After years of extensive experience in various fields of media marketing, branding and digital strategy from the publishing world to corporate, Jenna Bond-Louden realized that something was missing. Actually, it was people who were missing each other.
“I am passionate fostering ideas and building networks of people who want to steer society. I constantly dream about what it takes to build a society of leaders, and everything I do centers around that,” she said. “Harlem is my laboratory where I can play with organizing wealth, talent, skills, to offset disparity. Whether I am mentoring teens or dining with my neighbors, I am thinking about ways we can make our society one where we all win.”
Bond-Louden founded Lady Bird + Co. to as a way to see her passion come to fruition. Here, she tells Hello Beautiful all about her journey to becoming what we like to refer to as a “social broker.”
Talk about the inspiration behind your company and explain its services and mission.
Lady Bird + Co. is a project that allows creativity to guide business strategy for culturally driven organizations. Our team delivers analysis and research to on-the-go, trend sensitive business leaders. With expertise in communications, partnerships, funding and marketing, we collaborate with those who shape society — from sports professionals and celebrities, to authors and artists.
How did you get into event planning/marketing and branding, what was that pivotal moment when you realized you could do this?
When I started hosting salons in Harlem, someone I had formerly worked with in the magazine industry introduced me to the idea that the things I did were signature to a brand, and made the Lady Bird + Co logo. Then we talked about my vision, which was to create spaces where people remember to celebrate their own talent and honor their power to lift the world. The short answer is that I had a very busy job, but I always felt compelled to plan gatherings in my free time that were about solving challenges or organizing talent. Everything has grown from this obsession, and I am still figuring it out.
What has your career journey been like from when you first began to now?
When I was hosting salons in Harlem, it was about connecting icons with my peers in finance, media, and the public sector to help us better organize our ability as leaders. Then when I started book parties, it was about engaging niche audiences in intentionally supporting projects that they loved. It was about pursuing the question of why publishers thought every book was meant to be introduced in a bookstore, after fashion oriented people are not likely to go to Barnes & Noble to find a book they like. They just go to stores. Lady Bird + Co became about building a model for selling books that excite niche audiences.
What’s the most stressful thing about your career and how do you overcome it?
It is worrisome to pursue a non-traditional path and to be an entrepreneur, given that I had done so many things to pursue a proven path. I trust in my vision, but I also have high regard for working for masterful individuals and companies. Some of this is resolved in choosing clients who I know I will make the effort to learn from. It is also resolved by dedicating time each week to comparing notes and supporting peer entrepreneurs, as well as reading and attending events that keep me as sharp as I am when I am when working on a team.
What advice do you have for women interested in pursuing a similar career path?
Have a unique vision, define the elements of that vision and identify the people who have mastered the elements of your vision, and really, really study them. I need more women masters to study from, as more of my heroes are men, so I would encourage more women to endure the thanklessness of their work to fight for mastery. Media is the love of my life. My heroes are Lucille Ball, Jim Henson, Earl Graves, Sr., Clay Felker, Diana Vreeland, Keith Clinkscales. I know that list is short of African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos, women…I want that diversity, and I seek friends to be the peer heroes to balance that vision out. Most of my mentors are of color, people like Charles Ogletree, Susan L. Taylor and Reginald Van Lee, because of their mix of personal and societal values. These are the people who I think about when I evaluate my progress each week. I respect and honor them, but my career path is not similar to theirs, rather I share their overall career mission statement. I am looking for friends who are women to be my media heroes, which is to say that they are my muses, people’s whose biographies and whose work I study. I am looking for more women in business to be societal game changers, and not just amazing executives. Then again, I would put my clients in this category.
Why do you love what you do and why is it important for you to pursue those interests?
What I do is not really about event planning, it is about building the bee hive, the town hall, for the ideas that I really believe in and can identify a sizable audience for. Other people are probably way better at event planning, and I am not that interested in planning in itself. I am interested in the strategy of introducing and delivering an idea. Very often events are the first environment for fostering adoption for a product or a concept. I also help with social media strategy, but at the end of the day everything that is truly social is based on real relationships. I think the best way to create real relationships are with events that are built like labs where people have to do more than show up; they have to interact, they have to consider. I love to gather people to optimize marketplaces that most people are not considering.
Talk about some of your favorite career highlights thus far.
When I was 22, I launched the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund, working with some luminaries from former presidents to Secretary Alexis Herman. I am very lucky to have started my career by being surrounded with masters of various industries. To this day, I seek out a way to serve the people I want to learn from. I do not know if I have had a certain feeling about the accomplishments in my career, by I try to balance pursuing my own path with demonstrating value for the sacrifices my family has made to offer me the opportunities that have come my way. Currently, I launched two projects that are dear to my heart to a very warm response, and it is exciting to see people buy into an idea I conceived. Lady Bird + Co is about celebrating the work of others, and the things that I have on tap are the first efforts I have to celebrate my own ideas!
What’s next for you (over the course of the year and the next few years to come)?
When I was nine-years-old, I published my first magazine. Next, I will publish my second one, a quarterly print publication that serves the same goal as a conference, which is to gather leaders in thought around impact and possibility in the world. It would be a bit like Monocle, but more culturally diverse. The staff and the inaugural issue are already worked out in my head; all I have to do is do so. I hope to set that in motion in the next two years.