SheVentures

Episode 4: Jen Groover

Jen Groover Overcame Childhood Trauma to Build a Business Empire

Jen Groover’s been through it all and has the emotional growth to prove it. Rather than letting her troubled childhood with an abusive, alcoholic father defeat her, she used it to shape her view of life, business, and finances. A motivational speaker, author, and entrepreneur, Groover is a strong advocate for human potential, as well as for the success of women.

Complete organ failure at 26 from overexertion made her realize how negative patterns were harming her. Read about how she transformed herself and about her latest venture, Empowered Eyewear.

 

Transcript

Doria Lavagnino: Welcome to SheVentures. I’m Doria, co-founder of CentSai. Listen to women who take risks, build community, and get shit done. Recording from Madison Avenue in New York City.

This week I want to welcome a serial entrepreneur, a book author, and a renowned motivational speaker. Among many of her achievements, the launch of the Butler Bag a decade ago, widely distributed on QVC, creation of her own jewelry line, and now a newly launched eyewear brand called Empowered Eyewear.

She has delivered dozens of keynotes on business, marketing, entrepreneurship, emotional intelligence, and perhaps most poignantly, on her childhood struggles and how they shaped her into a survivor and a go-getter. Jen Groover, welcome to SheVentures.

Jen Groover: Thank you so much for having me.

 

The Power of Mindset

Lavagnino: Absolutely. It’s so great to have you. So, many women want to pivot or take the next steps in their lives or careers, but they’re stopped by fear. And one of the things that I have seen you speak a great deal about is your childhood and how it shaped you.

Groover: Yes.

Lavagnino: And I was hoping you could share a little bit about that.

Groover: Yes, so I loved that part of the introduction by the way that you tied that in because to me that’s one of the most important aspects of my journey.

And how we all can transform our pain into our purpose and empower ourselves, even through struggles and our lives, to not be the victim but be the victor. And you know everything is in our control of our mindset.

Even the things that are happening outside of us and things that we might not like, we cannot control other people or certain circumstances, but we can control how we view them and the meaning that we assigned to them.

And so as you mentioned, I had a very challenging childhood that I assigned a meaning of my ability to learn resiliency, agility, survival skills that got me to where I am today.

Lavagnino: Mm-hm.

Groover: And I think all those skill sets are really very important. I often find many people that are very successful that are happy, happily successful, meaning that they’re not just successful and have great titles and achievements, but they’re truly abundantly joyful with intrinsically, are people that overcame many odds throughout their lives to get them to those moments and there’s something powerful in that.

 

Jen Groover’s Early Life

Lavagnino: There really is, and some of the odds that you mentioned overcoming is that you had a very strict upbringing and that affected your mom a great deal, and you witnessed that.

Groover: Yes.

Lavagnino: And so out of that what I what I took from that and what you said is that you would never let someone control your finances or your happiness by witnessing what happened in your childhood, and I was just wondering if you could fill in some of the detail around that.

Groover: Absolutely. My mom was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was a very strong-willed — sassy, as I call her — sassy, mouthy Italian woman who really was very strong and honestly would take no nonsense from anyone.

However, she fell in love with my dad, and when she fell in love with my dad, he was a highly functioning alcoholic who was very charismatic and a lot of fun. And she didn’t realize until later in the relationship that she was now in love with a highly functioning and highly abusive — physically, mentally, and emotionally — man.

And by the time she realized this, she was already too late in the cycle, meaning that psychologically we then try to go back, try to find that person that we fell in love with. We convinced ourselves that we can change that person. We convince ourselves we can fix that person.

And as strong as my mom was — and this is the irony of it — as strong as she was, as much as she accomplished outside of our home, she was beaten down and diminished, literally her soul destroyed in our, in her home every day of my childhood.

And as I mentioned, my dad was physically, mentally, and emotionally abusive, and I watched over time this woman just keep diminishing in her light and her power. And she became physically ill over time, chronic illness after chronic illness.

And then I had, um, witnessed my dad cheating on my mom, and I was so excited about this because I thought to myself, This is my mom’s chance at freedom. This is her chance that really become her again. And my mom said to me, “Unfortunately, it’s easier to stay than it is to go,” and I was like, “No way, Mom. This is impossible.”

Now mind you, I was in eighth grade, going to ninth grade at that time. And I was, like, “No way, Mom. There is no way staying is easier. It’s so hard here. For me, as a child, to live in this home is hard.”

So unfortunately, my mom was right, because my dad controlled all the finances. He would collect her paycheck every single Friday as she walked in the door, analyzing the food bills at the grocery store every weekend, and manipulated her through money.

And so when I realized that she had no money to really even get an attorney. No attorney, by the way, would even represent her because my dad created the laws of divorce in the state of Pennsylvania, ironically.

Lavagnino: So he was an attorney himself?

Groover: He was an attorney . . .

 

Financial Abuse

Lavagnino: Okay. So she was really financially abused, as well.

Groover: She was financially abused, as well. Because she did, women back then didn’t earn a ton of money. But she was earning money, and she was doing well. But she was financially abused because he maintained control of all the money, and then unable to have freedom in her choices because of that situation.

