pursuing this, she says, is something she’s always known I wanted to do.
“I see how it gives back in other places in my life. It helps me tell the stories around me. Whether talking about what I do or my church (CityHeart) or my family.”
She’s also the co-founder and coordinator of Entrepreneur Quarterly, a group started over lunch one day with co-founder Christopher Lomax.
“It was this amorphous idea at first, but we knew we wanted to begin this, a meetup to learn and hear directly from the resources around town. We thought if you were a bath bomb maker and needed a website and graphic design and possibly manufacturing and sourcing; sometimes those makers don’t move forward with their dreams because they have this paralysis. Here’s a place you can come and hear from others who have done it or who can help you pursue your goals. We’re entrepreneurial by necessity in Mississippi. We don’t get a lot of help. But, we can pull together and get these things done.”