Jen Fitzpatrick is the Founder and CEO of FEMM International, an organization focused on equipping women entrepreneurs with resources, finances, and educational tools. After teaching in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada, she discovered a consistent need for children to connect with mentors who may have done poorly in school, but are extremely successful entrepreneurs so that young minds may relate. She started her first company at age 24 because she found a niche for photography and event planning in her local community. Over the past 13 years, Serendipity Studios has grown into a widely recognized name and has helped her launch her second company FEMM International. Jen is also an internationally best-selling author and TEDx speaker. She holds a M.S. in Teaching from the State University of New York College at Potsdam and a B.A. in English Language and Literature from Ottawa University.
How did you come to found FEMM International and what are some of FEMM International’s signature programs?
Jen Fitzpatrick: I launched FEMM International in 2016 after years of knowing that I would one day find my purpose. It just took quite a few twists and turns to get there, but once the idea was solidified it started to skyrocket into something even greater than I had hoped. Our main vision is to inspire and embolden youth and women around the world to create positive change by addressing the issues of illiteracy, poverty and global injustice. We are working with elementary schools to provide Mentorship Programs, Virtual PenPals and Community Impact projects, as well as with organizations that provide resources to women to develop sustainable business models.
Can you tell us about one mentorship experience crucial to your life and/or career?
Jen Fitzpatrick: I have owned my first company (photography and event planning) for 12 years and at a very early age I would say one of my first mentors was my dad. He recognized my interest in photography and taught me how to use a film camera. When the digital age was upon us, we were able to learn from each other and transition to new equipment and I was able to develop a business model. Eventually I was able to contract him out to do work so it had come a full circle. If I hadn’t started my first company, I would not be where I am today with the knowledge I have as well as the connections I have made along the way. Leading up to and while owning my first company, my mother also played a significant role in mentoring me. She has done an exceptional job providing resources and care for individuals with disabilities as well as foster children and through that she has taught me compassion, empathy and the ability to see the good in others. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of my family.
What were your biggest challenges and insights when founding FEMM International?
Jen Fitzpatrick: I would say it has been an interesting year! I was completely burnt out from my business and was stuck in a place where I had grown beyond where I was, and wanted to make a greater impact in the world. I felt like I “was in a bubble” and in order to move forward, I had to make some major changes. We had our house for sale for over a year, my storefront lease was up, and I had accumulated debt that was weighing on my business and family life. So in order to change, I started to seek advice and was able to sell our house, take on a new job, close the store front, and pay off debt. It was all very serendipitous!
Jen Fitzpatrick: Over the years I have been able to connect with inspirational global leaders, school teachers, event planners, students, and entrepreneurs. These connections have all been for a reason and the amazing thing is that after launching FEMM International, they all started to mesh together when for years I felt like I was pulled in many different directions. I couldn’t really choose which path I wanted to take, whether it was teaching, photography, planning events, or volunteering. Now I don’t have to choose because every aspect of what I have learned and created has been poured into FEMM and I am so excited about the impact it is already creating.
Can you describe the transition processes between each of these careers?
Jen Fitzpatrick: Timing is everything and it is so easy to dwell on what is “not working” rather than what will work out eventually. For me I have always enjoyed change and feel that it is an important aspect of growth, and when that change wasn’t happening it was extremely frustrating. When I started to realize that I was approaching everything with the wrong attitude and that I instead needed to feel grateful for everything that I already had, that is when the change started to happen. The transition from that point was seamless because everything just started to fall into place.
Can you talk about one woman who has impacted your life?
Jen Fitzpatrick: One woman who I can’t thank enough for everything she has done is Sheryl Taylor. We have about 30 years between us, but Sheryl and I have a kindred friendship that defies age and she has truly helped me shape FEMM into the organization that it is. Sheryl has taught me the importance of appreciation, and how meditation can change your mindset and open doors to opportunities that you could not see before. We have travelled together, lived together, and she is my go-to person for advice on just about anything no matter how ridiculous it might be. Sheryl is someone that I look up to and can only hope that I can be like her and dress like her when I am in my seventies.
What are your favorite books, websites, films and/or resources?
Jen Fitzpatrick: I have so many favorites, it is hard to choose. Right now I am reading Ruling Your World by Sakyong Mipham. It speaks to the conflicts we are all faced with and that by acting with wisdom and compassion we have the ability to live with confidence. I listen to affirmations by Louise Hay found on her website and I have Oprah’s Top 10 Rules for Success taped on my wall beside my computer for motivation. There are an abundance of resources out there, and it just depends on what I need at the time for my business or personal growth.