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Women We Love: Eliza Blank of The Sill

PEOPLE

Female Founder Eliza Blank of The Sill

What happens when the daughter of the ultimate plant lady grows up and transplants herself to Manhattan? When Eliza Blank moved to NYC to work in marketing, she quickly noticed a lack of resources for novice urban gardeners looking to green their small spaces. So in 2012 she started a direct-to-consumer business that makes online plant shopping easy, informative and fun. The Sill now has a team of 75 and $7.5 million in venture funding — and has made many a millennial’s #plantgoals come true. Here, the entrepreneur (and new mom!) shares how she gets it all done.

Hands holding succulents

Who has been a force of good in your life and why?

My husband Steve — the true definition of a life partner. We met when I was just 21 years old, so he’s really been a part of my entire adult life. He offers endless support. He’s also The Sill’s #1 fan.

What’s one good way to start any day, no matter where you are in the world?

Coffee! And face time or “FaceTime” with my baby girl, Faye.

What’s one piece of good advice you learned from a woman in your life?

My mom always likes to remind me, “This too shall pass,” when I’m going through a tough time. Cliché maybe, but a helpful reminder that life is full of ups and downs.

What’s one good piece of advice for someone thinking about her/his own business?

Get to that point where you can’t not do it. If you keep thinking about it, take the plunge! Not all businesses succeed and it’s incredibly hard, but don’t let the “what ifs” keep you from taking a risk. If it’s something you’re passionate about, that feeling of not knowing what could be is worse than failing.

What’s one good lesson you’ve learned from launching The Sill?

I’ve learned it’s best not to play Monday morning quarterback (my husband Steve’s favorite sports saying). There is really no sense in saying “if only . . .”

Tell us a good story about plants.

My paternal grandmother is an incredibly passionate gardener — inside and out. She has a few very famous plants, including a Pencil Cactus. This pencil cactus has managed to make its way through propagation into all of our homes … my mother’s reaches the ceiling each year and then she is forced to cut it back. Now my generation has pieces of this plant. That’s what I love about houseplants.

Potted plants as home decor

What’s one good recipe you always love?

Anything my husband makes — I’m not the cook!

What one good tip you have for multi-tasking effectively? And how did you learn it?

I find myself multi-tasking more now that I am a mom. You have to prioritize and multi-task when you can. Very often, I’ll be pumping while I’m on a phone call — there are only so many hours in the day!

What’s one good habit that you make sure to always do?

I always make sure to make the bed every morning. It helps me feel like I’ve started the day off on the right foot, and coming home to a clean apartment after a crazy day makes a big difference.

The sill NYC shopping bag and potted plant

What’s one good movie where you know all of the lines?

Finding Nemo — is that weird?

What’s one good way to unwind after a long day?

Oh man, if I’ve had a long day all I want is sweatpants and Netflix and bed. I need rest and relaxation in order to rebound.

What’s one good story you think of when you need a laugh?

If I need a pick me up I just go straight to my photo album for baby pics! Easy.

Naomi Osaka Talks Power Rituals and Positivity — On and Off the Tennis Court

NEWS PEOPLE

naomi osaka holding a tennis racket

Her serve? Unreal. Her success? Historic. Her shade? Espresso. We’re thrilled to announce that Naomi Osaka, Grand Slam Tennis Champion, is now a bareMinerals Power of Good Ambassador and the face of BAREPRO Foundation as we launch a newly optimized and expanded 35-shade range for our performance wear foundation line.

The Haitian-Japanese tennis phenom started playing the game at 3, but it wasn’t until 18 years old that she realized she would be a star (for reference, she’s now 21 and ranked #1 in the world!). We caught up with Naomi on the set of our BAREPRO Performance For All campaign shoot at the iconic Sheats-Goldstein Residence overlooking LA where she answered our questions about performance, beauty and her unique worldview.

What does performance mean to you?

Performance means a lot to me. I think as athletes we tend to lives really performance-based because it’s something that we have to do. So it’s definitely a really big part of my life.

What is your confidence-boosting beauty routine before a match?

Put my hair in a ponytail and spray a ridiculous amount of hair spray on.

You’re Japanese, Haitian, and grew up in the US — you must have a unique worldview.

That influenced how I experience culture because I live my life like one big melting pot. I never really thought of anything as strange. I think it’s because of the house that I lived in — it definitely makes me very open-minded.

