What If Women Invented Venture Capital?

A cartoon image of four women in a hot air balloon
Original drawing by Liza Donnelly in collaboration with Jacki Zehner for SheMoney.

As published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

On April 25th, 2019, I found myself in an extraordinary situation. And I mean that quite literally. I was hundreds of feet in the air, sailing over the California landscape in a hot air balloon at a truly ridiculously early hour in the morning. I don’t know if you have ever been in a hot air balloon, but I am here to tell you that it is an incredible experience. And it was about to get even more memorable. I was about to get an elevator pitch, or in this case, a hot air balloon pitch, for a new technology company called Translator, Inc. I had met the Founder and CEO, Natalie Egan, the day before, and we had had an instant connection. We had both been invited to a remarkable, 5-diamond, all expenses paid gathering of women+ founders and investors, curated by the team at Bumble Fund, and hosted by Whitney Wolfe Herd and Serena Williams. According to Whitney, the weekend was designed to reimagine the world of venture capital “as if women had invented it”. A meet-up where great things could happen–– and indeed they did. One of the activities on offer was this balloon ride, and it felt like it was ‘meant to be’ when Natalie and I both jumped into the limo at 6am to head to the launch site in Napa Valley.

By the time we had climbed to a few hundred feet up in the air with two other potential investors, I had already heard a little about Natalie and Translator. And for context, she was one of only a handful of founders invited to attend this gathering. The selection process, according to Natalie, was both generous and rigorous, with a focus on women of color and women+ from more traditionally marginalized and underrepresented groups who were all solving for big, real-world problems. So it was not surprising that Natalie had been selected as a transgender woman focused on solving for an urgent need: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and workplace culture. The vision for her company was in part inspired by her journey from presenting to the world as a cisgender ‘tech bro’ founder, to navigating the start-up world as a woman facing both misogyny and transphobia on a regular basis. I recently caught up with Natalie to talk about Translator, and also more generally about women+ navigating the world of venture capital fundraising, the investor/founder relationship, and the power of sisterhood.

Jacki Zehner: Natalie, I know how I ended up in that hot air balloon, but can you share how you ended up there?

Natalie Egan: It all started in 2018 when I was speaking on a panel for Salesforce at an event called Dreamforce. I happened to be sitting next to Sarah Jones Simmer, who at the time was the COO of the dating site Bumble. We started talking, and she asked me if I used Bumble. I decided to be honest and said no, because at the time, I didn’t think that Bumble was particularly good for trans women as a dating site. Sarah was genuinely interested in hearing my thoughts, and as a fun side note, I ended up doing some consulting work for Bumble, helping to make the platform more inclusive, which was super cool!

A photo of a place card saying Bumble Fund, leaning against a vase of flowers.At Dreamforce, Sarah also told me about the Bumble Fund and encouraged me to apply, which I did. However, I didn’t think anything would come of it because I had been let down so many times in the past by funds that say they want diverse deal flow and diverse representation of founders, but for some reason they would never write a check. But this time I did get funded, which was amazing, and I was also invited to the Bumble Fund Summit, which ended up being one of the coolest and most validating experiences of my life. I had been to countless events like this prior to my transition, and they were mostly incredibly toxic tech bro spaces. White men pitching white men while they pound their chests (and later pound beers). The Bumble Fund Summit was a complete reinvention of this, and it was a glimpse into what it would be like if venture capital was actually run by women. I found out pretty quickly that the answer was that it would be like nothing I’d ever experienced before. There were no “gotcha” moments, and no one was trying to take advantage of anyone else. Quite the opposite, as everyone was genuinely interested in helping each other. The entire summit was highly curated, and it was designed to allow us all to get to know one another better so that we could launch our businesses and make the world a better place, in addition to getting good returns. I met so many powerful women at that event, and you were one of the first.

JZ: We met on the first day at the pool and very quickly fell into an intense conversation.

NE: Yes! We had a deep connection that first day by that beautiful pool. I told you that I have a dream to change the world through technology; to use it to spread empathy and understanding.

JZ: And I remember feeling like I was already committed, but I did not let you know that. We had a few more days to figure things out.

NE: The next day was the morning of the hot air balloon ride. I had signed up for the activity to push myself outside of my comfort zone and conquer a fear by trying a new experience. But I was still scared, and even more so when I showed up and it was just me, you, Arielle Zuckerberg, and Nathalie Molina Niño going for the ride.

JZ: So basically you and three potential investors.

