Interview with Jill Angelo, founder of genneve
Read how former Microsoft executive Jill Angelo has turned her passion for women’s health into genneve – a groundbreaking brand that takes the taboo out of the menopause.
What’s your career background?
I’ve had 20 years of marketing and executive management in the technology industry. I started as a 20-year-old intern at a software company in Fargo, ND, USA, and seven years later we were acquired by mighty Microsoft.
I packed my bags and moved to Seattle and never looked back. It was one of the most incredible experiences, because I got to experience such a vast range of people, problems and geographies.
Because Microsoft is such a large company, I had varied roles in Emerging Market Product Marketing, where I got to incubate new technologies that would do good for the communities we worked with (social good), while being sustainable for the company.
I was everything from Chief of Staff for two CMOs of the company and running very large marketing organisations, to leader of a global media team with a multi-million-dollar budget. I saw all types of economies, peoples, and their needs for technology.
What was missing? A connection to my personal passion and that’s women and girls development, specifically in the areas of health and confidence-building.
How did your career change after having children?
I am a step-mum to three grown children, two of which have children of their own. The third is married to his partner. There is a 20-year age difference between my husband and myself, so we truly are a modern family. But I love it!
Suffice to say, my career didn’t change much with the addition of step-children and grandchildren…but my fulfillment in life changed a lot! I love my kids and little ones, and while I’m more like a friend to some, and like a mum or grandmum to others, I savor every relationship as if it were a bloodline.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
I was taking a three-month sabbatical from Microsoft, and a former manager from MSFT called and asked what I was up to. She is an investor and was keenly aware of my passion for women’s health. She had recently met a woman who helped build the Neutrogena business and was looking for someone to take over a small business she created focused on women’s hormonal health.
One conversation led to another, and the former manager (from MSFT) and I decided to acquire the woman’s business and start genneve. It was a huge leap, but I knew there was something more I should be doing with my skills and time, and this was something I couldn’t walk away from.
Besides, being early in my 40s, I was starting to experience some of the changes in my body that the new company would address. Suddenly I noticed that friends were talking about menopause (of all things) and that their bodies were doing funky things they didn’t know how to respond to.
We scoured the internet for answers. It was hard to find them, and when we did, we often couldn’t follow the recommendations because they were either too clinical or downright noy written for our voice, age-group and culture.
There had to be a better way to address the silent-suffering that goes on with women and their hormonal health. It’s still so taboo, so no wonder there aren’t many resources available to women.
As a result, I put in my notice at my safe, secure job (with an income), and set out for the wild west of women’s hormonal health.
How did you move from idea to actual business?
Mich (my former manager at Microsoft) and I sat down and put together a bunch of survey questions. With the help of a research friend, we surveyed 1500 women about their health in their 30s, 40s, 50s, seeking information on the consumer products they used and the information they read.
We learned a lot! And the greatest surprise was that women wanted someone to start the conversation. To take away the taboos of women’s midlife health and help them face it straightaway. We’re not our mother’s 40 or 50, and our company needed to be the driver of that conversation.
We quickly got to building a brand – genneve – that represents confident, empowered, beautiful women. It had to be something that women weren’t ashamed to have in the cupboard, shower or on the nightstand. It had to speak to the women we were serving.
Our vision is to be the brand for women heading into menopause.
What’s your USP?
genneve’s mission is to help women feel fabulous in their bodies. We’re starting a conversation for today’s modern woman that doesn’t openly exist – and that’s about her health in midlife.
We are pioneering a connection between medical experts and women with women to foster the same type of education, empowerment and celebration of women’s health heading into menopause – similar to how we have the same for girls who have had their period for the first time, and for new mothers.
Its not easy to turn the tide of taboos associated with aging women’s bodies, but we’re picking away at it with every woman we reach, every story we tell, and every medical professional that shares with the women en-masse on our platform at the g-spot.
Who’s your target audience?
Women in their 40s and 50s, but we easily spill into women in their 30s experiencing perimenopause symptoms (and even new mothers whose bodies mimic the same) and to women in their 60s who are late bloomers.