And so as I watched this divorce destroy my mom on every level, more so than the actual being in the relationship did. I was very clear in my mind at this time period that I would never ever allow someone to control my finances or my happiness the way that I witnessed my mom allowing my dad to control her finances and her happiness.

And when I was . . . happiness, I mean that — and I’m sure a lot of people can resonate with what I’m about to say — my mom consistently looked for my dad to give her just the glimmer of attention, a glimmer of positive reinforcement to keep her in there just longer, and sustain the other levels of abuse. And that’s what a lot of fixers do.

Lavagnino: Right.

Groover: They stay in abusive relationships a lot longer than they ever should because the person gives them enough bread crumbs, as I call it, to give a glimmer of hope that they could have what they desire, and so that decision that in a very impressionable time period of being a teenage girl really did set me unconsciously but consciously on this path to being self-sufficient and independent and finding my own intrinsic happiness, so that I didn’t have to rely on anyone else to give it to me.

Lavagnino: I am thinking back as you’re describing it and trying to view it as a eighth-grade girl and how difficult that must have been and how much that must have shaped you as well and was wondering if, because this is unfortunately not an uncommon situation for women to find themselves in, although I think people talk about it more now —

Groover: Yup.

Lavagnino: Do you have advice just on this topic for anyone who finds themselves in a situation where they’re having difficulty breaking free?

Groover: Yeah. So absolutely I do. When they’re in an abusive cycle, in one way, shape, or form, and they know, even if it’s not to the level of abuse of which my mom endured, but a type of relationship that is not supporting the best version of ourselves.

That’s keeping us back from what our potential is and making us ultimately unhappy is often what I witness is someone hiring a therapist or coach of sorts to lead them through the process, meaning keeping them accountable in their decisions and keeping them moving forward in the process, because it’s so easy for us to go back into a comfortable cycle, even if we hate the cycle, we’re comfortable in that cycle.

Lavagnino: Right, and it’s what we know.

Groover: It’s what we know, and often we lose sight as to what the goodness on the other side of the rainbow, so to speak, because we don’t know what it is.

But it’s gonna most likely be a lot better, but we forget about that. And so what a coach or a therapist does in this process is keep you focused and affirmed that there is something more on the other side.

You know a relationship that might be supportive and loving and nurturing and keeping you focused on that versus going back into an old cycle or pattern. And also keeping you strong in your choices because when you’re in a toxic pattern with somebody who’s usually a narcissist of sorts, many layers to that or many dimensions of that, but they’re really good at manipulating people, and so once they can feel that you’re leaving and separating they will do everything in their power to win you back, they’ll do everything in their power to make you think you’re crazy, to make you doubt yourself, to make you feel bad, to make you feel guilty.

And so if you don’t have somebody who isn’t necessarily your sister or your mom, but somebody who’s a professional in this psychological space running alongside of you in this process, you probably won’t break free of it.

Lavagnino: Right. And so, and so you were able to break free of it, and your independence and your entrepreneurial spirit and also your groundedness, which is something that I very much get from talking to you, came to be, and it’s something that you practice. Another thing that I noticed was that, or that you spoke about, is that you had an idea book.

Groover: Yes.

 

Jen Groover’s Entrepreneurial Inspiration

Lavagnino: And you were always very entrepreneurial, had tons and tons of ideas, and then one day you were reading Fast Company. I believe this was before the Butler Bag, and you saw that one of your ideas had been implemented.

And not only had it been implemented — it wasn’t that it had been stolen, but just someone had done it and turned it into a $100 million business — and so your new mantra at that point as an entrepreneur became, I have more fear of regret than I do of failure.

Groover: Yes, yes.

Lavagnino: And so from that, how would you recommend that entrepreneurs get out of that fear mindset, because it’s very common when you’re starting a business that you’re afraid because, as you said, you have people telling you that’s a crazy idea, that’ll never work. How did you, how did you handle that?

Groover: So before I answer that direct question, I want to just reflect back to kind of set this up a little bit for anyone who’s listening that might be wondering, you know, why entrepreneur life when she said she wanted this security and independence.

So my, I studied psychology in college, which was part of breaking free of the cycles, and then I continued studying human potential and personal development after that. I became an entrepreneur right out of college because of the belief system that I created that I didn’t want anyone to control my finances or happiness.

So to me, the best way to control my finances and happiness was to become an entrepreneur, which is very counterintuitive to most people, right. Most people are thinking I’m gonna get a corporate job and I’m gonna have security.

And to me, that was a really bizarre and interesting belief system because every decision we make is created on a belief system that we have. And so for me, the belief system of having a job was more putting my fate into somebody else’s hands.

Lavagnino: And no I was gonna say just to stop you there, so really being an entrepreneur is you saw that as putting your fate into your own hands and not letting really anyone or anything have power over your destiny?

Groover: Correct, exactly, and knowing that, yes, I have to get clients and I have to get vendors in different aspects of my career. But I still can grow as fast as I want to grow, I can scale as fast as I want to scale, and I have a lot more autonomy over how I intentionally create my life and what I do with each hour of my day.