Has your Japanese and Haitian heritage shaped your definition of beauty?

I feel like my background really gives me a diverse outlook on the definition of beauty because I’ve been surrounded by so many different people in my life. I feel like that’s where I’ve been really fortunate.

What was your first experience with bareMinerals?

I was doing a shoot in Japan and they were using bareMinerals products and I thought that it was really amazing. I’ve been fortunate enough to be using it ever since.

What is your favorite bareMinerals product?

My favorite bareMinerals products would be the eyeshadows because I’m really into eyeshadows. I love the Copper and the Neutral tone [palettes] and I also love the BAREPRO Foundation.

Why is clean beauty important to you?

Clean beauty means a lot to me because as an athlete you tend to want to put the best products on your face. Plus we also sweat a lot too — that’s also a concern. I think clean beauty is sort of like clean living.

You were just named a bareMinerals Power of Good Ambassador. Who has been a force of good in your life and why?

I would say my parents have been a force of good in my life. Also my big sister; she’s someone I really look up to.

What advice would you give to your fans?

I guess to try to live without regrets. I know it’s pretty impossible, but even if you do it 90%, then you’ll be satisfied with the outcome.

What charity do you most align yourself with?

I try to align myself with anything that has to do with kids because I really like mentoring.

Why do you believe mentorship is so important to young women?

We need role models in our lives and that’s something that we can strive towards.

Your sister also plays tennis. Do you compete or lift each other up?

Me and my sister lift each other up by talking to each other a lot. We probably talk to each other every day. And she often talks to me after my matches, whether I win or lose. She’s a really big influence in my life.

What’s it like to have so many kids look up to you?

It definitely feels really good when a lot of little kids are cheering me on!

What message do you have for all the little girls out there?

Just to keep believing in your dreams and think that anything is possible.

What’s a good tip you’ve learned in your life and from whom?

See the positive in everything. I learned that from — maybe my sister?

How do you try to live optimism every day?

I try to live optimism every day by thinking that nothing’s really as bad as you think it is — it’s probably just something that you feel is terrible in the moment. But if you work through it, it’s probably going to be a really short-lived memory.

How do you remain so positive when the crowd is against you?

I remain so positive in those situations because you tend to think that the other people on the other side of the net are sort of going through the same circumstances.

Do you have any power rituals before a game?

I don’t think I have any power rituals before a game. I just put my shoes on from right to left and listen to a lot of music.

Tell us how you self-care after a game.

I self-care after an exhausting game by going into an ice bath. It’s not really the thing that I want to do, but it definitely really helps in the long run.

You have a killer serve — where do you harness that power from?

I harness my power from my DNA. [Laughs] That’s probably not the correct answer, but I tend to think that I’m pretty strong.

What’s next for you?

The dreams that I’m working towards change every day. I feel like every day something new happens, so I’m sort of just enjoying the ride right now.

Name a woman in history whose good work inspires you.

I mean, I’m sorry, but it’s Beyoncé, oh my God. Oh my God.

What are you full of and free of?

I’m full of drive and free of limitations.

Stay tuned for the launch of our BAREPRO Performance Wear Foundation extension.

Women We Love: Tal Winter and Kate Cutler of bkr

PEOPLE

bkr founders Tal Winter and Kate Cutler

What’s the #1 most important product for your skin? It’s not moisturizer. Not even cleanser. It’s water, clean and simple.

Now, think back to 2011 for a second. We already knew plastic water bottles were wasteful, but reusable bottles had a rather rugged, functional look. That’s what inspired Tal Winter and Kate Cutler, best friends who met in law school, to found bkr, a brand of reusable glass-and-silicone water bottles designed to be as beautiful and covetable as any beauty product.

bkr bottles are now available in sizes for every bag, and accented with rubber spikes, zodiac signs and even Swarovski crystals (proceeds from the latter benefit Water for People, a nonprofit focusing on drinking water accessibility — each crystal bottle sold provides a full month’s supply of clean water to a person in need). The brand even launched a vegan lip balm to keep lips extra hydrated.

Here, the brand’s founders (and still BFFs) share a few of their favorite things — and what they’ve learned from diving into the entrepreneurial life.

bkr founders surrounded by colorful glass and silicone water bottles

Who has been a force of good in your life and why?

For Tal, it’s Kate and for Kate, its Tal. We couldn’t do this without each other. Launching and running a company is beyond hard. There are highs and lows every hour and it’s only bearable with someone amazing by your side.