NE: Exactly. But not just regular investors. Badass women-changing-the-world type investors. And I was the only founder. On the inside I was freaking out. Where were the other founders so I could hide?? And talk about imposter syndrome! I was so nervous. Will they accept me as a woman?? Or will they just pretend to accept me because they have to? I was just trying to stay cool on the outside, and then at about cruising altitude, Arielle turns to me and says, “Okay Natalie, give us your hot air balloon pitch!”

A photo of four women in a hot air balloon, smiling at the camera.I was completely taken off guard and unprepared. There was no countdown clock. No pitch deck. No intimidating men staring blankly at me who see risk no matter what I say or what I have accomplished. I thought gosh, how should I do this? And then I had my moment, I just decided to tell my story. I started at the beginning. I told you all about my childhood, growing up with two older brothers and a very conservative and successful father, who all instilled masculine principles of discipline and character in me any chance they could. I talked about the shame of hiding who I was my whole life, the damage it caused, and the people I inadvertently hurt along the way. And then of course I spoke to the challenges I’ve faced as a transgender woman in the startup world, and my post-transition discovery that the white male if-you-work-hard-you-will-get-what-you-want type of tenacity that I was taught growing up doesn’t automatically equal outcomes if you come from a marginalized background. And finally, I laid out my vision for Translator to address all these problems. Both where we were and where we were headed.

When I finished, you immediately said, “I want to be a part of this!”, but to be honest, I didn’t believe you. I didn’t believe it would happen. But you were all in, right from the start. You committed without looking at a business plan or doing due diligence. It was incredible.

JZ: I can’t responsibly say that I encourage that kind of investment style. I had previously invested in other companies focusing on workplace culture, so I knew and loved the space.  But I’ve always aimed to be a heart-first investor, and that was definitely what happened here.

NE: Which is exactly what was so extraordinary about your investment. I think that taps into what Translator is all about. Leading from the heart with empathy, specifically in our professional spaces. The past two years have shown us that what people want from their workplaces has never been more important. Globally, voluntary (avoidable) employee turnover is costing employers $3 trillion every year. In order for this economy to be successful we need more people working not less, so it’s critical that we are able to both attract and retain talent. But if you don’t understand your employees, how can you possibly retain them or get them to refer you to their friends and family? You can’t! But you can solve this problem through active employee engagement and culture change. Translator gives companies the tools to facilitate these difficult conversations in the workspace and the data to back it all up. I believe that overall, companies want their managers to have more empathy, and I believe technology can make this happen by helping your employees to feel seen and heard. It’s the little things that make the difference between inclusion and exclusion, and Translator helps you to identify these opportunities and make things better for your employees.

JZ:  I know it has been a journey for you and you have faced  a lot of challenges. It was another year before I saw you again in person. Can you talk a little bit about where you were at that point?

NE: It was not great. We met in New York, and both myself and Translator were going through a particularly rough transition as I had just separated from my co-founder. You asked me how everything was going, and I remember being so scared to tell you the truth. But I also didn’t want to lie. I wanted to be authentic, and so I decided to just be me and be honest with how much I was struggling. But I also immediately regretted it. I thought I had made a huge mistake, and I was terrified that I had scared you off.

JZ: I will admit that I was overwhelmed, but I never doubted you or your vision. I only doubted myself and whether or not I could be the investor you needed. I always want to be a helpful investor, and I was worried that you and Translator needed more help than I could give at the time.

NE: It’s still so amazing and affirming to hear you say that. Thank you for being you.

JZ: I had a hard think about it, and I realized that there was more than one way to be a helpful investor. So I made a connection for you, and that connection helped you redo your investment pitch and deck. I paid out of my own pocket for it, and that felt like to me, the most important way I could help. I remember you being a little apprehensive about it, but you agreed.

NE: And it ended up being a gift like nothing that had ever happened to me before. I’ve come to realize that I still have so much trauma from my previous life, where people only did things for others because they wanted something in return. There’s always a price, which was why I was apprehensive, and yet you just gave me this gift. A gift that fundamentally changed the game and allowed Translator to get back on track and in the driver’s seat. It was one of the first times I truly experienced the bond of pure sisterhood, and it was profound.

JZ: I can’t tell you how much it means to me to hear that. Thank you. You and I have talked about this, and we both believe that what the world needs right now is not just words, but actions to support one another.

You’ve now founded two companies; one presenting as a cisgender man and one as a transgender woman. Have these two experiences changed what you’re looking for in investors?

