10 Questions with alum Leslie Vickrey

Get to know one of CMU’s successful entrepreneurs.

| Author: CBAnews | Media Contact: CBAnews

Leslie Vickrey receiving the CBA Hall of Fame Award. Standing next to her on stage in the Dean of the College of Business, Chris Moberg. They're posed on a stage in front of a CBA Hall of Fame banner.Leslie Vickrey receiving The College of Business Administration's 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award (L-R) Leslie Vickrey, and Dean Chris Moberg.

After graduating from Central Michigan University in 1990 with a degree in journalism, Leslie Vickrey thought she wanted to go into broadcasting. While she quickly realized that wasn’t her calling, she also found what was: strategic marketing and communications. After a 12-year career leading marketing efforts for non-profits and multi-billion-dollar organizations, she started her own firm, ClearEdge Marketing.

Today, as a CEO, author, and advocate of diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, Vickrey often gives back to students as an honorary member of the College of Business Administration.

1. Growing up, did you know you wanted to study journalism? 

I love writing, and I knew early in high school that I wanted to tell other people’s stories. In one class, we had to write a story about someone we didn’t know. The student I selected was someone who was bullied quite a bit. When I got to know him and tell his story, seeing the response from other people once they learned more about him — and seeing his reaction — it really struck a chord with me. I knew that was what I wanted to do.

2. From a journalism degree to a successful entrepreneur, how did you get to where you are today? 

My first job was with McDonald’s Corporation doing internal communications. From there, I held other marketing positions for a non-profit and in the tech sector, doing public relations, event planning and communications. 

I then led marketing for a $1 billion division of a $3 billion company. I had a leader who wasn’t an expert in marketing and communications but who saw something in me, and handed me the reins. Throughout my corporate career, I’ve been blessed to have had leaders trust me in this way. 

Through leading marketing for large companies, and then moving over to a mid-sized company, I had an epiphany that I could really make an impact doing that type of work in a way that would cost companies less money by outsourcing, and I ran with it. I started ClearEdge Marketing in 2006.

3. When did you realize entrepreneurship was your path? 

Growing up, I didn’t dream of being an entrepreneur. I never once thought I’d own my own company, despite coming from a family of entrepreneurs. It wasn’t until I had other corporate experiences that I thought about taking the leap. 

4. What do you credit with your career success? 

My network. The saying is true, “Your network is your net worth.” I’m not afraid to ask for help. When I started ClearEdge, I didn’t have a business plan. I didn’t know anything really about running a company. I knew I had a good idea and bet on myself. That said, I asked for a lot of help. Today, I’m very proud that the business ClearEdge has been able to do has been 100% referral-based.

5. What do you love most about being an entrepreneur? 

I love guiding the direction and being a visionary. I see what others don’t. Right now, my team and I are in the thick of a large project that, in the end, will pay off tremendously. But today, we’re in the middle of it. Even in the midst of that, I can see the bigger picture. I know this hard work will be worth it in the end. I don’t let fear get in the way of the long-term objective.

6. What’s your proudest professional moment? 

There have been many different moments in my career where I felt like I “made it.” Publishing my book was a big personal moment. I’ve won a lot of awards that have made me very proud.

Recently, ClearEdge started a new division, ClearEdge Rising, that is focused on helping women excel in their leadership journeys to ultimately increase diversity within a company's leadership team. I’m really proud of it, and see a lot of potential for individuals and companies alike.

7. What do you love most about CMU?

I love that CMU has small class sizes. You have the opportunity to get to know your professors really well and get hands-on feedback and experience you wouldn’t get anywhere else.

8. What advice would you give to up-and-coming students? 

Believe in yourself. Be your own best champion. My dad always said, “When you look in the mirror, if you don’t love the person looking back at you, other people can’t either.” If you don’t believe in yourself, how will others? Every day, choose you.

9. What book recommendations do you have for young professionals? 

“How Women Rise” by Sally Helgesen, “Radical Candor” by Kim Scott, “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, and, of course, my own book, written in collaboration with several of my industry friends, “Together We Rise.”

10. What inspires you? 

I’m very focused on diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Helping women and minorities gain skills and access to leadership opportunities is very much part of why I do what I do. Empowering women to advocate for themselves — asking for the raise, going for the promotion — is very inspiring.

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