What’s one good way to start any day, no matter where you are in the world?

We travel a lot for bkr and one of our favorite ways to start our day is we get out and walk. We grab our bkr kiss kits and even if we’re exhausted we just go. Fresh air, sunshine and exercise are great for jetlag and your mood, and by walking we get to actually discover a city in a way that zipping by in a car doesn’t allow.

What’s one piece of good advice you learned from a woman in your life?

Early on at bkr we were stressed to make a very important decision quickly and a mentor told us these wise words: “If you need an answer now, the answer is no.” While you don’t want to miss out, decisions made with a gun to your head are never good decisions. Plus, we’ve learned that sometimes turning down the wrong deal is even more important than getting the right one.

What’s one good reason to take the risk and start your own business?

You only live once (as far as we know) so you have to evolve as a human and feel inspired and passionate about what you’re doing. You spend more time at work than just about anywhere else; you better like what you do.

What’s one good lesson you’ve learned from launching bkr?

If you only make products that you genuinely love more than anything else that exists in the world, those products will succeed.

What’s one good thing you do when someone around you is having a bad day?

Empathy always works — we all have bad days and should try to be there for each other.

Tell us a good story about water.

People with all sorts of health issues from arthritis and kidney problems to migraines and autoimmune conditions write to us and say that since having a bkr, they drink more water and are able to stay fully hydrated and that this has made a huge difference in the way they feel. People who are on Accutane have told us that our Paris Water Balm is the only lip balm that heals their chapped and cracking lips and the fact that it’s attached to their water bottle is their saving grace. To be able to help people in ways we never imagined is so rewarding.

Tell us about the moment that you decided to follow your passion? Can you share how you felt that day?

It felt empowering and exciting but also very scary as we were leaving established careers behind to jump into the unknown.

What’s one good recipe you always love?

Does a cocktail recipe count? We love a Brit Spritz: 2oz prosecco, 1 oz Kamm & Sons, 1 oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur and 2 oz club soda. Serve over ice with a grapefruit wedge and slice of cucumber. We love this so much and Kamm & Sons is so hard to find that our UK distributors bring it to us when they visit.

desk set-up with bkr water bottles and magazines

What one good tip do you have for multi-tasking effectively? And how did you learn it?

No one is that successful at multi-tasking. At work we try to focus on completing one task at a time and doing it well. The whole world is set to interrupt you and we try to focus on blocking out the noise.

What’s one good read you go to when you need to feel good/or a little inspiration?

We’ve always loved cupofjo.com — their house tours and beauty uniform pieces are inspiring but they also tackle hard topics like responding to grief or infertility in a genuine, intelligent way. And their reader comments are the best.

What’s one good movie where you know all of the lines?

The Sure Thing with John Cusack and the original National Lampoon’s Vacation. We might be dating ourselves but we were very young when we saw these.

What’s one good way to unwind after a long day?

Tal: Dinner at home with the people you love and a cold beer

Kate: A glass of wine

Name a woman from history whose good work inspires you.

There are many but Ruth Bader Ginsberg is an amazing living legend who has fought for gender equality and women’s rights. We love that when she was asked, “When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?” she simply answered, “When there are nine.”

What’s one good story you think of when you need a laugh?

We always think back to all our crazy travel moments — we don’t know if they’re funny to anyone else.  Once, we were on a long trip and had been away for a while — we were both eager to be home. Our flight was delayed and so we went to sit and have dinner.  We were eating terrible salads but drinking wine and laughing and not paying attention. All of a sudden we realized we hadn’t seen or heard an update in a while. We walked to our gate to see our plane pulling away.  We could have cried but instead we laughed. It’s one thing we’ve definitely learned at bkr: when you can, choose to laugh.

Good Risks, Good Habits (and Being Naughty) with Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

PEOPLE

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley

As the face of our new clean longwear lipstick, Rosie knows a good thing when she sees it. Recently we chatted with the model-turned-entrepreneur about all the goodness in her life, and with the sounds of a busy home and her baby son in the background, she touched on a good book for any entrepreneur, the NSFW food mistake that became a favorite, and how her son is already showing his beauty talents.

With the launch of BAREPRO Longwear Lipstick we’re asking people to share stories of good that lasts. Who has been a force of good in your life and why?