NE:  With my prior company, I relied heavily on the old boys network, and it was almost easy because I “looked” like everyone else. However, with Translator, I went back to the usual investors and it was a complete waste of time. It was also an incredibly harsh wake up call, and it completely changed what I now look for in investors. I want to work with investors who are driven by both returns and a mission, and more importantly, I want to work with people who share the same values as me. But this new focus also came with a lot of hangups, because I never wanted to be someone’s charity case. I wanted people to invest because they believed they would get returns, and that just wasn’t happening with my old networks.

So I went looking for new networks. I joined Start Out, Out in Tech, and NGLCC, three incredible networks who helped me to find the right investors who took me and Translator seriously. More importantly, it helped me to see that when you find the right investors, it’s never charity. My old network taking meetings with me because they felt like they “had to” and not because they believed in me? That was the charity.

JZ: Given your experiences, how can investors be more welcoming and open to founders from marginalized backgrounds? What do you think it will take for the VC world to properly and at critical mass be more inclusive?

NE: Venture Capital as a whole is incredibly antiquated and archaic, and so there are so many things about it that need to change. But the most important thing is taking away all of the unconscious bias that prevents so many people from getting in the door in the first place. On this front, there is this incredible fund out of Covington, KY called Connetic Ventures. They have created an Artificial Intelligence (AI) bot to do all of the initial screening of the applications, and they have an open portal that anyone with an internet connection can access and apply to. The AI advises the partners on which companies to fund, thereby removing the unconscious bias in the selection process. As a result, their portfolio consists of 72% non-straight-white-male founders to date! Which is extraordinary and much more representative of the real world.

But there’s so much more that can be done beyond removing bias. VC needs to be more serious about funding first time entrepreneurs, especially those from marginalized backgrounds. We need funds to seed this first generation of founders, maybe with smaller checks, but we have to be willing to let them try and fail in order to create a second generation of founders who have failed and learned from that experience. Investors also need to be more willing to provide honest and constructive feedback, because if they don’t, the founder can’t learn and grow. Investors shouldn’t just ignore founders if it’s a “no”. That is borderline evil to me. And finally, the way founders are funded needs to be addressed as well, because it often has to be by unanimous vote. All you need is for one partner to have a “feeling” that is really just unconscious bias, and it’s game over for that founder. Maybe we don’t need an unanimous vote for marginalized founders.

JZ:  Right on Natalie. This is exactly why I have spent so much time identifying and funding first time, early-stage fund managers who are women+ and BIPOC, as they are more likely to identify and invest in those founders. Is there something you would like to end on?

NE: Yes thank you! When I do talks or interviews, I always end with my three principles, and I like to share them as hashtags:

  1. #representationmatters – A diversity of perspectives, whether it’s VCs, founders, boards, panels, teams, whatever; a diverse representation of different lived experiences and perspectives is good business. Period. It de-risks decision making, it shows people the possibilities of what they can be, and it helps draw good talent. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it, so yeah, representation really matters.
  2. #languagematters – I believe that everything happens through language, because there are many different types of language: written language, spoken language, body language, coding language, etc. And if everything happens through language, then our language is important, and we have to be careful with what we say, how we say it, and how we act. The difference between inclusion and exclusion is very subtle, so we have to do the work.
  3. #allyshipmatters – Saying you are an ally is easy. Being one is much harder. And you really can’t call yourself an ally. Ask yourself if others would call you an ally. Pro tip: chances are you are stronger in one area of allyship than others, so continuously audit your allyship footprint to ask yourself where you can improve and then do the work!

JZ: I love those principles. Heck the heck yes! I have recently taken a hard look in the mirror and asked myself, am I working on myself enough? Am I truly living the values I espouse? Am I willing to accept feedback that is hard? Willing to call out others and risk fracturing relationships in the hopes that we can grow together? The answers are yes, but I am a work in progress. In my book, people with exceptional levels of power and privilege, which of course includes large amounts of financial resources, have a responsibility to do more and do better.

Thank you so much Natalie! I can’t wait to see where you and Translator go next.

NE: Thank you Jacki for the opportunity to represent today in this article. To all of our readers, if you want to continue the conversation you can find me on Instagram and LinkedIn, or you can email me directly at natalie@translator.company.

Investing In Human Flourishing

Cartoon collaboration with Liza Donnelly.

