Women Branching Out: Jennifer Peek

Today I’m thrilled to feature a Q & A interview with business coach, world traveler, and fellow Missourian Jennifer Peek. Her blog features tons of excellent business resources served up each week in the Groovy Grab Bag.

Jennifer combines 20+ years of corporate experience with a passion for serving creative solopreneurs to help her clients create businesses that support their life goals. She’s consciously structured her own businesses to support her family’s love of travel and adventure.

Here’s Jennifer…

Q: Tell us about your coaching business, Find Your New Groove. Who do you love to help, and why?

I love working with creative businesses, usually solo business owners, to help them get a structured business foundation in place so they can more easily bring their creative juices to the world.

The biggest thing I’ve seen hang up the more right-brained geniuses is that they have so much going on that they can’t focus on what needs to be done to build their business. As a result, most of them are not making enough money, and they are burning out.

They may try taking courses to fill in the gaps but that is a struggle itself because their minds just don’t work like that.

They need just a little direction, a simple plan that fits their thinking style and a dash of strategic pixie dust to take off like a rocket.

Q: What was the biggest challenge(s) you faced when making the transition from more than 20 years working in corporate American to the entrepreneurial world?

Not having a staff – LOL! Seriously, I had a team of 12-15 people that worked for me. That allowed me to do several things: focus my strengths on what I did really well and have them do the same. It is amazing how much difference this makes.

As an entrepreneur, you have to make the decisions about who does what, what gets done first and what is costs in time and money nearly every day in different contexts than in the corporate world. It’s not better or worse – it was just an adjustment.

The second big thing is relationships. I worked for a Fortune 50 company with about 40,000 employees. That means that nearly all of my professional relationships were inside the company. I didn’t have an extensive professional network when I left, so I’ve had to build that up. Fortunately, it hasn’t been difficult, but it still takes time.

Q: Along with Find Your New Groove, you are also a partner in a commercial real estate company, with your husband. What are your favorite aspects of running your own businesses?

Getting to make the rules! The biggest one really is related to that. My husband’s job is very demanding, and he travels frequently, in the US and globally, for that. Even as a senior manager in the corporate world, I was the go-to parent for the kids’ sports, school activities, etc. I still am, so having the flexibility to manage the family aspect is really important. We had consciously planned for me to make this move back when the kids were still in diapers (they are 9 and 12 now).

A close second place is the variety of what I get to do every day, every week, every month. I am multi-passionate and cannot have just one thing going at a time. It’s why I had the role I did in corporate and why I do what I do now. Of course, there can be a curse to having too many ideas too!

Q:In your coaching practice, you emphasize the importance of creating businesses that work for us. How can women who are just starting to build a business keeping focus on their bigger life/family goals, when there’s so much work to do?

It’s going to sound like a broken record, but you just have to decide what is important to you and build on that.

For example, leading weekend retreats or seminars might be one of the big things that you want to have in your business – whether because you love it or because that’s where the money is for you right now. AND you have two little kids at home. That will tear some people apart – and they will feel like they have to choose. Seminar or kids. Kids or seminar. Either way, there will be this piece of them that suffers.

Unless they make a different choice. There are lots of possibilities on how to make that work if you look at it from the “how do I make this work” view instead of the “either/or” view. Those options might depend on the kids’ ages, but let’s say they are 3 and 5. You could…

    • Incorporate them into the seminar in places. Everyone loves to get a peek at people’s private lives, and kids are usually fun. If your seminar is uber-serious, this may not work, but even then, you need a humor break or some light-hearted portions.

    • Hire a nanny, bring a spouse, friend or family member to watch the kids. Make it exciting for them – not “it sucks that Mom has to work.” You’d be surprised how affordable it can be – and the kids get a weekend vacation in the process. How awesome for them to get a new experience AND to get to see their mom doing what she loves.

    • Leave the kids at home with a nanny, spouse, friend, etc. Again, it can be affordable and they can still have fun while being in surroundings they know.

    • Create a kid-friendly watch area as part of the seminar. Who knows how many people attending have the same issue – or are even not coming because of that? My gym has a child watch area with games and staff. I can guarantee you that more people join and come because of that…it is full of kids for all of the hours that it is open.

Those are just some quick examples and a little corner of what I help the business owners I work with uncover. I am a master at seeing lots of possibilities that will work and helping my clients find the ones that fit them best.

Q: You’re making your businesses work with your family’s love of travel. What’s your secret?

There are three big things: technology, flexibility and the drive to make it happen.

Here’s the big thing: you have to set up your business from the outset with the end in mind.

You have to be willing to take the leap of knowing what you want to create instead of just taking the first path that appears in front of you.

For me, that means that I have created my business to largely be virtual and to have a one-day intensive that works best in that environment. I do have local clients that I meet with in person, but it is still in the one-day intensive model.