And to me, that was the ultimate definition of controlling my fate. But you know as an entrepreneur who’s controlling their fate you have to grow, and this goes for everybody who wants to become a best version of themselves, you have to consistently grow.

But as an entrepreneur, a young entrepreneur, in this scenario that you were talking about, I knew that I didn’t have a plan B. I didn’t have anyone else to blame things on if things went wrong, and so I had to become the best me very quickly so that I could keep growing and scaling.

And so having studied psychology and having incredible mindset leaders that were mentors of mine, I knew that I needed to get to the root of all the beliefs that I had that would hold me back.

And so when I had this idea journal moment that you know outlined for everybody I realized that I had a belief around failing that was really controlling my life. It was holding me back, and I needed to get to the root of it and where it came from, because once you identify you’re having an outcome that you don’t like, you can identify or work towards identifying a belief that’s attached to it, and the only way to change the outcome is to change the belief.

And so in this scenario, I realized my belief was ingrained in me when I was young, by my dad, was in the military, and that failure is not an option was a mantra in our house. And I believed that if I failed at something, I was a failure.

And so I did as a child everything I was just gonna be really good at, for fear of failing, which really doesn’t allow us to maximize our potential at all because I’m just doing things that I’m good at.

And so, um, I realized in order to truly grow and accomplish more, I had to face this fear of failure, and I had to redefine it. So once I realized where the route came from, where who programmed this in me and why, then I could change it.

Okay, my dad programmed at me with this, I get it. Failure on a battleground is not really an option. So I can create my own belief around it now, which I created a mantra that I have more fear of regret than I have a failure, and I said that mantra over and over and over again, that I’ve more fear of regret than I have failure.

And then I also added on, failure is just part of the process on the journey to success, because no one has been successful, really successful, without quote unquote failing.

Lavagnino: Right.

 

Learning From Failure and a Health Crisis

Groover: The difference is they didn’t give up when they failed. They became success stories because they kept redefining those moments and getting smarter and getting more strategic and getting wiser and so they got to the point of being a success that other people write about.

Lavagnino: Absolutely, the tenacity, I think, and also, you know, you talk about very candidly about your own struggles, one of them, and this I believe was before the Butler Bag as well, your first love was in the health and wellness industry.

Groover: Yes.

Lavagnino: And you were a national level fitness competitor —

Groover: Yes.

Lavagnino: You described yourself as being very fortunate; you were making money doing what you loved. But at some point, you lost clarity, and you took your fitness to an extreme. And you went into what I believe was multiple organ failure.

Groover: Yes.

Lavagnino: And you were 26.

Groover: Yes. That’s correct.

Lavagnino: And so that was obviously a dark time, but then also was a moment that you were alluding to I think before, where you learn from everything that happens to you in life. So what did that help you learn?

Groover: Yeah, so I love that you pick that up and the importance of that conversation because I feel like we’re in a society that praises people abusing themselves to a level of giving everything they got to their work and not finding the balance, to the point where a lot of people do get sick in different ways from stress or sick in their relationships, where they’re just not home enough to be part of their family and then become disconnected.

There’s different types of illnesses, so to speak, so what I learned looking back is a couple of things: The reason I was doing what I was doing as a fitness competitor, working out as hard as I was working out, and this is a very psychological statement I’m about to make, is I was still numbing myself from my childhood still.

It’s almost like to a level of abuse, so while I looked great on the outside, and I got praised by so many because of my physique and my body fat content, which is so superficial now looking back.

It kept fueling this ego to keep going and going, until when my body collapsed and I also developed multiple autoimmune suppression issues, Hashimoto’s Disease being one of them, and having organ issues.

To me, it was such a gift of waking up at 26, in a state in which many don’t actually encounter until they’re in their 40s or 50s, and I learned the value of our health and how critically important that is. Without it, we really don’t have anything.

I learned the value of balance, and when I say balance I know that’s a very elusive term. But I just mentioned to you earlier that I did a digital detox this weekend. And to me, that’s creating balance. It’s creating boundaries for my body.

Lavagnino: Yes.

Groover: To read to me.

Lavagnino: Yep.

Groover: So . . .

Lavagnino: Absolutely. I was going to just say I really understand that, and I think so much of entrepreneurial burnout, in general, is, that I’ve experienced myself, has to do with lack of boundaries setting.

Groover: Yes.

 

Learning to Say “No”

Lavagnino: And when you had mentioned that this weekend that you had done a digital detox I was thinking, well, I didn’t, and I probably should have, and it wouldn’t have made a big difference. So I applaud you for making that space.

Groover: Thank you. I don’t know if I would have as much conviction in doing those kinds of things with boundaries if I didn’t experience what I experienced in my 20s, but I will say that I highly encourage everybody to learn to say “no” a little bit more often and be honest about our bandwidth, and women more so than men, not to be too generalized in a statement.

