Jessica Kim is the Co-Founder & CEO of ianacare and is on a mission to encourage, empower and equip family caregivers as they navigate at-home medical care. As part of our Take the Lead campaign, we went live with Jessica on Instagram to learn all about how she works to Inspire Others. Read on.
In case you missed it, watch our Instagram live with Jessica on IGTV.
Miniluxe: What does “Take the Lead” mean to you?
Jessica: Everything is a choice. Especially in this moment, we are either leading or not leading. Our actions, thoughts, and even our silence contribute to what’s happening. “Take the Lead” means that you’re choosing to lead, to listen, to create change, to be bold, and to inspire others. It’s about knowing yourself and your influence (however big or small) to intentionally lead towards the better.
MiniLuxe: What does “Inspire Others” mean to you?
Jessica: We often think about inspiring others as a one-way interaction. Someone’s life or way of thinking ignites a desire in others to do the same. However, I believe that inspiring others is more intentional than a passive observation and absorption. To truly inspire others, we first need to know them. We need to take the time to learn and deeply understand, so we can build the bridge from the current to what is possible in the future. It’s to inspire true lasting change of thought or action that happens gradually over time.
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(I’m not a beauty blogger 💅, but I’ll do anything that highlights amazing women leaders! 🚀) I’m excited to announce I am partnering with @miniluxe, a leader in clean beauty and nail care, to introduce their Fall polish collection – Take the Lead. With so much out of our control this year, their new collection of Pure Polish is designed to reflect the positivity and potential in every moment and to encourage action in all of us. In addition, MiniLuxe is hosting an exciting series of 8 live events over the course of the Fall season to inspire others to Take the Lead. Join me on 9/15 at 6pm EST as I sit down for a live MiniMoment with MiniLuxe. We’ll chat about embracing this time to support one another and inspire others. GIVEAWAY: Like, comment, and tag a friend woman who inspires you. I’ll pick someone to send a Just Show Up t-shirt + my fave nail color. #miniluxe #womenweadmire #fall #nailpolishcollection #femaleleaders #takethelead #iamnotalonecare
MiniLuxe: Tell us a little bit about your journey – how did you go from starting a company in your dorm room to today, leading the charge to change at home healthcare?
Jessica: I never intended to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t come from a family of business and I never thought of it as a possibility. I was an anthropology major who wanted to “study people when I grow up”. I’ve always been so intrigued by people – how different cultures, upbringing, and situational experiences literally shape that way someone sees the world. That curiosity of people is what drove me to start business. My first business was a baked goods business called Jessica’s Wonders. It was like the Ben & Jerry’s of baked goods. I was a 19-year-old sophomore in college following a random passion for baking. I sold to 13 different hot spots around campus, but then won Brown University’s first business plan competition. Long story short, I raised $1M from angel investors my senior year (with braces) and grew the business to national distribution and millions in revenue. It was an incredible experience born out of curiosity and passion.
I went to business school and then worked in the corporate world at Kraft Foods in brand management. After having my first child, Kayla, I started my next venture while on maternity leave. BabbaCo’s mission was to build products and experiences that fostered quality time between parents and children. We had monthly activity boxes that got delivered right to your door with everything you needed. I’ll never forget raising my Series A from venture capitalists while being pregnant with baby #3. It eventually got acquired by a global children’s publishing company where I stayed on as President for a few years. Then, my world stopped.
My mom’s pancreatic cancer came back. She had it for 7.5 years and I stepped in to be her full-time caregiver in 2016. I was thrust into the role of navigating all of her medical care, performing the nursing duties, and doing all the daily care. It was the hardest and most loneliest time in my life. She passed away in June 2017 and in my deep grief and frustration, my eyes were opened up to the 43.5 million family caregivers who are unsupported, untrained, and unpaid. My cofounder, Steve Lee, and I partnered up to solve this complex problem with the powerful combination of technology and community. Our mission at ianacare is to mobilize practical and emotional support to ensure that families are not alone as they live out one of the greatest acts of love.
MiniLuxe: What inspired you and who or what motivates you?
Jessica: No regrets. I want to live my life and embrace moments where I don’t regret the short or long-term impact. Life on earth is an incredible opportunity to LIVE. At the end of it all, I want to know that I put myself out there to love my best.
MiniLuxe: What was the most challenging thing in the last year you’ve overcome?
Jessica: This last year has been a challenging one for all of us. COVID-19, racial unrest, and the long-lasting impact of our world shutting down continues to be challenging. Personally, I felt the squeeze on a whole different level. The importance and intensity of homeschooling my three kids (ages 13, 10, and 8), running the ianacare startup with even more uncertainty, caring for my 82-year-old dad with heart disease, and trying to stay sane were all converging at a speed that was a lot to handle. I’m finally figuring out a new rhythm and routine that is sustainable.
MiniLuxe: What advice do you have for others who may be going through something similar?
Jessica: Put it all into perspective and establish key anchors for yourself. For me, my faith helps tremendously here. I ground myself in truth with quiet time in the morning. I ask a few close friends to help me process whatever is on my mind. I work out to sweat out the stress. I do one simple thing each day that brings me joy. Finally, I think of others to encourage. Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I grasp onto those anchors that put all the pieces into perspective.
MiniLuxe: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received, and how did you put it into action?
Jessica: “Do what you love, but do it well – with excellence.” My dad always told me to follow what I was curious about. Not everyone has the same interests and there is a reason why you are drawn to certain things. He didn’t put the pressure of a certain job or industry on me, which freed me up to truly explore. He didn’t care WHAT it was, but he pushed me to do it well. It’s the combination of being true to yourself and pursuing it with hard work and excellence.
MiniLuxe: How has being a mom shaped your perspective on the world and in your professional life?
