how jen gotch reset her life.
Smartwater has enlisted me to share the secrets of some of the most successful women i know and how their paths to success might inspire your own. today, we’re chatting with jen gotch – one of my own personal heroines – the creative director and founder of that sassy online style boutique ban.do, a los angeles-based design house specializing in gifts and accessories that pack one heck of a stylish punch. inspired by disco balls, confetti and fizzy cocktails, their collection is full of bright colors, irreverent patterns and lots of sparkle. jen is as much fun as she looks, but she’s also one savvy business woman, having founded ban.do and gone on to sell her company while remaining “the boss” as creative director, designer and marketing genius. let’s hear how she got from here to fabulous there.
Where were you working before leaving to start ban.do?
i had been working as a food and prop stylist for over 10 years and had just started getting into photography. oh, and i was writing for two different blogs, too. (what is wrong with me?) I actually started ban.do on a whim with a friend never expecting it would become more than just a little creative outlet on the side (like i needed another one, sheesh!). Things took off just as my photography career got going. i had my first big shoot in new york for the cover of real simple magazine and spent a couple extra days there meeting with people about ban.do. i quickly realized that i wouldn’t be able to manage all 17,000 careers i had started so i chose ban.do. and here we are.
Were there specific challenges about your former position that just didn’t work for you anymore?
since i had several paths i was pursuing, they all came with big challenges – and even bigger rewards. i became disenchanted with styling for one reason – in a word, SCHLEPPING. i actually think that career broke me of some of my compulsive shopping issues, because at one point, i swore i couldn’t carry another shopping bag full of dishes ever, anywhere, ever again.
Was your new path motivated by a particular creative need or personal goal?
i’ve really never been great about setting personal goals. i don’t know why. more than anything is has to do with the way i live, which is really in the present and only not so distant future (like 20 minutes from now). as a creative person, i am always looking for new outlets for my creativity. i really feel depressed and deprived if i am not being creative. as it turns out, there must have been some deep desire for me to create a business, a company, a brand, more than anything else. there have been many, many times that i should have walked away, but i can’t stop. i love the challenges, the freedoms and learning new things on a daily basis. i’m gonna be here for a while.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
i’m a prideful idiot who refuses to listen to advice like, “don’t start your own business.” and i thought it would be FUN. ha! well, it’s fun, but it’s also very hard work.
Did you receive any particular advice that stood out when starting your own business?
the only overwhelmingly consistent advice i remember was “DON’T!” specifically, don’t open a retail store, which i actually listened to – for now.
What advice would you give to a person wanting to change career paths?
oh my gosh, do it! we spend so much time working, the least we can do is really enjoy our careers. obviously putting a plan in place would also be helpful, maybe a budget, too. i always think it’s important to constantly visualize success, but to consider failure, even for a second, so you can be prepared if things don’t work out just as you’ve planned. oh, and save money before you do anything drastic like quit your job. that’s a mistake i’ve made on several occasions.
You sold your business, but stayed on as Creative Director. Did that give you more creative freedom and less stress?
so much so i can’t even stand it. although i still feel like the business is mine, the only real difference is that there is an amazing team of people helping the brand grow and i don’t have to worry about how i am going to pay everyone on a regular basis. that part was really scary and stressful beyond words. money is the worst (and the best).
What are the top three things someone should consider before changing careers or starting their own business?
• what is your reason for changing? emotional, situational, financial – just make sure you are taking this leap for the right reasons.
• do i have a support system in place in case things go horribly wrong? at least one thing will
• what’s your plan? i would plan out strategic and financial goals for at least the first 6 months. i would never do anything that constructive, but i think it’s fantastic advice.
What’s the most rewarding thing about your new career?
learning about myself and having the opportunity to lead and mentor other creative girls, ladies, women – i don’t know what we like to be called these days, but you know what i mean. we have such a fun, productive work environment and i am so happy knowing that my intentions to create that kind of workplace paid off.
this story is brought to you by vapor-distilled smartwater, who found unique inspiration for their water by looking up to the sky. we hope the change in perspective this piece offers will help inspire you.