But we feel so responsible for making everybody else happy more than ourselves, and we overextend, and we overcommit, and then we find ourselves unhappy and completely depleted. And that’s not where we’re supposed to be, that’s not being the best version of ourselves for the people that really do need us. There is a lot of power in our self-worth when we can say no and create boundaries.

Lavagnino: I think that is so true, and another thing that resonated is you also have two daughters. I do, as well. And you know for women who choose to have children, I think that setting those boundaries and being the best version of yourself, as you put it, is so important for them, as well.

Groover: There’s an incredible story that I would love to just share for a second to hit that point home, um. When I was getting on a train a couple years ago, the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, a woman who had kept trying to get me to consult for a company, saw me standing, getting ready to go on the train, and wound up trying to sit next to me, but had sat across from me, and I intentionally was trying to create some boundaries in my space because I was so depleted. And I needed to get home, and I needed to prepare for Thanksgiving to entertain people the next day.

And as she started to ask me questions on the train, I finally said to her, “Listen, I am so sorry for what I’m about to say, and I don’t mean it to be mean or sound insensitive, and I really do want your company to succeed, but I am completely depleted. I need this hour and 10 minutes to just disconnect and be in silence so that when I get home the two little girls who haven’t seen me for two days while I was away at meetings, can have my full attention because they deserve it more than anyone right now.”

Lavagnino: How did she react?

Groover: She was so in awe. She was just blown away, actually. She looked at me. She said, “Wow. That was amazing, and I respect everything that you just said. And as selfish that is, I would like your advice, I hope to God I can make a statement like that someday to somebody else.”

Lavagnino: I think that’s so true of many of us. We have this idea in our minds about what is acceptable and what’s not. And it often isn’t based in reality. It’s something, as you said, that it’s kind of a script that we’ve learned somewhere along the way.

Groover: Yes.

 

Starting the Butler Bag and Finding a Niche

Lavagnino: So you created the Butler Bag, which the way that I describe it is, it’s a purse for busy women. But, and while it looked traditional on the outside, it had compartments on the inside so that you could organize — be better organized overall.

And it was extremely successful. It sold well on QVC, and then I understand that you also struck a licensing deal with Accessory Network, and they did LeSportsac and Tahari and Calvin Klein.

So you really were able to massively distribute this product, and that is incredibly impressive to me, and I was just wondering if, from a business perspective, you could talk me through, or our listeners through, anyone who’s thinking of launching a product, how did you approach that?

Groover: So I’d say there’s a couple key tenets here. No. 1: If your product solves a problem, you’re ahead in the game. If it doesn’t solve a problem, it has to emotionally connect. You know, we see a lot of motivational wall hangings now, so that’s not necessarily solving a problem, but it’s emotionally connecting. So those are the two things that you want to evaluate in the beginning: Is it solving a problem? And if it’s not solving a problem, is there a generalized emotional connection?

And then once you’re developing the product and you bring it to market, the question is so many people focus so much energy on just the product development side, making their widget perfect, and often they spend so much time and money there, they lose out on having funding to take it to market.

So then they try to do a shoestring launch where they are not putting the marketing dollars or the PR dollars in the place that they should be putting them, or enough of them I should say.

And so when you’re launching, getting the widget to a good point is really important, getting the site to a good point is important, but remember the marketing of how people are going to learn about your product and/or service is the most important point. Because we can, there’s a lot of great products in this world that no one knows exists, because the marketing dollars were never set aside for.

Lavagnino: That is so true.

Groover: So I knew that I was gonna have a shoestring budget because I funded it, self-funded it, throughout the entire process with some friends and family money. But I invested the most heavily in learning PR.

I hired this PR genius to teach me everything about it: the art of the spin, how to get on TV, how to pitch your segments. And I knew — now, keep in mind this is in 2006, so media was a little bit different then.

Traditional media, it was kind of everything. Where now social media is a lot more powerful, and there’s a little bit more ability for small-business owners to not have to get on national television to have a voice.

But back then, I mean, it’s still important today, a Today show hit could really warrant a lot of sales. But learning how to have a voice around my company, learning to be a walking-talking billboard of my company, was the most powerful skill set I got out of that training.

And learning how to story-tell. Storytelling is so critically important. If I didn’t story-tell about my company in every touch point I could, meaning, not just speaking and telling reporters my story, but putting it on my hang tags, putting it on my website.

The story was so important because it was another emotionally connecting factor. So now I solved a problem with an emotionally connecting story. Meaning, you know, here I am an overwhelmed new mom of twin girls, and I stick my dishwasher tray in my handbag to become more organized in my disorganized life. There’s a lot of moms that can resonate with that.

Like, oh my gosh, I know that feeling. So when you tell that story, people know the authentic process, and then, most importantly, become your storytellers for you.

So there was many times I’d run into people who’d see my bag and say, “Hey, is that a Butler Bag?” And I’d say, “Yeah,” and they would start to tell me my story, not realizing while I was the creator of the bag, which I was, like, yes, my story is viral. It’s awesome.

 

Changing Times, Changing Methods

Lavagnino: That is so great. And now, the Butler Bag, for how long was it manufactured?

Groover: Well, I eventually licensed it to Avon after Accessory Network.

