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Seeds of Success; or How a Dishwasher Led to the Butler Bag

When an idea begins to take root in your mind, an idea that could really go somewhere, there is a certain rush of euphoria – which comes with the knowledge that you are on the cusp of something brilliant. Entrepreneur, author and business visionary, Jen Groover says it’s a sensation that every entrepreneur becomes addicted to quickly.

And she would know. That sensation has been a part of her life ever since the first step aerobics class she took during a winter break in college, where she spent an hour dancing and barely noticed she was working out. Once she realized that a workout class which felt more like a dance party was something that a lot of other college kids would take an interest in, the euphoria hit.

It was the nineties, after all. Boom-box dance parties were in. The fitness industry was just about to take off, but hadn’t quite become the popular trend that it is today. The potential was there, though, and Groover harnessed it, going back to her university with the plan of creating a group fitness program on campus. Nearly a hundred kids turned up for the program.

Her ideas have been raking in money pretty steadily ever since. Jen Groover has recently been tagged by Success Magazine as a “One Woman Brand”, in recognition of the success story which started with her innovative creation of the Butler Bag – the world’s very first compartmentalized handbag – and kept soaring from there.  She developed the Butler Bag into a full-on company just over two years ago, marketing it to various retailers all over the US.

She has since launched even more lifestyle brands: Leader Girlz and Empowered by Jen Groover, both of which are motivational coaching guides teaching people to embrace life, empower themselves and seek success the way she did. She has been aligned with such internationally-known brands as AvonVerizon, and SkyMall. She has appeared as a keynote speaker at universities, for corporations, for organizations such as Career Wardrobe and the CNN Hero award-winning non-profit “Back on My Feet” (on which she is also a board member).

And between her regular stints as a contributing business expert on programs like Fox News’ “Strategy Room” and CBS’ “Early Show”, and hosting the recently created Launchers’ Cafe – an interactive, multimedia brand which connects tens-of-thousands of business owners and allows them to share information and grow their businesses – it’s hard not to notice that she’s a jack of all trades. Not just in talent, but in the focus areas of that talent. From fitness and health, to motivational life coaching, to business, and fashion … these themes have been the building blocks of her entrepreneurial journey, but they’re all quite different. What’s the common denominator?

It’s all in the ideas that come to you on any given day

The notion of starting a group fitness program came to Groover while she was dancing in a random aerobics class and led to her expansion into the fitness industry with a thriving gym which became competitive and known on a national level.

When at 26 her own body began to shut down due to oxidative stress, she came to fully appreciate the importance of health, wellness, and passion for life. But it was more the sheer pleasure that came to her when helping people and the idea that there were real lessons in her experience for others which had her turning to motivational life coaching as a career. Once again, this was before life-coaching had really become a thing, let alone a career path. Groover would counsel several of her fitness clients, inspiring them to find their passion and make a living out of it, and helping them turn ideas they had into successful – even on a multi-million dollar level of successful – businesses.

The Butler Bag was born out of a moment of pure frustration at the cash register of a grocery store, a moment which all of us has experienced some variation of at least once. Groover had been juggling her young twin daughters and a frantic search for the credit card she’d lost inside of her single-compartment sea of a handbag, and finally she dumped the contents of the bag out onto the counter to retrieve the card. Even then, the idea of a better handbag remained a frustrated wish at best, until months later when she was loading the dishwasher. On a whim, she took the utensil rack from the dishwasher, shoved it into her handbag, and began thinking: “If I were to design a handbag, this would be my prototype. This is what I’d want the bag to look like.”

She didn’t know how to draw. She didn’t know how to design anything, and she was a fitness trainer, not a fashion guru. What she did have was a mantra her mother had left her with years ago – that you’re not allowed to complain about something unless you plan to do something else to fix the problem. So she asked for help from everyone she could, anyone who would know how to design a bag, how to market and publicize it, and so on. Her goal for the Butler Bag company was for it to be a million dollar company by the end of the first year, and she made it happen through a lot of media attention and awareness.

“Failure is a thing which holds most people back from achieving their goals and dreams,” Groover has said. “When children are taught that failure is not an option, it teaches them not to do anything that they think they might fail at.”

Most people have ideas. Groover would even say most people have ideas which could potentially become multi-million dollar businesses. But most people tend to talk themselves out of going anywhere with those ideas, feeling that failure is inevitable if they take such an insane risk.

Groover had never imagined herself as anything other than an entrepreneur, so the risk was less scary to her. But even she stuck to her comfort zone, doing things she was naturally going to be good at, until the creation of the Butler Bag.

The one message she would pass on to everyone in the world if she could is a mantra she came up with for herself. “I have more fear of regret than I have of failure,” she says. “Don’t be afraid. Make your ideas happen.”

Amy Kisaka

Amy Kisaka, a graduate from the University of Toronto, is a writer for Goddess Connections’ publication Women Who Run It. She has an intense love for literature, creative writing, social media, and graphic design, and can generally be found writing about anything and everything that grabs her interest in the world around her: politics, lifestyle, film, fashion, and international culture.

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