I see way too many people think small and short-term then get stuck in a business that they don’t really like. They went into it thinking they would change it once it made money, got big enough, whatever.

Now they don’t know how to change it without losing what they’ve built even though it’s not what they really want. To use a construction adage, it is easier to build a new house than to completely remodel an old one, so do it your way the first time.

From the flexibility side, it means that there are some way early hours and some way late hours. That’s OK with me because I am consciously choosing that trade-off. Sometimes, it is having the kids go get ice cream in the hotel lobby so I can do a quick video. Sometimes, it is getting things done in advance or scheduling them in such a way that it works with the travel, the internet access and the time zone differences (those were big ones for our Australia trip at the end of 2011). The combination of my Midwest work ethic and my love of what I do in my business help, too.

Q: What’s the next travel adventure for you?

It’s going to be hard to top the 3-week holiday to Australia in December and January. We also just got back from our annual ski trip to Copper Mountain. We are doing a week-long RV trip up to Niagara Falls at the end of May, and then a two-week RV trip to Florida over Christmas 2012. We have a couple of other ones throughout the year, but those two are the longest.

Q: On your blog you do such a great job of sharing books and online resources for women entrepreneurs. What books do you recommend women entrepreneurs keep on their shelves?

Wow. It’s going to hard to narrow that down. First and foremost, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I first read this twenty years ago, and I still re-read it today. It has had the biggest impact on all areas of my life, hands down.

Second, The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. He may irritate you or you may find him a little arrogant. I find him entertaining, but most of all I like that he makes you really think about what you want and how to start considering the possibilities instead of the impossibilities – whether you aim to work 4 hours a week or not.

Third, Crush It! by Gary Vaynerchuk. It is about finding your passion, picking a medium that works for you and working your butt off to make it happen.

Beyond that, just about anything by Seth Godin or Richard Branson. Finally, favorite fiction authors: I am partial to cozy mysteries. You have to have something light-hearted to get out of your own head at times.

Q: What did 8 year old Jennifer say she wanted to be when she grew up?

Hmmm…probably a scientist. I love problem-solving and figuring out how things work. I just don’t have the patience for the length of those experiments and scientific studies. Plus, I am so intrigued by business in general that I couldn’t just sit in a lab while the deals were being made outside of it. Fortunately, I didn’t really know all of that when I was 8 so I could dream about finding a new star or making some other great discovery.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you and your biz?

Here is me and what I do in my business in a nutshell…

Through my 20+ years in the corporate world, I learned lots of things about myself – namely, that I am not the pocket-protector and green eye shade kind of business person. I am structured and creative. I am facts and figures along with endless possibilities. I am a CPA and MBA that loves colored mind-maps and bubble charts. I am able to take the most complex business issue and make it sound like your mom’s favorite cake recipe – with icing. I am creative ingenuity balanced by my Fortune 50 practicality and corporate firepower. I am a firefighting, problem-solving maven who loves, loves the mechanics of business and the beauty of creative businesses.

I am the strategic pixie for your creative business. I am your business brain on amped-up green juice + smoothies. I am the structure you crave without all the boring business baggage.

and I have to ask…Jayhawks or Tigers?

This is bad timing considering the recent upset that busted lots of NCAA tourney brackets…but M-I-Z…Z-O-U!

Jennifer Peek takes stuffy corporate know-how + entrepreneurial experience = a very groovy methodology for creative biz design. She provides left-brained strategic pixie dust for right-brained businesses through her innovative CATALYST sessions. CATALYST is a one-day strategy, business planning + creative business think tank, designed to help you propel your business while keeping a sense of humor and fun about it. Get the full scoop on CATALYST here. (http://findyournewgroove.com/creative-business-consulting-coaching-catalyst) You can find Jennifer on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+: Jennifer Peek.

How are you structuring your business to support your LIFE? Leave a comment below!


  1. Shay on at

    Great tips Jennifer! Thanks for the wonderful interview Christie. I also have my business structured to include some fun trips. I film videos each month in new locations. I love having travel incorporated into my business plan.

    I can’t wait to read your book recommendations, too. I’m always looking for good books to read on airplanes. Thanks for sharing!

    • christie on at

      Thank you Shay. It’s so great you’ve incorporated travel into your Fast Fitness to Go business, very authentic and fun!

  2. Hey Jennifer!

    Thanks for the insightful look into what working on the road looks like for you. One of my primary motivations for starting my business was to travel and work location independently. I liked what you said about building your offerings with clear intentions for how you want to distribute your time in the future. As a copywriter, I currently trade time for money and am somewhat limited because there is only one of me who can work on any given project at a time. I see myself doing some sort of training or intensive in a group setting in the future, but don’t know what this looks like yet…

    Thanks for the awesome interview Christy!


    • christie on at

      You are welcome Ashley! Best of luck on working toward group training, you’ll get there!