Lavagnino: Okay.

Groover: I just got the license back from Avon, after they just got bought — I guess it was two years ago now. So they went through a lot of transition. They’re continuously in transition. So I recently just got it back and plan to relaunch it with another licensing company in 2019. Yeah, so it’s fun rebirthing.

Lavagnino: And it’ll be a completely, I think, different way of going about it, as you alluded to, from 2006 to today.

Groover: Correct.

Lavagnino: And maybe that brings us to your current product, which are eyeglasses, but they have changeable frames. So depending on what you wear or how you’re feeling, you’re able to alter the color of the frames themselves, and you patented that technology.

So I was just wondering, I was reflecting upon 2006 and 2018, what are the key things that you would do differently today in terms of PR and marketing?

Groover: Well, we are doing a lot more social media, that is for sure. A lot more video. Video is really important to tell your story. I mean, we launched a video on social media over the weekend, and it had 2,000 views within 24 hours.

So quite honestly, and some of the traditional media networks, some of the bigger ones even, you could potentially, you could be on prime time and not get to 2,000 views.

But that will keep going. That was only in the first 24 hours. And also Amazon, you know, that didn’t exist back in 2006, or you know I should say, did exist, but it wasn’t a mean vehicle. So we’re using Amazon as our first retail strategy out of the gate, other than direct e-commerce, and then we’re going to brick-and-mortar.

So I did it the opposite way in 2006. I went to brick-and-mortar first. Then I relied on e-com. And then I relied on third-party e-com distribution channels. So very different from an e-commerce perspective today than it was back then.

 

The Numbers Behind the Butler Bag

Lavagnino: And can I ask, so that when you licensed your bag to Avon, can you give us a sense of the split that would typically happen?

Groover: Sure, so what happens in a licensing deal is you typically get an advance. So let’s just say the average is $100,000. So $100,000, and then you also set minimum sales expectations.

So this is really important and something a lot of people don’t know to do and then wind up in trouble later because you want to make sure that whoever’s licensing it has to perform at a certain level so that it doesn’t dilute your brand.

So you set certain expectations. So they have to sell, let’s say I was, when the licensing deal happened, I’m selling 2 million. I expect that they’re selling 4 million in the first year, and if they don’t then they have to pay me more money, like fees, on top of it the penalty fees.

Lavagnino: Oh, interesting. I didn’t know that.

Groover: Yeah, well a lot of people don’t, and so they don’t actually put it into their contracts, and then they wind up really burned and upset later. But you want it in there as performance metrics and accountability.

Lavagnino:It makes sense, because it incentivizes the licensee to perform.

Groover: Exactly, and not just sit on your product, because they could sit on your product and then just destroy your brand, if they wanted to compete. So and then, your royalties on average, especially in the accessories world, is anywhere from, it could be three percent — if you’re working with Disney and Nickelodeon and big brands like that — to 15 percent.

So you’re gonna get 15 percent, let’s say, on the high end of sales, but you were not coming out of pocket. Keep this in mind: You’re not coming out of pocket with production, because they’re doing all production. You’re not coming out of pocket with sales teams, because they have their own sales teams. You’re not coming out of pocket with travel, because they’re paying for all the travel. And so, you’re just getting residuals.

So it allows you to, what I did is, I kept, my licensing deal was for mass retail. I kept the license, I kept my brands license in the high end, as a cash-flow strategy. So high-end boutique sales, I should say. Boutique sales are good cash-flow strategies. They’re not volume strategies. So you don’t need as much out of pocket to fulfill the orders, but the cash flow keeps coming in, and so I kept my boutique line myself, and then I started other brands after that.

So it allows you to keep doing things, growing your brand, your personal brand, while somebody else is growing the revenue of it, what are the core brands.

 

Learning to Delegate and Focus on One’s Strengths

Lavagnino: Which it makes so much sense, too, what you’re saying because if someone else is doing the sales and all of the auxiliary things that you don’t necessarily consider your core competency, then you can really focus on what you do best.

Groover: Yes, which for me was being a face to the brand. So that was another thing that I did. As part of my licensing deal, I would continuously be on television, doing appearances for a lot of the stores that we were partnered with, going on QVC as you mentioned earlier. So really being the spokesperson for my own brand. And back then I didn’t know to do this, but now, that could have been an additional fee that I could have asked for, that’s called a spokesperson fee.

Obviously, you’re gonna be the best spokesperson for your own brand. That I could have asked for and didn’t know to do back then.

Lavagnino: Right.

Groover: Because I was doing a lot of appearances and things like that for the brand’s growth and didn’t know I could get an extra fee for that, but licensing is a powerful strategy a lot of people never consider just because they don’t know enough about it.

For somebody who is like myself — which it seems like a lot of female entrepreneurs who create products are in this same category — they’re really passionate about the creation, they’re really passionate about the story, they’re really passionate about inspiring other people with the story, then they’re not usually passionate about the back-end stuff — the operation stuff.

And for somebody like that, licensing is the ideal dream because you then give somebody else the responsibility, without managing them so to speak, at least day-to-day managing the operations.

