Jane Kenyon is a dynamic, serial and social entrepreneur involved in several businesses and working as a coach and speaker internationally. She is recognised by her peers as an inspiring individual who has the ability and talent to expect nothing less than outstanding and although she has experienced hardships in both her personal and business life, she never quits.
In 2011 she won a SheNetwork award for her social enterprise Girls Out Loud and in 2012 was nominated for a National Diversity Award as the top female role model, only 1 of 3 finalists from over 5000 applications. The winner will be announced on 21 September 2012 – so watch this space!
Jane’s journey, in her own words, 2000 to be precise! – here goes……….
I am in my forties. I was brought up in a wealthy, middle class family. My father was a very successful entrepreneur, a millionaire by the age of forty. My mother had two roles in life – to oversee the kids (I am one of three, but we also had a nanny) and to look good on my father’s arm – she excelled at both I reckon, but when I was growing up my mother was most definitely NOT my role model. I adored my father and spent every waking hour with him. I was undoubtedly his favourite child and inherited a lot of his entrepreneurial spirit and gumption! So, I wanted to grow up and be just like him, unfortunately, I discovered when I hit puberty, that he wanted me to grow up and be just like my Mum! So there was the inkling of conflict that has never been resolved in my family – I was never expected, nor encouraged to pursue a career, let alone become a serial entrepreneur like my father.
From around the age of 12 my mother and I were in constant battle, she seemed to hate everything I did and everything I said and was not shy at showing her utter displeasure at having me around.
I was educated in the private sector, including several years at boarding school but when I was 15 my father had, what can best be described as a political meltdown and decided to take me out of the private sector and enrol me in the local state comprehensive! Oh boy! To say this was a culture shock was an understatement! Picture the scene, here I am 15 and desperate to be invisible – I arrive at this decidedly scary school with kids I have nothing in common with. My father drives his brand new Bentley straight into the school courtyard so I have to get out, in full view of around 350 gawping, provoked teenagers! So the mould was set – I was the little rich girl, ripe for bullying, beating and ridicule and that was just from the teachers! For 4 weeks I arrived home having been egged, beaten, my clothes ripped, my kit stolen etc until I decided a survival plan was needed. That plan included some shifts in my identity that changed my life forever.
I dumbed down and transformed myself from an academically bright, engaged kid to a key player in the ‘in crowd’ where turning up to class was considered betrayal and attitude and peer group was all that mattered. This resulted in me failing everything – I left school with nothing but some key lessons in survival, popularity and a seriously hard boyfriend!
Clearly this did not go down well at home, my Mother was loving the effects of my transformation as this created conflict with my father and gave her some leverage to be more abusive towards me, in fact at around this time her emotional abuse turned physical.
My father recognised he had made a mistake sending me to this school, he conceded that the ‘new me’ was going to have problems attracting the right husband and as this was his key ambition for me he enrolled me in a finishing school in France. My refusal to go created serious cracks in the family unit and within 12 months my father had packed all my belongings and deposited me at a run down B&B with the immortal parting words ‘Jane, our relationship has become untenable, I can no longer live with you and your mother under the same roof, so one of you had to go and I am afraid you lost! I have paid for you to stay in this guest house for 6 weeks, then you are on your own. None of us want to hear from, or see you again. Do not try to contact us, as far as I am concerned I do not have a middle child, you are out of my will and if I walk past you on the street I will not acknowledge you. Good luck.’ I did not see him, nor any member of my family for the next 12 years.
I was 17, scared, alone and broke! The over-riding emotion driving me at this time in my life was anger and I did what most people do with anger – I channelled it, as I was not ready to deal with it, in fact I did not deal with it for another 10 years. I simply embarked on a relentless race to prove I was capable of looking after myself. I spent the next 10 years – climbing, studying and working. Climbing, studying and working and by the age of 28 I hit the jackpot – I had a Director level position in a huge multi-national training company, I had a degree, 2 post graduate diplomas and an MBA. I had arrived, or so I thought….
