Jennifer Smith | Nice Alumni Series

Literary Consultant | Class of 1999

Hometown: Starbuck, MN | Currently: Nashville / New York City / Minnesota

Growing up in Starbuck, Minnesota, Jennifer Smith was on a mission…to leave. She dreamed of the big city and pictured success as moving up the corporate ladder.

A friend invited her to join a visit to NDSU in high school, and she fell in love. She made the cheerleading team and quickly found her passion in communications. Friends and connections were the most important part of her NDSU experience: “Find an outlet that you can pour yourself into, in addition to the work in the classroom, so you’re meeting like-minded people. They are the ones who carry you through when you have a bad day or want to give up.”

Don’t let fear overcome your desire to succeed.

She graduated and started the ascent up the corporate ladder, eventually leading her to the role of Vice President for one of the top book publishing companies in NYC. But her definition of success had evolved. Instead of the vision she once had of success, it now meant freedom. Freedom to use her time as she saw fit. Freedom to live internationally. Freedom to work hard and be rewarded. She founded SPIN Literary, providing content creation, strategic consulting, agent services, and education to the literary and book publishing industry.

Her family life took her abroad to Australia shortly after starting the company. While that meant conference calls at all hours of the night, it also meant opportunity. She became an essential bridge between the US, UK, and Australia, helping publishers ink deals abroad and connecting them with resources outside the traditional industry, such as podcasting, film and television rights, and more. “Entrepreneurs continually grow and shift. If you have that foundation, you will succeed no matter what is happening.” With her ability to learn and grow, she is now turning away more business than she takes in and has launched hundreds of New York Times bestsellers.

Looking back on her unexpected turn towards entrepreneurship, Smith wishes she had started earlier. “I didn’t realize there was such a big upside to entrepreneurship. In my corporate role, my success was capped.” She acknowledges it is difficult to take the leap, but she encourages everyone to consider it.

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The Nice Center at NDSU created this series to demonstrate that entrepreneurs come from all walks of life. As we pursue our mission of making entrepreneurship for all we invite your support through mentorship. Share more about yourself at

Credits: Story by Scott Meyer & Dane Johnson / Illustration by Izak Moleterno

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Posted on November 18th, 2020 by Dane Johnson in News and Stories