Lavagnino: Right.

Groover: Which I think, you know, for me is something I never enjoyed it all. So learning to be honest with what you’re good at and what you’re not good at.

Lavagnino: Absolutely. That’s so true, because there are so many things that I really dislike doing. And it is focusing on what you want to be doing and where you excel best and finding talent that can do the things that you don’t excel at.

With Amazon, is the structure different?

 

How to Sell on Amazon

Groover: Well, Amazon is a skill in and of itself, meaning a lot of people will put things on Amazon and don’t realize that there’s a lot that causes a product to succeed on Amazon or not succeed. So —

Lavagnino: What are some of those things?

Groover: Product descriptions, rankings, getting feedback, somebody, you know, coming in and giving you five stars and not giving a bad review. Bad reviews are really, really bad for a product to rank.

So when you’re googling something, if you’re getting bad reviews you won’t rank as high in the search and also on Amazon. Then Amazon on the back end is also changing algorithms that you need to stay up with.

So it really could be a full-time job for somebody, a full-time specialty for somebody. So we actually hired somebody to be our Amazon strategist for us to manage our brand on Amazon, to constantly be tweaking it, following the update of the algorithms, making sure that there’s follow-ups from the purchases to get reviews, making sure the customer service is impeccable, so we are getting good reviews. So all of those things are really big factors. And —

Lavagnino: That makes sense, and it reminds me, too, that people are much more likely, I feel, to leave negative reviews than they are to say something positive, which is frustrating when you offer a service, because it may not be necessarily representative of your product.

Groover: Correct, or even of the real experience. You know, that person could have been having a bad day and something that was so little became a big deal, right.

So you know the review things can work for us, but unfortunately work more against good companies that maybe had not ideal customers. So there’s some good pros that come from it, too, but if you’re not being proactive at averting the cons, so to speak, you’re — not that that’s not a good use of manpower.

So there really should be somebody very much dedicated in your company, if you have a review opportunity, whether it’s on Yelp, if you have a restaurant, a salon, or it’s on Amazon for products, to constantly be focused on perfecting the customer service process to try to create as many great reviews, and ask for the reviews.

A lot of times people have a great experience, but they just don’t even think to do the review. So if you learn to ask for the review and simplify the review as much as possible, you have a greater chance of getting more positive reviews.

 

Women in Business

Lavagnino: These are great tips. I wanted to focus on some of the things that you’ve also done as a businesswoman. I know that in 2011 — and I had mixed feelings about this — on the one hand it’s amazing that you were a part of a group of women to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, which, you know, as a symbol of women, you know, empowerment in business.

But the other part of me said, my God, it’s 2011, and it took that long for that to happen. Um, talk to me a little bit about that experience.

Groover: I feel the same way. The mixed reviews. So I was part of this organization started by this powerhouse woman. Her name is Nell Merlino. She and Gloria Steinem created Take Your Daughter to Work Day, and then she created Make Mine a Million because she realized that there was less than one percent of wealth being created by women in the United States of America in the early 2000s.

So she was like, wait, what? How is this possible? Women are being equally, not equally at that point, but now more than equally, educated. How is it that women are creating such a significant amount of disparity in wealth creation?

Again, this is not job cap. It’s wealth creation, so entrepreneur females. And so she started this organization Make Mine a Million to give more funding and education to women to give them a better leg up in becoming successful in creating a million-dollar-plus company.

And that really was the goal, right. So the conversation alone created more million-dollar companies because women then started surrounding themselves by other women who believed it was possible, right, because so much of it begins with a belief.

And then having accountability partners who were aiming and running towards the same goals. So another factor that gives people a leg up.

And then just more resources, day-to-day real-life resources, that would, you know, different accounting systems to use to keep up-to-date on your books, or you know, different ways to factor your money with a factory versus getting a loan from a bank, so to speak.

So really gave real life, not just textbook, but real life experiences, so that women were getting these business hacks that guys were using all the time back then and no one had access to.

So learning how to negotiate, another skill that women often are thought to not be as good at because we’re afraid of offending somebody or afraid to seem not as nice or kind or demure. So for me, my participation in the group was realizing from a psychological standpoint that women, there were so many beliefs around money and power that women were still holding from generations that were around before them, that were holding them back.

So my participation in this organization was really to talk about these beliefs, uncover them, and reprogram them. You know, there’s just the simple belief that women have been subconsciously programmed, that if you’re too successful you’re not a good enough spouse or good enough parent, and so people are gonna shun you because of that.

That belief really does exist still, and this is 2018 now, almost 2019. So, um, I, my role in this organization was talking about the psychological side of this. I was a speaker for the group, but yeah, I had the same feeling where it was like, wow, 2011, and it’s the first time a group of all females because there’s a lot of groups of all males ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Lavagnino: Almost every day in fact.

Groover: So you know it started the conversation, we still have so much further to go, not just in the tools but more so in the belief systems, consciously or subconsciously, that women still carry around being successful.

 

The Stats on Women in Business

Lavagnino: I agree, and some of it, I think, can be reflected in statistics. I was looking at a study that just came out that says — it was looking at census data.