    • Hey, Ashley!

      It is always a work in progress 🙂 I had the fortune to connect with someone early on who was in the process of “remodeling” her business for a variety of reasons. Being able to observe that as well as already having plenty of experience and practice at the flexibility game helped me get very clear very quickly. What works exactly is still ever-evolving – you just have to trust that you are in the place you need to be right now to be able to grow into that next phase. Can’t wait to see what you come up with!


  3. Sherold Barr on at

    Christie – I loved learning more about Jennifer and her work. Jennifer you are a kindred spirit. I love working from where I am in the world. Your comment is so right on – start with the end in mind. This is so true. As a right brainer who has challenges with drilling down my focus, I could clearly see how you bring so much of your organizational strengths to your clients. I also love your book suggestions so please keep those coming. Great job you two!

    • christie on at

      Thank you Sherold! You’re a great example of working around the world, too!

    • Thanks, Sherold! We are absolutely kindred travel/location-independent spirits. In reading your posts in the past, I love how you “walk your talk.” Perhaps our travel paths will cross IRL in the future!


  4. nasrine on at

    Hi! I really enjoyed learning more about Jennifer and all that she does. From owning her own business, working within a family business, being a wife, mother and taking care of herself. That is a lot, and I am empowered by her story. Thanks so much for highlighting this amazing women, it is a joy to learn about her, from her and from YOU!

    • christie on at

      Nasrine – you are an empowering example of someone living a full life, too. 🙂

    • Gee, thanks, Nasrine. I am so inspired on the work that you do and your blog writings. I so appreciate the quiet strength and grace that comes through in what you write.


  5. Anja on at

    “The second big thing is relationships. I worked for a Fortune 50 company with about 40,000 employees. That means that nearly all of my professional relationships were inside the company. I didn’t have an extensive professional network when I left, so I’ve had to build that up.”

    That is such an important point!
    I noticed the same when i started my own business. They say it takes 4 years to start a business and i always refuse to believe those kind of generalizations, but i think the lack of a supportive professional network is one of the major factors contributing to that.
    It’s not only shifting from employee mindset to entrepreneur, but also the ability to create completely new relationships with people and businesses that may or may not be in your industry.
    And i’m glad you called it relationships and not networking. Such a big difference; and such a big fear factor for people.

    Thanks Christie and Jennifer!

    • christie on at

      Thanks for commenting Anja! Yes, relationships are key and building virtual relationships takes a different kind of effort than those in-person ones that come with working at large companies. I’m enjoying building relationships with lots of people that I’m not sure I’ll ever get to meet in person.

    • Yes, Anja! This was certainly one thing that I didn’t (and still really don’t) hear talked about much. There seems to be so much focus on that “networking” and all the subsets like referral partners, clients, etc. that there is just the general underlying foundation missing. I think it gets us started down a very lonely and potentially isolating path that just doesn’t work for most.


  6. Wonderful interview Jennifer and Christie. I experienced a lot of the same issues when transitioning to the corporate world. Surrounding myself with other like minded soloprenuers (whether online or in the 3D world) has been extremely helpful for my sanity and my business.

    Thanks for sharing your insights on how you make it all happen. Its very inspiring.

    • christie on at

      Thank you for commenting Laurie! Finding like minded folks to hang out with virtually or in real life is so important. Love that aspect of our b-school group!

    • I couldn’t agree more, Laurie…the challenge is sometimes in finding those like-minded people 🙂 I’ve been to more networking groups and MeetUps than I care to say – the majority of them being glorified pitch meetings. Ugh. It’s a joy to find those groups of people that are real and interested in building a business in the same way.


  7. Great article! So nice to see others who have broken out of Corporate America to entrepreneurship. Also nice to see the realistic view that it is an adjustment and does take a different type of thinking including always keeping cost and time in mind and where / how to invest it so your business continues to thrive! Great tips on creating a family friendly environment for business. Women think they need to choose one or the other and it is totally not true. There are times to incorporate kids into the mix and times to focus. Balance isn’t an act, you have to make it happen! Thank you so much for this post!

    • christie on at

      Thanks for commenting Anastasia. Jennifer has tons of great business and life tips. She’s very inspirational and practical at the same time.

  8. I couldn’t agree more, Laurie…the challenge is sometimes in finding those like-minded people. I’ve been to more networking groups and MeetUps than I care to say – the majority of them being glorified pitch meetings. Ugh. It’s a joy to find those groups of people that are real and interested in building a business in the same way.


    • Ok…well…I messed up and got Laurie’s reply posted twice. Sorry about that, Anastasia!

      You are so right that it is work…and I know you know that! It’s just like everything else – you just have to decide that it is going to be what you want and then you make it happen. It is so frustrating when people say “I wish I could do that” (the most oft-repeated phrase when I left my job)…when they CAN if that is what they really wanted.