Women Who Own It, a WBENC Podcast for and by women entrepreneurs and their supporters, is your key to the insights of incredible female founders and business leaders.
Read below for an excerpt from Women Who Own It podcast with special guest Jane Henry, Founder & CEO of SeeHerWork, an inclusion consultancy and product manufacturing company that designs, manufactures and sells workwear and safety equipment and other jobs specific products for both women and men that are sized to their unique body needs and to help them operate as one team.
Even though Jane had been working in the oil and gas industry for 20 years as both an executive and entrepreneur, while wearing personal protective clothing and equipment, also known as PPE, it wasn’t until hurricane Harvey hit Houston in 2017, another big challenging time, that she was forced to use the gear on a day-to-day basis and found the inspiration to start this company.
Post-her Hurricane Harvey recovery, Jane realized the huge issue of ill-fitting work clothing and equipment for women within the industry and so she decided that she was the person to change it. Jane works side-by-side with employers to set up PPE programs that support safe and inclusive working wear. She also speaks to groups about the challenges many entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs have in implementing their ideas and how to overcome what she calls “the natural human instinct to resist change.”
Ask yourself, if this is a challenge (and it’s likely that it’s not just a challenge for me, it’s likely that it’s a challenge for a lot of people) is there an opportunity here?
– Jane Henry
Listen to the full episode:
Allison Maslan: SeeHerWork is actually your second business. Before, you worked with companies like Accenture and Enron and had a very successful consulting business. What was that inspiration for you for you to make that shift?
Jane Henry: First, oil prices in Houston, when it goes down, it hits hard. I was already being affected by that and I had decided to go back to get my MBA from Rice University. What I didn’t plan on, was the hurricane to completely wipe me out. When I say complete — it was four feet of water, mud, and tar throughout my house, on all my clothes, in all my cars that were paid off. And I feel so blessed to have the WBENC Network, because my WBE sisters sent me new clothing and shoes. I told them I should have flooded a long time ago, because this is the best dressed I’ve ever been.
It took me some time to realize the shock that I had absorbed through it. I’ve gone through a lot of challenges in my life in general; and in Houston, we’re used to major storms but nothing like that. That was not a planned event, so I’m working my way through what happened during Harvey, and in my recovery found this issue with the PPE. I’ve been in oil and gas for over 20 years, I put PPE on every once in a while, but I didn’t wear it on a day-to-day basis. It wasn’t until wearing it that I realized “how can people do this?” I am so exhausted.
Allison Maslan: During COVID-19 and the changes that are upon us, and will be upon us for a while with these new economic challenges — how do you feel that business owners can tap into those needs the way that you did to create revenue and make a difference?
Jane Henry: I definitely think there are clear phases. Step one is to recognize “this sucks,” and it’s okay to have whatever feeling you are having. Recently, I almost felt like I had the coronavirus because I was hyperventilating and stressing from the situation and it really was stress. I just want people to understand that the first thing to do is to not beat yourself up about those emotions. And the better thing you can do is to recognize them and own them. Step two, when you’re ready, is take the opportunity to look at that challenge. Ask yourself, if this is a challenge (and it’s likely that it’s not just a challenge for me, it’s likely that it’s a challenge for a lot of people) is there an opportunity here?
Allison Maslan: You entered a male-dominated industry, how did you overcome some of those challenges? You said you were beating the PPE drum for a while, how were you able to break through, be heard, and really overcome those obstacles?
Jane Henry: Really amazing mentors! Getting those mentors meant that I had to tell my story in such a way that people were willing to spend some time with me, not knowing where it was going to go. I’ll give you an example, I have a dear friend with Milliken Fabrics, a U.S. fabric maker. They are a huge company, why would they be talking to little old me — but I kept talking to my buddy Howard about my story and talked about what I was trying to do and he was helping me. I wasn’t the first to try to tackle the female PPE, there have been others which then led to more uncertainties. I couldn’t have succeeded without his history, his understanding, and his willingness to maintain a relationship with me, even though I wasn’t ready to produce tons of garments just yet. And it wasn’t just Howard, it was 3M and others. Having those partnerships, even still with them having challenges, I can ring them up and they give me information about what I can do to think out of the box in regard to respiration and masks. That’s key — mentorship and finding the right mentors is absolutely key.
I can say that my experience with WBENC at a national level and talking with the women that have done a phenomenal job, it’s about being open and being able to say “this is what I know and this is what I don’t know, so how do we figure this out together.” Those partnerships and saying “let’s figure this out together where we can both win” are absolutely key.
Allison Maslan: How have you utilize your WBENC Certification to support you in your business growth?
Jane Henry: First and foremost, it has been the knowledge base. I think I was probably seven years into my first business when I thought “I really need to go somewhere and be able to ask dumb questions and feel comfortable doing so.” I literally googled women business owners, found my local RPO, got involved and went from there. I feel like the corporations that support us and the 16,000 women business owners, we are all about taking care of each other, partnering up, and figuring out what needs to get done. That’s pretty powerful!
The second thing is the platform and the opportunities. A huge impact for me was the WBENCPitch competition where I actually got to pitch SeeHerWork in front of the network so that they could hear about what I was doing. I was doing marathons in my gear trying to raise awareness, getting an article written on CNN, appearing on Good Morning America, and it was the WBENCPitch competition that gave me the platform to really communicate what I needed to communicate in a big way!