That’s hard, to pick one person — that’s really, really hard … but that would be my man. He is a force of good in my life every day, even the bad days…. I feel really, truly lucky. I have an incredible partner and a fun partner to go through this journey with and now we have a beautiful baby boy and life is full.

What’s one good way to start any day no matter where you are in the world?

I think taking a little bit of time for yourself, whether that’s getting up a little bit earlier before the rest of your family — which, by the way, is not the case with me because I like to sleep in as long as I can.

For me, a good way to start my day is not rushing: I drink a bottle of water, get my son up if he’s not up already, we go downstairs, we make breakfast together, we put the radio on, we have a little sing-song. Then I sort of will escape to my bathroom and that is my little 15, 20 minutes to myself. My beauty routine is really important for me in the morning because that is a foundation for my whole day and feeling good. And working out [is also important]! I try and exercise about four times a week and I’ll do that in the morning and that’s always a great way to your day going.

What’s one good thing you do when someone around you is having a bad day?

Honestly, it’s as simple as putting on a good album, some good music. It’s about getting outside a little bit, going for a walk around the block, talking it out. It’s the art of communication and getting people to talk about things, what’s going on with them and being there for someone, really…. I love a good laugh. I love a good joke, and so sometimes people just need a little bit of laughter to get them going. But I think getting outside, getting into nature is usually a good way to turn around a bad mood.

Tell us a good story about lipstick.

I get sent a ton of beauty products, which I’m very grateful for. I was opening them up the other day in my utility room and my son comes waddling in and he’s at that age now where he likes to play with everything and take the lids off and put the lids back on and take the lids off and put the lid back on and this could go on for quite some time. He opened up a big bright red lip gloss and I crouched down next to him and next thing I know he is applying lipstick to my lips — attempting to apply it to my lips. It was just the cutest thing ever. I don’t think I would’ve let anyone else do this, but I did end up with bright red lip gloss all over my face, and he thought it was the funniest thing! He’s my budding makeup artist.

What’s one good recipe your family always loves?

My mum’s actually a pretty good cook. She doesn’t like cooking — she never liked the expectation on her — but she had to because we definitely were not in a position to do anything else. She’s actually a pretty good cook but she’s quite experimental. One of my favorite dishes when I go home is what we call “chicken f*ck up” in my house, which is a kind of chicken curry mess sort of thing that I think came about as an accident one day in the kitchen and it was christened “chicken f*ck up.” So, whenever I go home she makes “chicken f*ck up” for me — that’s the first thing I’ll ask for.

Speaking of your mom, what’s one good tip you have for multi-tasking moms? And how did you learn it?

I have no onegood tip for multi-tasking moms … I mean, I’m in the throes of it all right now. So, I should be asking moms that question. Honestly, I think all moms are multi-tasking, whether they’re working or whether they’re stay at home. Being a mom is a full-on, full-time job. You never get to switch it off and it’s been an incredibly grounding and humbling experience. I think being organized is a really important tip. And then I think, in regards to beauty tips for a multi-tasking mom, you just don’t have the time that you did before. So, you want your products to be long-wearing. And that’s one of the things that I love about the BAREPRO Longwear Lipstick, that I apply at the beginning of my day and it’s smudge-proof, it’s kiss-proof, it’s weightless … I don’t feel like I have to touch it up throughout the day and I can just be like, good to go.

What’s one good habit that you’d love for your son to have someday?

Good manners. Is that a habit?

Absolutely.

I guess good manners. And a healthy approach to food. I grew up in a household where — I mean it was the 90s, so frozen food was a big deal. [Laughs] I’m just really happy that, over my adult life and since leaving home, I’ve been able to educate myself on eating the right foods and [giving] him that foundation now as a youngster, I feel really good about that…. They’re like little sponges, babies. They’re like blank canvases. So what you put down in front of them, they’re going to absorb.

And then manners — that was something that was instilled in me really, really early on. It’s something that’s free, you know, everybody can be well-mannered, and working in an industry where I meet so many people from all different backgrounds and you have to interact with people all day long. I think simple “pleases” and “thank yous” and people that show gratitude, people that are thinking of other people, not just themselves — those kinds of small things are really what can impact somebody else. We talked about this a lot at bareMinerals, those small changes that you can make in your day that have that big effect. And I think just having self-awareness and self-respect and having respect for others … that really can turn your day around and turn somebody else’s day around.

What’s one good reason to take the risk and start a new business?

