The first of a new series titled HOMEWARD: a conversation with people in the community who inspire me greatly.
Gretchen has been a long-time inspiration and someone who I worked with a few years ago in her Critical Conversations sessions through her business Weird Specialty. It came at a time in my business where I was at a serious crossroads- feeling kind of lost and unsure of where I wanted my business to go. Through her experience, intuitive gifts, and true passion for small businesses and creatives alike- I left feeling deeply supported and nourished to continue on my road ahead.
I felt called to ask Gretchen to take part in this series as she is a prominent voice for deep change that I align with: economically, environmentally, socially, creatively…and is someone who has her finger truly on the pulse.
With that all said…meet Gretchen!
Name: Gretchen Jones
Preferred Pronouns: she/her
Occupation/Title: Strategic Business Advisor
Homeplace: Brooklyn, NY
Bio: Gretchen is a strategic business advisor, an NLP practitioner, and holds an MBA from the London College of Fashion. She is also a keynote speaker/lecturer and ambassador for sustainability, most notably presenting her work regularly at SxSW. In her previous life, she was an award-winning design [fashion] director and GenArt inductee. Her work/ideas have been featured in – Business of Fashion, WWD, The New York Times, Style.com, Refinery29, Elle, Glamour, etc.
Jones specializes in working with leaders from the Creative/Cultural, Entrepreneurial and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) Sectors. Her clients span the globe and work in a vast swath of industries–such as print & digital media, publishing, cinema/theater, fashion/retail, design, creative conferences/events, fine art, craft, health & wellness and beauty, etc.
The O’Keeffe Country Mug and Forage Bowl in White Sand. With the Elke Blouse and Clementine Pants from Little Tienda.
Are there any rituals you cultivate in your home? If so, what? Honestly, I am not really a ritual person, I WANT to be… but I just don’t have any. I would love some help in creating some rituals that are pragmatic and have one foot in the ephemeral and one on solid [earthly] ground.
What has been your favorite uses for these pieces? We were in a major need of some nesting in terms of our kitchen/tabletop area of the home. I’ve moved so much over my adult life, often living in small spaces with tiny kitchens, it’s just never been a priority to settle into a ‘feel’ in the kitchen space… always being more utilitarian. But I’m older now and longing to settle in (not down!?) to the life I am living and investing in wares that elevate and enrich our nourishment experience feels really good. Having some pieces made by Amelia feels like a physical expression of prioritizing intentionality in the kitchen and dining room. When we can gather together again I now have meaningful, intentional pieces to pull and that truly means so much.
The Serving Bowl, Forage Bowl, and Board in White Sand. Tea towel from Jenny Pennywood.
What does the word “vessel” symbolize/mean to you? Oddly enough, I think of people when I think of the word vessel. I believe we are vessels – We are vessels for ideas, for change, for creation. I suppose the symbolism there is that vessels are to be of service, not hold onto.
When speaking about a holistically sustainable future, what do you feel is a step we all need to be taking to truly get there? My thing is all efforts must be rooted in prioritizing more equitable and just initiatives that are rooted in regenerative models for holistically sustainable futures for all people and our planet. ‘Sacred relationship’ embraces an altruistic stewardship for [all] life in which we remove commodity ethics and reconnect with life beyond extraction and acquisition.
What books, albums, places, people, or artists have shaped your personal bibliography? Latest read: Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants, by Robin Wall Kimmerer, but I also really adore Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstien, Natural Capitalism by P. Hawken, A. Lovins & L.H. Lovins. I adore the words of Rebecca Solnit as well. Karen Dalton’s ‘Something on your Mind’ is my favorite song ever. I grew up in Colorado and spent a decade of my adulthood in Oregon… now I live in NYC, but long to settle down upstate. I’m city/country mouse. The teachers who have crossed my path are who I owe my life’s work and many ways worth to. Deep thinkers are my favorite people.
What is something that has been challenging to you recently, either personally or in your work? The most challenging thing recently is maintaining some semblance of balance for myself mentally while I show up for my clients through crisis. It’s heavy to dedicate myself professionally to supporting the leaders driving change during easier days, right now, the emotional weight is real!
What led you towards doing the work you do today in business advising? In a previous life, I was an award-winning design [fashion] director and GenArt inductee. Though I on paper appeared to be quite successful, its was a career path and lifestyle that was more of a struggle of survival than one in flow with ease. I’m honored to have had the talent to play the game, but the game itself didn’t suit me, it was out of alignment with my values (more, cheap, fast) and removed me from the space to philosophise and connect with like minds. When I finally woke up to how misaligned I was and how out of balance my day to day was. I walked away… I realized my words/ideas and leadership skills were meant to be of service to my creative community in a different way and I went back to school, got my MBA and started my practice. I adore my work, my clients, the lifestyle it affords me… it just clicked in flowed. That made me know I had found my way forward and the work is meaningful and rich and Oh.So.Important.
How does where you live inform and influence your work/well-being? In terms of my work, my practice has shifted into crisis support mode, supporting my clients as their organizations or entire industries not only have utterly stopped, but are on a structural level are shifting or imploding. Showing up as an informed, empathetic and deeply supportive advisor across industries and scales of business is asking me to amplify my R&D efforts so that I remain abreast of the news, the economic impacts, the changing landscapes in a manner that can be trusted and leaned upon. It’s hard work and scary sometimes to be honest. But I am here for it and take my responsibility to my clients and my creative community very seriously.And, I am deeply lucky to work with a national/international clientele, so the virtual nature of my work is unchanged, but the energetic impact entering each session is off the charts I must admit.
In what ways do you see the need for growth within your collective field? What obstacles do you see continue to arise when working with clients in the creative industries? Business Advisors & Coaches typically coach those who are already high performers and high earners. I believe it vital more effort is made to be of service to especially the POC & LGBTQQIA+ communities, as entrepreneurialism at large, just as organizational leadership is centered around the leveling up of CIS heteronormative white people, especially men. I personally dedicate a number of client spots for sliding scale so I can be of service to a broader range of clients, however I am aware that my my approach to outreach is not as proactive as it could be.
What is something you have been wanting to learn how to do? Knit! I just don’t prioritize learning this skill and really would adore integrating it as a hobby
Tell us about a mentor you had in your life. What did they instill in you to pass along? I actually would love to find a formal mentor for myself professionally speaking. Beyond that, my mother (by way of Oprah and Maya Angelou’s conversations in the 90’s) always says to me “what you settle for is all you will get” + “when people show you who they really are, believe them” and my late stepfather would say in his thick Texas drawl “Baby, you aint broke, you’re just bent” whenever I was struggling with my path.
Learn more about Gretchen’s work
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Learn more about the HOMEWARD series