But here’s the thing…… Once I stopped achieving and striving for the next position, the cracks started to appear. I was unhappy, I was emotionally exhausted and my life simply was not working. At this time I was also in a long term relationship with a great guy who I honestly believed was my life partner. We had been living together for 8 years and he had been my emotional rock throughout my tough transition. He had recently left the corporate world to go it alone. I thought he was doing well but at the time I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown I found out he had been stealing from me for the past 4 years in an attempt to cover his continuous losses!
So now I find myself in a job I hate, with serious debts I did not even know I had and a relationship on the rocks! Time to look in the mirror! At this time in my life I discovered the world of personal development and in doing so I found me!
Within 12 months I had totally reinvented myself – I left the man, I resigned from the job and set up my first business and I moved 30 miles to another city where no-one knew me and I started again.
This is where my entrepreneurial journey begins. My first business was a marketing company. I did what most women do when they leave the corporate world – I set up a business doing what I was good at, what I knew. My professional background is marketing and brand development so this felt very natural. Was it my passion? Hell, no this took me another 10 years to find but I knew how to do it and make money at it so it was acceptable and very necessary at the time.
In the past 19 years I have been involved in 10 businesses. Some I have loved with a passion and have made me wealthy, some I should never have touched with a barge pole and took me to near personal bankruptcy! But when you have had and lost money, it no longer has any power over you. I subscribe to the philosophy that true wealth is what’s left when the money has gone and this is how I live my life.
8 years ago I divested a lot of my business interests to work more in the area of personal transformation – coaching, speaking and writing and added a range of coaching and NLP qualifications to my CV but in 2007 I got the entrepreneurial bug again and set up The Well Heeled Divas – an organisation dedicated to inspiring and empowering women to step up and shine and uncover their inner star. We run motivational events, workshops, peer groups and coaching programmes and 2 years into this business I had a serious aha moment… I recognised that the amazing women I was inspiring within the Divas were in fact, the women to inspire the next generation, in other words I was creating role models and I now needed to find a way of connecting these women to teenage girls who I genuinely believe need better role models than glamour models, WAGs, teen mums or reality TV stars.
Hence my next passion emerged. In 2009 I set up a social enterprise called Girls Out Loud on a mission to raise the aspirations of teenage girls in the UK. We create and facilitate early intervention programmes in schools and communities from one day to 12 months and one of our key programmes is a 12 month mentoring programme called BIG SISTER where we match a teenage girl with a real role model for 12 months. It is with this programme The Well Heeled Divas and Girls Out Loud merge and my passion for female empowerment blossoms!
In 2009 I was also asked to join another 3 women to set up a charitable fund to support vulnerable women in the Greater Manchester area called The Birdhouse Fund. This charity harnesses the fund raising potential of successful women to help women who have fallen on hard times. It is very satisfying work and I lead our flagship event VDay every year on International Women’s Day when we hook up with Eve Ensler’s global charity to stop violence against women and young girls and we invite 12 local women to perform the world renowned play The Vagina Monologues. It is an amazing night and connects women from all walks of life.
I am fortunate to be in a position to pass on my lessons, learnings and knowledge to make a difference in the world. I spend my days speaking, writing, coaching and developing products and the support infrastructure for women and girls that would have made a significant difference to me in my critical moments.
Oh and just to clear up a few questions you are likely to be pondering at this point. I met the man of my dreams 12 years ago and we married in 2008 and despite holding out many olive branches the relationship with my parents has never recovered, however, I have forgiven and this gives me clarity and peace. I also have positive involvement with both my siblings and their families.
I look forward to sharing my experiences, views, lessons and insights on female empowerment, entrepreneurship, leadership, wealth contribution and personal development over the coming months in the3rdi. And feel free to drop me a line with any comments or questions, I might not always have the answers but we will have fun exploring the options!
Find out more about my work
or follow my personal blog at http://janekenyon.wordpress.com/