As published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

Welcome to SheMoney 2022! I hope your year is off to a lovely start so far. Of course, I have to acknowledge that we are still in the middle of a global pandemic, and therefore it may be hard to set intentions for a year full of peace, good health, prosperity, and perhaps even joy. That said, I invite you to do so anyway. And if you are like me, you could probably use some assistance. Thankfully, there are lots of tools, protocols, and digital therapeutics that are available to help, and most of these offerings are from relatively new companies. So how did these companies come to be and where are we going from here? Read on…

One of the reasons these resources exist in the world is because there are inspired investors who are tracking the science around the positive impact of contemplative practices. These investors have then supported the founders, and thereby the companies, that bring this science to life. In this first newsletter of SheMoney 2022, I want to highlight two investors who have developed and implemented an investment thesis that is truly changing lives for the better. They are investing in human flourishing, and I could not think of a more fantastic way to start the new year.

With that in mind, I’m thrilled to present Maureen Pelton and Charlie Hartwell. Our paths crossed a couple of years ago when they decided to move to Utah, and we were shortly thereafter introduced by mutual friends. Maureen is the Co-Founder of ShiftIt Institute (along with Charlie) and a pioneer in the field of embodiment, and Charlie is a change agent and Managing Director at Bridge Builders Collaborative (where Maureen is a partner). Not only are they married, but they have also blended their backgrounds to help ignite consciousness, inspire human potential, and create a paradigm shift. Their investment thesis started with a focus on the wellness of the individual as it relates to mindfulness, meditative practices, and mind-training to support human consciousness. Over the years, they have further developed a ‘going deeper’ approach. In this new phase of their work, together with the other partners at the Bridge Builders Collaborative, they are focusing on deeper levels of mental health, consciousness, and spirituality.

A photo of Charlie and Maureen looking directly into the camera.

Bridge Builders is an investment collaborative with eleven partners. When you visit their website, it welcomes you with this line: “From mind-training to deeper models of mental, social, spiritual well-being”. They invest in start-up companies that empower mental health, consciousness, and spirituality, and their first investment screen is Impact. As in, how will this company support (impact) a better planet? You can read more about their mission and criteria here, but let’s just say that their investment thesis has led them to invest in some of the most transformational companies of our time. Companies that are currently serving millions of people and supporting those people’s wellness journey. You can find a list of these companies here, but a few of their more well known examples include:

InsightTimer – A conscious community of 20M people, interacting with over 10,000 leading spiritual teachers in over 40 languages. The largest conscious community/library on the planet.

Pear Therapeutics – Recently IPOed, this is a whole new form of digital medicine, approved by the FDA (like software as a drug).

Muse – Muse is a brain-sensing headband that uses real-time biofeedback to help you refocus during the day and recover overnight.

Headspace – Headspace rebranded meditation and made it accessible to the masses, with over 60M downloads to date. And a multi billion dollar valuation.

The science, and their investment thesis, also led Maureen and Charlie into the world of psychedelics. Now, if you’re currently thinking, “Are you kidding me?!”, I was right there with you up until a couple of years ago. However, I have since learned, in part by reading the data put forth by MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies), that these compounds and protocols may offer hope to millions of people who are suffering from depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and more. There are over 50 publicly traded companies in this space, and even an ETF. Maureen and Charlie, through Bridge Builders Collaborative, have invested in a few companies, but I should note that they also have deep concerns about the direction many of the companies in this space are taking. While there is certainly a lot of hope that research and investment in this area might revolutionize behavioral health, there are also a lot of risks.  Maureen and Charlie believe that in order for the psychedelic movement to reach its transformative potential, we need to combine the molecules with very well-trained psychedelic therapists, and insure that intention and set and setting of the experience is appropriate for the patient. Crucially, this needs to be combined with proper preparation and integration after a psychedelic assisted therapy session.

To this end, one of the companies they are excited about is Synthesis, “a global leader of the modern psychedelic movement, advancing scientific research, training and education to create access to safe, legal psychedelic experiences for integrative healing and expansion.” They are also excited about HighVibe Network, a blockchain based ecosystem designed to integrate immersive experiences, multidimensional learning, and personal development, and HealthRhythms, a mental health app that uses Machine Learning to translate daily activity into sophisticated insights that can predict bad outcomes before they occur.

In the interest of transparency, I am not an investor in any of the companies listed above. However, I am a consumer. As more of these companies do go public, being both an investor and a consumer is possible. It’s also always worth remembering that one of the best screens for a stock you might consider investing in is whether or not you would be a consumer of their products and/or services.

