Jo Ellen Early received her BBA in marketing from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1986. After graduation, she accepted a newly-created corporate marketing position with Minyard Food Stores. Jo Ellen began her career in the advertising/design industry in 1988 with Robert A. Wilson Associates, a corporate communications firm. In 1989 she joined HarrisonSimmons (later HSA), a graphic design firm that handled the accounts of Pearle Vision, Zales, The Associates Corporation, DF&R Restaurants, Halliburton, and The Western Company.

During 1994 HSA became part of Levenson & Hill, where Jo Ellen worked in the executive offices and was involved in new business presentations. Prior to joining GHD in 1996, she was an Executive Assistant with Dally Advertising, working with clients such as The Science Place, Gray Line Worldwide, Cellular World/Communication Expo, Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits, and The Texas Metroplex.