I would feel I was doing myself a disservice, not to give something a go out of fear and then to regret it later on in life, or to look back and think: ‘I should’ve done that, I should have given it a go.’ I’d rather fail at doing something than not fail at doing nothing, if that makes sense.

What’s some good advice for entrepreneurs that you learned while creating Rose Inc.?

I’m learning a lot right now. I think one of the coolest things actually is talking and listening to other entrepreneurs. So, I listen to a lot of podcasts. I read a lot of books. Luckily for me I’m now getting to meet a lot of entrepreneurs in person and just being able to ask them questions. When we were at the bareMinerals event in London at the [Soho] Farm House, I got to sit next to [Marc Rey], the CEO of Shiseido Americas. Just being able to sit next to him, [I thought] ‘Oh my gosh I’ve got an hour!’ A year or two ago if sat next to somebody like that, [I’d think]: ‘What the hell am I going to speak to him about? He doesn’t want to talk to me about anything.’ Now I see it as an opportunity to pick his brain about business and entrepreneurialism, and what are they looking for in small businesses and what advice they would give. So, I think just learning from other people’s mistakes, watching what’s happening out there in startup life and businesses and being observant, and then making sure you pull together the best team around you. [It’s important to remember]: ‘I can’t do everything. I’m not the best at everything.’ So, I need to hire great women around me to lift me and my business up. Those are things I’m learning right now.

Speaking of people you work with, what’s one good tip you’ve learned from Nikki DeRoest?

Okay. So, Nikki, I’m obsessed with. She’s become not only one of my regular makeup artists, but she’s also become a close friend of mine in this last year. She’s just such a cool chick and she’s unique and she’s also got a really good sense of humor, which I’m always drawn to. We have similar skin where we have to be very diligent about it. So, we’re constantly talking about beauty products and makeup tips. We’ll be talking about products that we just tried and we’re constantly talking about music … that’s our favorite topic.

What’s one good read from your winter holidays?

I was reading The Tipping Point, which I know is not a new book, but a really cool book to read for anyone that’s starting in business … [and looking for] what turns a business from being a small business into a phenomenon. So that’s been really, really interesting, to read about that. I like [Malcom Gladwell’s] books.

What’s one good movie where you know all of the lines?

None. Absolutely none. My sister, we were away together and we put the The Lion King on for my son for the first time and I’m like, ‘What is wrong with you? How do you know every single line from The Lion King? We haven’t watched this for like 10, 15 years? What the heck?’ I’m so baffled. But she was always one of those girls — every line in a song, every line in the movie. Whereas me, I will ‘know’ a song and it’ll have its own words. I’m terrible with people’s names. I butcher every single one — that’s not my forte.

But I would definitely say my favorites … I do love a girly movie. I love Notting Hill. I love Pretty Woman.[Laughs] I love Grey Gardens. But I love action movies and all of that kind of thing, too. I haven’t seen a great movie recently — I’ve been a bit bad at watching them, so I’ve got a stack of screeners to catch up on. I might be doing that this weekend.

Name a woman from history whose good work inspires you.

There are so many women that inspire me … I was reading something the other day about Audrey Hepburn and how everybody just remembers Audrey Hepburn for being this great beauty and yet actually, when you look at the scope of like charity work that she did in her lifetime, it was so enormous what she did … so that was impactful to me today.

Also, any woman that’s achieved her dreams, changed the world, paved the way for women in moving forward in the future. There are so many women doing that right now and — not just famous women that we know about — so many women out there who are really changing their communities and changing the lives of others in small ways, in big ways, but their stories don’t get told. And so, for me, there’s just tons of untold stories and I love it when I read something or hear something about somebody who’s really changing things in the world.

What’s one good story you think of when you need a laugh?

Oh my goodness … I would have to be honest and say that any good stories that I still chuckle about, I probably would not repeat on this phone call because that’s just naughty.

Women We Love: Jenni Luke of Step Up

PEOPLE

step up ceo jenni luke with signs

In April 2019, we launched The Power of Good Fund by bareMinerals, which supports women’s empowerment in the areas of education, mentorship and entrepreneurialism. In this series, we’re putting the spotlight on one female leader from each organization. Today, we’re proud to share the story of Jenni Luke, the CEO of Step Up, a non-profit that uses a unique mentorship model to inspire teen girls in under-invested neighborhoods to achieve their full potential.