There is so much more to talk about with Maureen and Charlie, and thankfully, you can visit the ShiftIt Institute and listen to podcasts they have done on a variety of topics. You can also join me on LinkedIn Live to ask them questions directly. This conversation will take place on Thursday, January 20th at 12pm MT//2pm ET. Click here to join.

Headshots of Jacki, Charlie, and Maureen announcing the LinkedIn Live event.

Many people I speak with are skeptical about whether or not there is any good that can come out of capitalism. They likely find phrases like “conscious capitalism” and “investing for good” particularly cringeworthy. But I don’t. I believe that investment capital, intentionally deployed in private and public companies, can create a better world. Yes, it takes time, effort, knowledge, and money to do so, and not everyone has those resources to deploy. But what we all have is our purchasing power. We all buy products and services every day, and the bottom line is that these transactions make the companies that receive investment capital successful. Facebook, now MetaPlatforms Inc., has a market capitalization of nearly one trillion dollars because, in part, we all use Facebook. If Facebook did not have so many users, people, both individual and institutional investors, would be less willing to own the stock. It really is as simple as that.

Therefore, whether you have capital to invest directly in companies or not, I invite you to develop your own investment thesis that can be realized through how you make every day purchasing decisions. The more we understand that every time we buy something, anything, we are transferring power from our hands to another, the better chance we have of actually making the world a better place. Maureen and Charlie are shining examples of how to do just that.

A Holiday Gift Giving Playbook

A cartoon of a woman reaching a hand up as she is buried in a mountain of presents and objects.
Original cartoon by Liza Donnelly

As published as part of the SheMoney newsletter on LinkedIn.

‘Tis the Season… to shop. According to a recent estimate, Americans will spend around $860 billion this holiday season. This article also notes that compared to last year, Americans overall have more money to spend on themselves and on others. However, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Because the fact of the matter is that most of us are over-consumers, meaning we buy and own more than we need. And during the holiday season, we likely buy presents for others who are also over-consumers, and who also don’t need more stuff. All of which is incredibly damaging to our environment as well as our bank accounts. That being said, if we stop over buying things, our economy will grind to a halt, good businesses will go under, and people will financially suffer. Our economy relies on over-consumption to grow.

So the question becomes this: How do I, you, all of us, reconcile the fact that in order to save our planet, we need to buy less, and yet if we don’t continue to buy stuff, particularly from women+ and other marginalized communities, our economy will tank and businesses owned by women+ will suffer? Furthermore, every dollar that we spend on more stuff is a dollar that is not saved, not invested, and cannot be used to buy us the most precious thing of all – financial freedom. Of course, the goal is not to be a Grinch, either towards ourselves or towards others. Instead, the answer is more conscious consumerism. So this holiday season, I decided to create a shopping and gift-giving playbook to help guide myself, and you if you are interested, with this process. But first, a confession.

I’m a “shopper”. This is the label that some of my family and friends have given me. Of course, being a “shopper” could just literally mean a person who is shopping. But in my case, it means a person who LOVES to shop. As my mom likes to say, “Jacki has never gone into a store that she hasn’t liked.” This may not be exactly true, but it is somewhat true. And therefore, because of this, I decided to do what I have never done, and I looked up the definition of a shopping addict. It is quite an expansive definition, and while I don’t fit neatly into it, I messily do. As I said. I’m a shopper.

Over the years, I have justified my overconsumption with the fact that I can afford it. I also compare myself to some of my friends and think to myself, “I spend less than they do, so I’m good.” Talk about a slippery slope. I also tell myself that buying things, especially from women+ founders and business owners, is a good thing. And it is. But I can support women+ businesses and still have an overconsumption problem. By acknowledging this to myself, and to you, I am bringing more self-awareness to my behaviors and invite you to do the same. Bottom line, as a society, we need to consume less, consume more responsibly, and if we all come together in this, we can truly have a big impact.

Conscious consumerism — sometimes called ethical consumerism or conscientious consumerism — is shopping in ways one believes makes a positive social, environmental, or economic impact.

This is a massively, and I mean massively significant concept to embrace, especially in a culture where we use the phrase “change the world” way too much. This behavior, when adopted at critical mass, truly will change our communities, not to mention the world more generally. Back in 2012, I gave a TEDxWomen talk in which I declared that our spending dollars are the most underused tool for social change. And I stand by that declaration nearly a decade later. In the US, women control up to 85% of consumer purchasing decisions, and therefore any mass change in our spending habits will be instantaneously felt. This is why buycotts are perhaps the most powerful tool in a financial activist’s playbook.