How do you spread the word about what you do?
We actively blog and connect with influencers – mainly in women’s empowerment, health and medical practices. Our platform – the g-spot – is a place where it all comes together.
Our ambition is that the the g-spot becomes a community forum, as well as a place for “translation” of medical knowledge for women everywhere.
What’s been your most successful marketing strategy?
I’ve learned that being the leader of the company requires me to put myself out there, and when I have, the PR has come with it.
I am my target audience – 43, starting the peri-menopause journey, and in the most vibrant years of my life. Women want to see themselves in the brands they align with, and the more I share and make myself assessable to the masses I serve, the stronger the pick-up both in PR and in social media.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
Being open and so public about my personal stage in life. Taking on the taboos starts with sharing your own story. I asked my husband for his okay, as it certainly brings him into the spotlight as well, and he was 101% behind me every step of the way.
And your proudest moment so far?
Honestly, it’s in the daily emails I receive from the women we help. Some are cryptically written and I can see that English is not their first language, and others are flowing with emotion and gratitude, and others offer feedback that makes us better. Its why I started genneve and it’s what keeps me going.
I have had a few PR hits too, like being named to Inc’s Most Impressive Female CEOs of 2016 and that’s always confirming that we’re making a difference.
Why is work so important to you?
Work is how I give back. It’s where my mind is stretched to bring the learning to others.
There’s a lot of fulfillment in life in serving others. My dad always said, “Find a way to serve others and you’ll have a life of fulfillment”, and it’s the absolute truth.
When your work in meaningful and it can sustain life financially, it’s just magic.
Who inspires you?
I’m a big fan of Michelle Obama. Talk about someone who took on a job that meant she sacrificed a lot of herself, her privacy and her freedoms. And in the face of so much negativity, she stands so strong. Her example will make us better people – no matter what country you live in.
Beyond Michelle, my husband is just the best! He is love, and I turn to him in the moments that I’m feeling bad about myself or at a loss of what to do next in the business, or in life. I couldn’t have found a stronger, more supportive, smart partner than him.
How do you balance your business with your family?
You’ve got to find time for all of them and then be present. No multi-tasking. If I’m with my grandkids, I’m down in the basement playing hide and seek and being wild and crazy with them… without my phone in my pocket.
And when I’m working, I’m focused, working on a well-thought out schedule, and managing the un-planned things as they come.
I also make time for me. Over the past six months, I joined a mindfulness group, and wow, did I learn a lot about taking care of myself. The negative self-talk and running at the top of speed uncontrollably has come to a stop (or nearly…working on it), and I’m learning to listen to my heart and mind.
If I am restless, I go for a run. If I am hungry, I eat (even if I had an indulgent latte just minutes ago), and if I’m not focused and struggling, I step away. Treating myself like I would a best friend has been a mantra that I’ve learned to live by. It still takes a reminder every now and then, but it’s an incredible mindset if you can get there.
What are your three top pieces of advice for someone wanting to do something similar?
1) Surround yourself with truth-tellers
These are the people who care about you enough to tell you the truth – good and bad. You will find that you trust them in ways beyond any good-meaning friend who only wants you to feel great (because you need those too).
2) Remember who you are
This is something my dad would say to me when I left the house, even as a child. It took quite a few years to fully understand what he meant by it, but it hit me in my 20s when I was hanging around a crowd that just wasn’t me. I didn’t feel awesome, I didn’t feel like myself, and I wanted to run.
That’s when I came to know my truth, and my authentic me. Now, when I’m not at ease in a group or people, an event or even in a path I’ve taken, I remember “who I am” and get back on track.
3) Use your network
I cannot believe how fabulously helpful my network of advisors, peers and friends have been in helping me forge this new journey with genneve. They’ve made time, given advice and opened doors like I never imagine. And all it takes is me asking.
It took a while for me to be comfortable with asking for help, but wow, when you start down that path and truly reach out to your network, it’s incredibly resourceful.
This means that you need a network to begin with, so be willing to ask for meetings, or to meet someone. And when others reach out to you to do the same, make the time and pay it forward.
You can find out more about genneve on their website.