It’s 5 PM, a block from New York’s Penn Station, and there’s a constant, multilingual flow of conversation and stress overrunning the Gregorys Coffee where Jenni Luke is sitting easily on a window bench, having a tea before a college basketball game. It will be her first visit to Madison Square Garden, with a friend who works for Major League Baseball and secured such excellent March Madness tickets that Jenni will feel she can never go back. As people and luggage wedge around her, Jenni mentions another event — Barbie’s 60th birthday party, which she recently attended. It made her feel optimistic, seeing how the doll, once shorthand for body dysmorphia and objectification, has now had over 200 careers, from beekeeper to robotics engineer. Other things that make Jenni hopeful right now? Young people-led movements, like Everytown for Gun Safety, and the TIME’S UP Legal Defense Fund, which connects victims of sexual misconduct with legal and PR assistance. Jenni’s sister, who has a young son, can’t find a single thing for him to watch on TV that isn’t fully gendered. So there’s a long way to go. But if Barbie can be president? Well, that’s something.

As CEO of Step Up, a non-profit mentoring organization, Jenni thinks a lot about how girls figure out what’s possible for them. Step Up’s work is driven by the belief that all girls should have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. They activate on that by running afterschool and weekend mentoring programs for high school girls who are living or going to school in under-resourced communities in New York City, Los Angeles, Dallas and Chicago, and supporting them as they graduate high school, ready to become the next generation of professional women. The organization was founded in 1998 by Kaye Kramer, then a well-connected young talent agent, when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. She looked around and realized that she and her friends had access to a lot of money, reach and power. So she gathered a few in a living room to discuss how to use their massive social capital for good. “The theme that’s stayed consistent all the way through is: how do you leverage resources that you have on behalf of people who may not have them?” Jenni explains. “It’s like: if you’re a mentor and you’re part of a group who has access to something, you have a responsibility to open doors to people who may not have access — and they don’t have access for anything that they’ve done wrong. It’s just the structures that are in place to keep them from having access — how can we create a pathway through those structures?” Many of the girls they work with are the first in their family to graduate high school, and go on to become the first to attend college, too. When alumnae gathered last year for Step Up’s 20th anniversary celebrations, many were teaching and doing social work, giving back to the communities they’re from.

Mentoring has been directly linked to success, especially for young women, yet only 54% of women have access to senior female leaders who can act as mentors, and less than 5% of Fortune 500 companies are led by women. And for teenage girls? It’s invaluable for them to see examples of the women they can grow up to be. But a key challenge that most mentoring programs face is ensuring that matches stick. “One-to-one long-term mentorship is really proven … but it’s also proven that if you get a mentor and the mentor relationship fails, it’s more damaging to the young person than if they had never gotten in it to begin with,” Jenni explains. Step Up’s model is different, in that every meeting a girl has is with someone new, introducing them to a large pool of “possibility models,” as the program calls the mentors. This is partly to protect against match failure, partly because of Step Up’s firm belief in the power of having a network. Also, they hear from the girls that, Interacting with one person? That’s so boring.

When Jenni Luke was about 7 years old, growing up in an upper middle class neighborhood outside Los Angeles, she started noticing that she had more opportunities than most people did. Going to the grocery store, she understood that the checker behind the counter had a very different experience than she was going to have. Some of it was language, some of it was watching how people interacted with them, but she became obsessed with equal opportunity. At around 14, she was sitting on the floor of her living room watching the Democratic National Convention when Jesse Jackson delivered his famous Rainbow Coalition speech. She felt like she was watching what needed to happen in the world, and started to cry. Determined to affect civil rights, Jenni’s law school dreams were cemented before she’d even finished high school.

Jenni attended law school at the University of Colorado, loved it, got the right internships, did the right clerkships during school — all the right things. Then she got a job and realized: in no way did she enjoy practicing law. The monotony made her understand why people felt driven to drink. She was devastated, and she was embarrassed.

At no point did Jenni have a mentor who could gently ask whether her childhood dream matched her maturing personality, or point out the difference in day-to-day experiences between learning and practice. “I was embarrassed because I really felt like I had failed in such a big way.” she recalls. “It was my dream, I paid for it. I really was only failing myself, but at the same time I was so thrown by it … that’s partly why I say to young women: it’s important to get that network of support early, because I think back and I wonder, would I have made a different choice to stick with it? Or just different areas of practice? Or done something differently?”

