I first met Jenny at the Black British Business Awards during 2016; it was then that I discovered just what an amazing individual she is. I had the pleasure of speaking to Jenny this year as part of the ‘Spotlight Interview’ series. Like the other ‘Spotlight interviewees‘ in the series she captivated and inspired me with her story.
Where it all began
Jenny grew up in North West London. She lived with her mother, as her parents separated when she was a child and they were still in their teens. Her mother initially worked as a secretary and was eventually able to purchase her own property in Wembley, where herself and Jenny moved to when Jenny seven.
Jenny described her younger self as a ‘good girl’ not being ‘rebellious…I was compliant”. She “cared about not disappointing my mum” and “did OK” at school, enjoying subjects such as English Literature and Art. Her top career choices were fashion design, art or journalism. Jenny began working after she completed her A levels as she needed financial assistance in order to study at higher education. It was at this point Jenny mentioned her exceptional work ethic; she had a paper round when she was younger and at fourteen years old began working in a sweetshop. When she was older she worked in Selfridges on the weekends and H&M when she completed her schooling. She progressed quite quickly within retail and was promoted to higher levels within H & M.
I could tell Jenny was ambitious and driven from a young age and she went on to explain that despite working in a variety of fields such as retail and finance she felt she could “do more”. The jobs were “not really enough for me”. As a result she undertook a part time degree in Business at the University of Westminster where she studied Marketing, Human Resources (HR), Accounting and Law. At this time she was also interested in Art but she recalled a conversation with a prestigious lecturer who explained that if she was going to pursue a career in Art she should dedicate her life to it. This led her to majoring in marketing which allowed her to express herself creatively and develop her business skills.
Jenny explained to me that she had to make a lot of sacrifices to complete her degree which included not being able to socialize with her friends regularly. I could resonate with this having studied medicine and also completely understood what she said next. She said to me that she enjoyed studying as she “loved learning new things”. So, she was armed with all of this knowledge and expertise which then gave her the confidence to approach future employers and ask for opportunities that she would not have had otherwise.
Creating Big Things
Her hard work and sacrifice paid off when she was able to buy her first property at twenty- four years old. She felt a sense of independence and was ecstatic to finally be on the property ladder. Jenny described this to me as a “landmark” moment in her life. We then spoke about love and romance! She explained that when she was younger her best friend’s brother was, she felt, immature. However, years later he had “grown up” and she is now married to that “immature” friend and recently celebrated her eighteenth anniversary! She described her husband as “supportive in my whole journey of evolving.”
Jenny went on to explain that she has a daughter and having a child “fuelled her desire” to work flexibly, especially as she was worried about the chance of her daughter having sickle cell disease when she was born.
It was at this point that Jenny re-evaluated her career. She was working in marketing at Ashridge Business School. After approximately one year in this role a colleague raised the possibility of Jenny coaching others. She decided to try this and embarked on a coaching qualification which she completed in just eight months. This was “transformational” and “made me think about my life.” It was then that she realised “marketing wasn’t her destiny” and she wanted to help others realise “how important they are.”
So, she decided that she wanted to begin a career in coaching and asked her employer if they were willing to employ a full time coach, however this was not a possibility. Jenny then decided that she would reduce her working hours so that she could “trial” a career in coaching. She explained that she set herself a target of freelancing or being self-employed; this was something completely new for her as she was always an employee. “I saw myself working in a business, rather than working on my own.” Nonetheless she “took the leap” and it paid off. This was twelve years ago!
Reaching higher levels
Jenny’s business grew and developed substantially over twelve years and she further developed her knowledge by undertaking a MA in leadership. Around this time she remembers coming across an article entitled ‘The Female Breadwinner’. This was particularly interesting to her as she became the main earner within her household. She thought about her position much more after reading the article and decided that she wanted to conduct more research into it. However, she felt that she could not wait four to seven years to complete a PhD. Therefore she conducted research on her own and did not imagine the amount of information she’d encounter. She decided to compile all of her research into a book: ‘Rocking Your Role‘. Her book has had incredible reviews and has is an Amazon Best Seller! She explained that it was written as a guide to success for female breadwinners. Being a female breadwinner is something that “should be celebrated” she told me and she felt that there are a lot of women who need guidance and support with navigating work and relationships.
Her work has attracted a lot of media attention and she has appeared in various media outlets such as Radio 4 Women’s Hour and Sky News.
Jenny and I also spoke about her social enterprise- “Rocking Ur Teens” . Through this organization she inspires the younger generation to increase their aspirations.
All Images courtesy of Jenny Garrett
As always, I wanted to close the interview by asking Jenny to share a few key tips and advice for others at any stage of their career and life journeys. This is what she told me:
- “It does not matter if you are not the brightest, persevere and focus and you will be successful.”
- “Fitting in is debilitating. You succeed best when you are comfortable in your own skin. Enjoy being different.”
- “Follow your own path.”
- “People are vital, support like-minded people.”
Through interviewing Jenny we can see that learning and developing is continuous and should be embraced. Opportunities to learn should be sought and seized with both hands. However, learning and applying your knowledge is interlinked and Jenny has demonstrated how her love for learning and applying what she has learnt can lead to career success.
Jenny embodies power, success, strength and passion. She is constantly striving to become a better person and to ensure the next generation are adequately supported and equipped to be the best version of themselves!