And the census has been looking at women-owned businesses since 1972, and it compared it to 2018. So there’s obviously been a dramatic rise from 400 in 2,000 back then to 12.3 million in 2018.

But at the same time, there’s the belief systems that you’re talking about, and also the fact that we know that women only have access to two percent of venture capital funding, and only seven percent of senior VC execs are women.

Groover: Yes.

Lavagnino: And so as a female, as an entrepreneur myself, I don’t know how to make sense of these kinds of seemingly contradictory statistics, and I was just wondering what your thoughts were on that.

Groover: Well, so while the numbers of businesses started are drastically increased, the wealth creation that’s coming from them is minimally increased, right. So that, there goes to the disparity of why is this?

Again, we as women all have access to the same university now called Google, right, so we’re not lacking, in my belief, we’re not lacking knowledge. We’re still lacking belief. We’re not, you know.

A man will say, I want this to turn into a million dollars in the first year. And very few and far in between will I hear a woman say that. Usually, when I’m asking a woman when they’re starting a company what they want in the first year, it’s, “Well, I hope we make a profit,” or “Well, I hope we hit $100,000 in sales.”

So there’s still these limited beliefs that need to be improved upon for women or that that go into women’s sense of worthiness. So that’s one aspect.

Another aspect is, you mentioned about the venture capital aspect. So I am friends with a lot of venture capitalists, and I sit in a lot of pitch contests, and what I hear all the time, and this kind of ties back to psychology, what I hear all the time from venture capitalists that are men is, they want to invest in more women. But why they’re not is because they haven’t found women who have the kind of confidence they would like to see.

So, you know, that the whole bet on the jockey, not the horse. So they’re feeling that women are still coming in with underwhelming confidence, where guys will come in with a lot more confidence, and so that’s, you know, another self-worth thing that women could work on. That’s also a conviction thing women can work on. But we also can be creative in capital, too.

So that the positive to focus on is there’s a lot more female VCs now, and the female VCs want to invest in the females. Kind of like when we didn’t have the women’s networking groups and now we have an abundance of that. And now the men are, like, “Hey, wait, what? Why aren’t we getting invited to this?”

 

Women and Confidence

Lavagnino: So what do you personally believe is the reason? Is it, I mean, when you hear these male VCs say this about women and confidence, do you think it’s true? Partly true? What is your take on it? And you were able to do it, so what set you apart?

Groover: I believe that there’s a large part of that of truth to it. I believe, too, that my training — my training as a speaker, my training that I invested in pitching and PR — built my confidence to be convicted, my mindset training that I very much invested in my early 20s was a huge part of it.

Understanding how people think and reading body language and all of that was huge. I knew before I walked into any pitch meeting that I better be convicted walking into that pitch meeting. So I made very clear in my conviction.

One other different aspect to answer that question is I feel that feminine power is different than masculine power. So a man might interpret someone who has female power, feminine power, differently than what the truth is.

So meaning that masculine power, exerted power, I should say, comes off like bravado — and bravado is totally fine on a guy, but if a female acts with too much bravado, it comes off completely — interpreted at least — completely different.

And so what needs to be improved upon on the male side of the spectrum in this conversation is their understanding about reading women’s, how women exert power differently.

Lavagnino: It’s a perception issue.

Groover: Correct, yes. And so women might approach something more nurturing. Doesn’t mean that they’re not convicted in it, doesn’t mean they don’t believe in it, but they may be more nurturing in their approach to it.

And to a man who’s used to being around more masculine leadership, that might come off soft to them instead of seeing the strength that it really is.

 

Being Your Authentic Self

Lavagnino: So at the end of the day, you talk about being your authentic self. I mean, I’m thinking about this and I’m thinking about being a woman listening and then being unsure, so how am I supposed to be?

Because women get very contradictory messages. But it sounds like what you’re saying ultimately is there needs to be education on the part of, you know, men and women both, but ultimately if you’re your authentic self and you’re true to what you want to be doing that that’s the recipe for success in addition to a hell of a lot of hard work.

Groover: Yes, 1,000 percent. So if you’re your authentic self, you’re going to be confident, right. So that’s the key that, to not trip people up. When you are your authentic self, you are going to exude confidence and dynamic energy that are going to make people want to be on board, that are going to make people want to follow.

And so how do we get to that place of authentic power is really diving into our beliefs, really diving into our sense of self-worth, really getting clear as to what success looks like for us, and doing it on our own terms versus what we think we should be doing it like.

So I know I grew up in a time period where, you know, it, my mom’s generation was way more of the pantsuit generation, so to speak, where, but my mom wore dresses all the time, and she worked, she, like, worked those dresses, meaning that she owned them, she was confident in them.

So I guess I was programmed with a mom who was very strong yet knew that she didn’t have to conform to what everybody else was wearing in order to fit in. She didn’t want to fit in. She wanted to stand out.

And so I took the approach to being successful in business of being my authentic self. So I didn’t ever want to conform to a personality I thought I needed to be like. I just wanted to be myself.

