This year for International Women’s Day, I want to honor my boss Jennifer Crawford.
At fifteen years old, my dad gave me my first cell phone which he graciously paid for that included every teenagers must-have: texting! After a few months of that luxury, my dad told me that I would now be paying for my phone bill on my own. This was a big deal to me because I didn’t have a job and I had never been asked to pay for a bill in my life. The last thing I wanted to do was get a job, but I knew it was not an option.
I met Jenn in September of 2009 at Northway Church. We both sang on the Worship Team but never interacted with each other until this one day. Being the outgoing person that she is, Jenn came up to me and introduced herself and began asking me about who I was and what I like to do. To make things clear, as a teenager I was very timid and not even close to outgoing, so this conversation with Jenn made me a little uncomfortable. She spoke to me like she and I were friends already and that she had no idea I was shy. Through some small talk, I told Jenn that I was currently looking for a job to cover the cost of my phone bill. To my surprise, Jenn offered me a job at her small business doing some administrative work and I eagerly took her up on her offer.
A few weeks later, Jenn had me doing some simple office tasks that didn’t take me long to complete, which made me think that Jenn was actually giving me work as a kindness, not a necessity. This was the first real impact Jenn had on me. I was aware that she didn’t need me to do most of these tasks for her, but because of her sweet personality, she wanted to help me. Over the next few years, I moved from helping Jenn once in a while to pay my bills, to working with her part-time out of her home office after school. It was during those four to five hours after school that Jenn began teaching me the ins and outs of social media marketing, blogging, and content writing.
Through spending more time with Jenn, I started to understand what kind of person she was. I watched her care and provide for her family, raise her daughter and a new baby, and manage her own business. Many nights I ended my work shift at her house while she simultaneously cooked dinner for her family, got her kids ready for bed, and tuned into a webinar about leadership or small business growth. There never seemed to be an off-switch with Jenn. She gave herself to her family and work throughout the whole day, and left only a few solid hours to recover before the next day began. Watching her through these years I learned about what it meant to be dedicated to something, what it was to be a leader, and what it meant to be a strong woman.
A Lasting Impact
As a leader, Jenn took it as her responsibility to move me along with her. She pushed me to do things that were outside of my comfort zone, like attend mixers with her, sit through lectures, speak on the phone with people I didn’t know, and meet with clients. Although at the time I was uncomfortable, today I am able to do these things because she taught me how and believed I could.
Years later, JC Sweet & Co. moved to Burnt Hills, NY and Jenn began investing in other women, making it a priority to teach and instill the values of JC Sweet & Co., including boldness, helpfulness, motivation, quality, and sweetness. Through raising me up as an individual and a member of the JC Sweet team, Jenn has entrusted me with the role of Account Manager, something my fifteen-year-old self would never be able to do without Jenn’s investment.
After ten years of mentoring me, I can say that Jenn has played one of the most important roles in my life. She stayed after work hours with me to watch leadership webinars, took time to teach me updates in the web world, and had countless conversations with me that have altered my trajectory. Today, she is not only my boss, she is one of my best friends, my big sister, my mentor, my maid of honor, and one day the aunt to my children.
It’s women like Jenn who inspire other women in the world to strive for more, that we need to say thank you to on International Women’s Day. We need more Jenns in the world to take a chance on other women who just need to pay a bill but use the opportunity to cultivate and mold them into someone who can be independent, kind and sweet to others, firm in their beliefs, and strong above all.
Without women like Jenn, we would not be able to grasp the importance of being a strong woman in today’s world, and honestly, where would I be without her?