Author Tina Wells is a consummate role model for Philly’s teens and tweens.
Tina Wells is searching for an email, alternating between scrolling on her iPhone and sipping tea at a table inside Rittenhouse Tavern. After several quick flicks, she pauses and holds up her phone. The email is from a teenager named Katie, who has written to Wells asking for career advice. “This email makes me smile every time I think about it,” says Wells.
Wells has plenty of reasons to smile these days. This is just one of many notes that she receives from her scores of fans as the author of the young-adult series Mackenzie Blue, about a spunky seventh grader who is trying to navigate middle school. This spring the series is moving into paperback, and Wells is bracing for a book tour and unveiling a newly designed website, all while working on a fifth book that’s slated to hit shelves in 2014.
For Wells, creating a positive role model for girls through this fictional character mirrors the work that she does as CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, a Philadelphia-based firm that connects companies to consumers with a focus on the Millennial Generation. Whether she’s analyzing their social media preferences or online spending habits, Wells relies on an arsenal of data to fuel innovative, multidimensional campaigns for clients like Dell, Sony Music Entertainment, Nike, American Eagle Outfitters, and the City of Philadelphia, which enlisted Wells for its ambitious $2 million “With Art” campaign last year. “Tweens are fascinating to me,” she says. “Girls that age are so savvy.”
Wells just may have been a poster child for savvy young adults: She founded Buzz Marketing Group at just 16. “I was writing product reviews for a newspaper for girls out of New York called the New Girl Times,” says Wells. “When I’d send clips to the companies I wrote about, they asked if they could keep sending me stuff for my opinion.”
Early on she was reviewing products from then-unknown beauty brands like Philosophy and Dermalogica and working with companies like Steve Madden. By her senior year at Maryland’s Hood College, she was conducting research projects for clients like Johnson & Johnson and Verizon Wireless. Inc. Magazine and Essence have lauded her entrepreneurial achievements, and she has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine and The New York Times, sharing her insights into the puzzling world of today’s teens and tweens. It’s a topic that Wells explores in detail in her 2011 book Chasing Youth Culture and Getting It Right. The tome only further cemented her status as the expert on marketing to adolescents.
Though a typical workweek might take her from Los Angeles to New York to Paris, Wells still calls South Jersey home. It’s a quiet refuge that’s close to her family, and it makes getting back and forth between her various professional obligations in Philly that much easier. These days they include classes at the Wharton School, where she is pursuing a degree in marketing management, and serving on the board of directors for the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, the Franklin Institute, and the Food Bank of South Jersey. This spring she begins a two-year term with the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council.
With so much success at such a young age—Wells is only in her early 30s— her proudest moment is still when she held a finished copy of Mackenzie Blue in her hands for the first time. “I’m grateful that girls allow me and Mackenzie to share their journey. I learn so much from my readers, and I’m fortunate to have that relationship.”