Deeply confused and unsure of a next step, having followed one path for so long, Jenni asked herself: What do lawyers do when they don’t want to practice law anymore, and want to do something more interesting, creative. She moved back to Los Angeles, to family — and the entertainment industry. “My career has been a nonlinear equation,” she says. “My mother would call it circuitous.”

Jenni worked her way up, becoming an agent representing writers and directors for film and television, until the 2004 presidential elections pushed her back towards civil rights — the reason she went to law school in the first place. She went to a talk by Lindsay Rachelefsy of the ACLU of Southern California. “I obviously knew the ACLU within a legal perspective. But she was the Director of Development, so she did fundraising and community engagement. I didn’t know that that job existed, because I had been so focused on law, so when I heard her speak, I was like, Oh my God — I want her job,” Jenni recalls. “She and I became friends. Eventually, I did get her job.”

After the talk, Jenni told the agency she wasn’t renewing her contract. Her boss asked about her plans, offered to make some calls on her behalf, and Jenni’s next role was Development Director for the Alliance for Children’s Rights, a legal services non-profit. “We did really good services for kids in foster care in LA, and it was fundraising from within the entertainment community, so it was a really perfect marriage of backgrounds and interests and everything,” she explains. “And I really loved it. It was just such a good fit for me, because all you do, pretty much all day, is talk about what you care about with people that want to listen, and then you take what they’re excited about and say: Give me money for it and convert that into impact. Which is super cool.” After 3 happy years, Lindsay called, told her she’d be leaving the ACLU, and asked if Jenni be interested in the position. “So then I did work for the ACLU, just not as a lawyer. So it was poetic — and fantastic. Loved it.” It was her network again that led her to Step Up after that; when the CEO role opened, numerous people sent it her way, saying it had her name written all over it. “And you know, here we are.”

On a recent Wednesday, Jenni woke up in her Brooklyn apartment, took her Cockapoo puppy, Cocoa, to daycare (he loves it there, and is hopelessly distracting), did follow-up on a Step Up Board of Directors meeting to work through some high-level strategy and governance decisions, then organized her notes for a keynote at the United Nations that she was delivering 2 days later, during the UN’s 63rd Commission on the Status of Women. She was in the midst of a travel lull; after 5 years based in LA with Step Up, Jenni and the organization’s headquarters moved to New York in 2014. Last fall, as they expanded to Dallas, she traveled there once a month. “I’ve basically lived off my laptop and wherever I can plug it in for the last 5 years,” she says. When in New York, she works out of the apartment, amidst work from creative friends, from large-scale paintings to a sequined notebook that, when brushed, shifts messages from “Get it done” to “Get shit done.”

Step Up’s budget has tripled under Jenni’s leadership. The numbers of teens enrolled, partner schools and mentors have all experienced double- and triple-digit percentage growth since she took over. Simultaneously, she has narrowed the organization’s focus, honing in on mentorship and social emotional learning. As they approach the end of their current strategic plan, the board is refocusing on how to go deeper in the communities they’re in, and how to expand their reach while staying focused. One consideration is a tiered approach. “If you use a retail model, it’s like the brick and mortar luxury version is what we’re doing. Is there an online delivery system where people might get the programming, the social emotional learning components? They don’t necessarily get the classroom environment, but they get access to the concepts. They may not get access to the network of mentors — and does that sell it short? I don’t know. How do we grow the reach, while not necessarily sacrificing what it is?” And, of course, there’s the question of new communities, and which cities are right for their model.

There’s also the question of succession planning. In May of 2019, Jenni announced her resignation from Step Up after 10 years of service. She calls it a graduation of sorts, which she’ll celebrate with vacations in Mexico and Central America. Her next chapter, still unannounced, will continue her focus on social justice and equal opportunity.

In the meantime, she is supporting the search for a new CEO and preparing the transition. It’s clear that Jenni’s legacy will shape the growth of the organization for years to come, and the girls she’s met will continue to shape her. She raves about their growth, their perspectives, and how much they teach their mentors. At an anniversary event Jenni overheard two alumnae of the program speaking to a younger girl, who was still in high school. One alum, who was fortunate enough to have attended a college-focused charter school, explained that yes, Step Up was valuable in high school — she’d even secured herself an internship after attending a prospective Step Up board member breakfast with Jenni. But the real value, the alum said, came later. Comparing herself to the girls she graduated high school with just a few years ago, she was already further, way faster than any of them. And she was further than she ever thought she’d be.

Learn more about Step Up and The Power of Good Fund by bareMinerals.