So this holiday season, of course it’s wonderful to give presents to your loved ones, but my invitation is to do so more intentionally. I am trying to do it more intentionally. Take a little extra time to think about what you are buying, and maybe even do a little homework before making your purchases. To help with this, I decided to create a 2021 holiday shopping playbook, although I should say that this is still a work in progress. I welcome YOUR ideas and feedback once you’ve had a read through.

1) Make a list of the people to whom you want to give gifts, and create both a per person and overall spending budget. Review it, perhaps edit it down, and then review it again. Really know what you are spending this year and can afford to spend. And don’t forget about charitable gifting as well. Did you have an especially prosperous year? If so, great, be generous!

2) Think about what would be a meaningful gift for each person. I have often fallen into the trap of buying things that I like for a person, rather than taking the time to think about what the recipient would really like. Because if the recipient doesn’t need it, like it, or want it, the purchase is truly a waste. If the goal of gift giving is an expression of love and generosity, take a minute to make it so.

3) People often say that our most valuable resource is time, so think about giving a togetherness gift. Does your friend love movies, hikes, foot massages, or going to a new restaurant? If so, make the gift time together doing what they like and you treat! And because it is so easy to not make it happen, make sure you take the time to schedule it.

A photo of two jars of homemade jam sitting on a table in front of a sign that says Merry ChristmasNo alt text provided for this image

3) Homemade gifts are awesome. Yes to a plate of homemade cookies, but also, get creative. This year, I plan on making a big pot of soup, Russian borscht, that is a family recipe, and gifting it along with some fresh bread and the recipe. I also made jam and canned peaches with fruit from our family orchard this past summer, and it will also go into baskets with some cheese and crackers. (check out @hoffmanorchards on instagram) Personally, I love giving and receiving food gifts, especially when they are packaged with love.

A photo of homemade crafts and food items, packaged in plastic and sitting in a line on a table.No alt text provided for this image

4) Shop local holiday markets. This past weekend I went to one here in Park City, and I loaded up on homemade bath balms, chocolate covered pretzels, and other locally made goodies. Not only do you meet the maker, but you also keep your money in your community and support local entrepreneurs and artisans.

5) Give photos in a frame that captures a memory from the year. In a world where most photos are viewed digitally, taking the time to print a photo and frame it is both thoughtful and awesome.

A photo of three books sitting on a table.No alt text provided for this image

6) Give books. For me, I have been digging reading poetry this past year so I have handpicked some poetry books that are aligned to my friends interests and life events.

7) Give cash gifts. I have often felt strange giving cash gifts thinking it may be perceived as not thoughtful or intentional. If you really don’t know what to give someone, and/or you know that they may really appreciate pure financial support, cash with a thoughtful note may be perfect.

8) Buy from women+ owned and operated businesses (this is, after all, SheMoney). You can do this for local businesses or online, or even brands that you find at big box retailers. And if you need some suggestions of where to start, check out The Verticale, which just partnered with The Helm and brings forth women-owned and sustainable offerings. You can also check out the Holiday Gift Guide by the Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College which I just received in my inbox. I am also going to take a moment to shamelessly champion two companies that are owned by friends of mine; Zenzee by Sharon Backurz and Michael Stars by Suzanne Lerner. They both produce gorgeous women’s clothing. (photo of me with Sharon)

A photo of author Jacki Zehner in front of a photo of Sharon Backurz.No alt text provided for this image

8) And finally, what about all the big producers and retailers? Thankfully, there are many resources available to help you make smart decisions about which ones to support and which ones to avoid. One of the tools I use is GenderFair, which ranks a company’s commitment to gender equality. You can download the app, or sign-up to be sent a shopping guide of the best companies in lots of different consumer categories by clicking here and scrolling to the bottom.

One final note. I just finished reading The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness by Morgan Housel. In it, Housel talks about having goals around money, and how his primary goal is independence. He says that, “independence at any income level is driven by your savings rate”, and the big message of the book is to save more. The key to saving more? Not wasting money. So this holiday season, know that it’s possible to be intentional, generous, and loving in your gift-giving, while also spending less and saving more.

As mentioned above, this guide is a work in progress. I would love to hear ideas you have about holiday gift giving. If you have favorite companies and platforms, share those too!

Happy holidays! Wishing each and every one of you health and happiness.