So this was a big contradiction when I got into the fashion industry, because the fashion industry is so —and again, this is a generalized statement — but the fashion industry is so far from my personality, where people would act very superficial, very catty, very just not grounded as to where I am and what I believe.

And so first I find myself trying to, maybe I should be more like that, maybe I should act more like that, and I realized every time I did it I’d get further away from accomplishing my goals. And so I just stayed true to me, which was different than most people in the industry, and I believe that that was my advantage. I believe it’s what made me stand out the most.

 

Writing a Book: ‘More Method’

Lavagnino: I think that’s so important, because I’m thinking about pitching businesses, and you pitch 100 VCs, you’ll get 100 different interpretations of what your business should be. And if you don’t have that conviction yourself, while it’s important to take, you know, useful feedback on board, you’re right, it’s a lot of listening to what makes sense to you as an entrepreneur.

And lastly I know that you are working on a book called the More Method, and I was hoping you could give our listeners just a few tips from it that might be able to help them with their businesses, or if they would like to buy it where they might be able to find it.

Groover: Sure. So the More Method is a comprehensive book based on multiple disciplines I’ve used, studied, and integrated into — I should say, studied, used, and integrated — into my teaching human potential.

So my background, as you mentioned earlier, is in the fitness industry. So my degree’s in educol— education and psychology. Wow, I almost just morphed the two words together. That’s a new one.

Um, and then I pursued the fitness industry, so then I continued with nutrition and exercise physiology. And I studied metaphysics a lot. I consider myself a very spiritual person, and then I also became obsessed with quantum physics.

I am most recently also obsessed with neuroscience, and I also studied Buddhism, which most would think would fall under metaphysics, but it kind of is its own practice in and of itself. And so emotional intelligence can fall underneath the Buddhism, spiritual, psychology, spiritual intelligence, and psychology because I pull from all of it.

And so I really took from all of these disciplines of how to be the best version of yourself, because often people will focus on one or two and think that that will develop the best version of themselves.

So in the fitness industry, I witnessed a lot of people working on their physicality but not working on their inner self. So that while, like myself, looked great on the outside, but inside, we’re not doing as well.

So the More Method is bringing all these principles to life. Originally I would just call it emotional Intelligence. But it became a lot more than emotional intelligence, a lot more comprehensive, but it is like emotional intelligence. And the More Method teaches people how to live an integrated, multidimensional life of conscious choices.

And that sounds so high level, but I’ll simplify it. It teaches people that the thoughts that you think are affecting how you feel. The foods that you’re eating are affecting how you’re feeling and then also how you’re thinking. And if you want to be really productive and you want to be on the top of your game, you’re gonna be more conscious about not making better food choices during your workday, so you’re more mentally clear and emotionally well, so that you can perform at a higher level and be more creative and strategic.

Or, you know, our relationships affect our emotional state, and often we’re told when we’re younger, you know, get a good job and work really hard and work even harder and you’ll get ahead in life and you’ll be happy.

Well, a lot of people did that, and they found themselves in their midlife divorced, losing their families, and completely disconnected with all of their relationships because they made work their only priority.

Lavagnino: That’s so true.

Groover: So, it’s teaching all of the “how to live our lives” in an integrative approach, where we’re really fostering all four quadrants. I’ve identified four core quadrants, which is fostering our relationships, our health and well-being, our finances, and our personal evolution.

And if we’re nurturing all those four quadrants on a daily basis, we’re going to find ourselves continuously growing as a whole. If we only foster our work, we’re gonna find the other quadrants depleted. And if we’re only fostering our relationships, we might find our finances depleted.

So teaching people how to approach life in a more holistic way, but also recognizing that most people don’t get more of whatever it is they want out of life or desire, because they believe they’re not worthy or capable of having it, or they’ve also been told that that’s for everybody else but them.

And so the first part of what I teach in the More Method is we have to learn to get clear in what it is that we want more of, and start from the inside out, and instead of saying, well, I want more cars or I want more money in the bank account.

How about more self-love? Or how about more thriving energy? Or how about more fulfilling relationships? So really we’re — more inner peace. So if we start to really — I’m sorry, go ahead.

Lavagnino: I was gonna say absolutely, that makes a lot of sense, that those four quadrants. And I would recommend to anyone who’s interested in learning more, they can, the book is coming out when?

Groover: It’s coming out in January.

 

How to Find Jen Groover

Lavagnino: In January, so it’ll be out in January. And if our listeners want to learn more about you, where can they go?

Groover: I’d say the best place is social media. I’m extremely active on social media. And Facebook. It’s my name: Jen Groover, G R O O V E R. Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, and I post a lot about topics like we discussed today, so I’m always trying to educate.

Lavagnino: It was a pleasure, and I also recommend your TED Talk. I enjoyed that very much. So it’s a great lesson on leadership for anyone who’s interested in that topic. It was a pleasure speaking with you today, Jen.

Groover: Likewise, thank you so much for having me.

Lavagnino: You’ve been listening to SheVentures. Like what you heard? Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel or wherever you get your podcasts. And sign up for our newsletter, so you never miss a show.

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