Drop Ins: ban.do's Jen Gotch

We believe in the power of routines and finding meaning in the ways we sew comfort into our everyday surroundings. Drop Ins is a series that explores just that, taking a dressed-down look at the lives of people who inspire us.

“This is the only bread product I can handle right now,” jokes Jen Gotch, squeezing a foam croissant de-stress ball from ban.do, the feel-good, personal betterment brand she started 12 years ago. Ban.do’s website eschews positive vibes via journals with motivational catchphrases like, “Make It All Happen” to a necklace that says “Anxiety” and yes, Moxi roller skates.

It's an understatement to say Jen has a full plate RN: ban.do has grown from a staff of 2 to 26 and the site has more than 200 different products. In her free time, she’s renovating her dream house in the desert. And this week, she’s released her first book, The Upside of Being Down, which she describes as a “self-help book disguised as a memoir.”

Image - Jen Gotch - Portrait
Let’s start from the top, how did the idea for ban.do come about? 

Believe it or not, it was actually kind of an accident/creative side project. My friend Jamie and I were both working on styling jobs and had been asked over and over again to create flower crowns. It wasn’t a trend at the time, so I think it kind of stuck in our creative consciousness. Shortly thereafter, we both ended up making some for ourselves out of vintage flowers and ribbon—and realized we had tapped into something creatively compelling. We decided we should start selling them and ban.do was born. 

What’s the one thing about starting a business that no one told you?

I would say it's less about something no one told me and more about something everyone told me, yet I refused to listen to. They told me that it’s hard to start, grow and succeed in the business world! They were not misrepresenting the truth. But I thought, ‘Yeah, maybe it was hard for you, but for me it will be easy.’ It wasn’t. The End.

Image - Jen Gotch - Shelf
Image - Jen Gotch - Portrait 2
You’ve been a source of vulnerability and transparency when it comes to those struggling with mental health issues. Can you share a little bit more about your own journey?

First of all, let me say that I have never been able to keep my feelings to myself. I can keep other people’s secrets incredibly well, but personally I like to share. It’s how I connect with people. I’m told that it's brave and vulnerable, but it doesn’t feel like that, because sharing is second nature for me. In regards to sharing about mental health, I have struggled with depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and ADD for most of my life—and honestly, I never felt resistant to talk about it. 

I started talking about it on Snapchat and eventually IG Stories and saw that, in doing so, I was helping remove stigmas around mental illness while also helping others feel less aloneThat feels like a gift and a responsibility at the same time and I am thrilled that I have places to do that more publicly now (with my upcoming book, podcast, public speaking, Instagram, ban.do, in line at the grocery store). 

Image - Jen Gotch - Desk
What’s been the biggest change you’ve made that’s had the greatest impact on your day to day?

Building my emotional intelligence. It allows me to identify and understand my own feelings and emotions, work towards appropriate reactions, and also see those same emotions in others.

What can Desert Jen™ tell us about the house you are renovating?

It has always been a dream of mine to have a retreat in the desert, but that dream kind of laid dormant for about 20 years. Then one day I kind of found myself living in it. It was a very strange experience— strange in a good way. I spent a lot of time writing out in the desert at my friend’s place and almost immediately decided I would want to have a place of my own.

It’s a house with great energy and hopefully very soon my friends and I will be able to use it as a place to recharge, introspect, get creative and stare at the sky.

If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

My younger self would 100% not listen to a word of my advice. She was quite strong-willed…but what I would tell her is that each of us has the potential to create our own peace and joy and although others can add to that, at the end of the day everything we need resides within us. I would encourage her to build her self awareness, attach to her optimism, and read the book, Attached. Oh, and eye cream, neck cream, and SPF.

Image - Jen Gotch - Book

Jen Gotch was shot at her home on February 11, 2020 by Isabella Behravan. Her first book, The Upside of Being Down: How Mental Health Struggles Led to My Greatest Successes in Work and Life is available now

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