Jessica: Being a mom grounds you in what matters most in life. The responsibility of raising human beings is incredibly humbling and inspiring at the same time. It’s constantly full of tensions. Be firm, yet loving. Be organized, yet fluid. Hold on tightly, yet let them go. These tensions may feel contradictory, yet it’s exactly the way it’s meant to be. It has helped me become a better leader because leadership is all about people. Seeing a baby grow into a teenager (and beyond) makes you realize how complex our minds and hearts are. As a mom and entrepreneur, if we put loving people at the center, our families and ventures would take on a whole new approach of loving others vs. expecting a specific outcome for our own benefit. It’s the most selfless and challenging role I’ll ever have, but one that I most cherish.
MiniLuxe: How do you keep it all together? What are some of the things you do day to day to juggle it all?
Jessica: First of all, I finally realized that life happens in phases and stages. As soon as I embraced each phase for what it is, it helped me handle all that comes with it. I love frameworks because it helps me put structure to chaos. I have a “three-day rule”. If I were to tell you that every single meal had to be perfectly proportioned in the food pyramid recommendations (30% carbs, 20% protein, etc.), we would all give up immediately because it’s frankly impossible to eat that way. I realized that we, especially as women, put that pressure to make every single day reflect our priorities. That’s why we feel the need to choose between family or career. Instead of striving for each day to be focused on your life priorities, stretch it out to three or four days. It’s long enough to allow realistic execution. Yet, it’s short enough where it keeps you accountable. Otherwise, three months (or three years) go by and you wonder why your life looks the way it does. I schedule those 3-4 days and strive for that timeframe to reflect where I want to spend my time and energy.
MiniLuxe: Who do you most admire and why?
Jessica: My mom continues to be the person I most admire. Even after she passed away, I always reflect on her life. She is a prime example of being an extraordinary ordinary person. She didn’t hold fancy titles or receive Nobel prizes. She was a mom, wife, community gatherer, and strong woman of faith. She made everyone around her feel so loved and energized. She is the epitome of the phrase “it’s not what you do or say, but how you make people feel.” She still inspires me every day to be more patient, loving, and full of joy.
MiniLuxe: Share a time you took a risk to move yourself forward. How did you decide to make that move?
Jessica: Starting ianacare was a recent risk. After taking time off to be my mom’s caregiver, I needed to go back to work. I had a few opportunities lined up that would have been great career builders and stability for the family. However, I knew deep inside that something major had to be done to address the support family caregivers deserve. I declined the jobs and dug into caregiving and healthcare with no real sense of what the outcome would be. The desire to solve the problem was the motivation. It led us to launching ianacare with a deep sense of understanding.
MiniLuxe: What advice would you give women who are looking to start a new career?
Jessica: Don’t overthink this next move as one that will define the rest of your life. Just focus on the foreseeable future, go ALL in, learn as much as possible, be bold in your contributions, create great relationships, and soak it in. That digging “all in” process will naturally lead you to what’s next with people who support you.
MiniLuxe: What role have mentors played in your life?
Jessica: Significant. I have several mentors, peers, and close friends who have played a significant role in helping me process, keeping me accountable, and allowing me to openly share. Truly game changing.
MiniLuxe: Do you have a favorite mantra or quote? What does this “do” for you?
Jessica: “At the end of the day, people just want to be seen, heard, and loved.” All that I do, create, and achieve strives to be driven by love – the kind of love that is not based on merit or performance. It’s the kind of love that is unconditional. Love is the reason I create ventures and it’s the ultimate impact I want my ventures to have.
MiniLuxe: What would you tell your younger (more naïve) self?
Jessica: Pace yourself. Sprint when it’s time to sprint. Rest when it’s time to rest. Take the long view and create a sustainable way to pursue life with passion and patience. Push forward, but not at the expense of losing yourself.
MiniLuxe: How do you give back in your communities?
Jessica: I’m completely driven by gratitude. I’ve had mentors and advisors throughout my life, so I try to be that for others. I’m heavily involved in the Brown Entrepreneurship program, which is the organization that introduced me to entrepreneurship. I’m also a Venture Partner at Praxis Labs, which encourages culture changers to create redemptive ventures. I’m on the Board of Directors for Be the Bridge, an organization that equips bridge builders towards racial reconciliation. A newer initiative is Show Up Now, which is a new faith-based nonprofit my friends and I started to mobilize everyday people to show up globally and locally (“glocal”) through donations, volunteering, and storytelling.
MiniLuxe: Representation matters. What advice would you give someone when they don’t see representation in their careers or sphere of influence?
Jessica: Representation truly matters. If you don’t see it, BE it. Go out there and represent what you wish you saw. View your difference as an advantage vs. a disadvantage. Instead of focusing on ourselves, focus on the people we’re serving. Most likely, you’ll reflect who you’re serving and that is a unique perspective that needs to be heard.
MiniLuxe: If you could have one wish for change, what would it be?
Jessica: I wish the world would value people over profit. The core of so many issues is greed over love. We use people’s data, we traffic human souls, we devalue the elderly, etc. Caregiving has been overlooked for years because the important work they do has no monetary value. I wish we prioritized human life over all else.
MiniLuxe: What’s your superpower? Put another way, your hidden talent?
Jessica: People say I can connect with anyone and quickly understand how they are wired. It’s the anthropologist in me. I enjoy getting to know different people deeply.
MiniLuxe: Favorite animal?
Jessica: Sea otters. They are so smart, playful, and loving. Don’t they look like they’re always smiling and snuggling?
MiniLuxe: Favorite color?
Jessica: Black. It’s reliable and flexible. It matches my black hair.
MiniLuxe: Favorite movie?
Jessica: Avatar. It’s anthropology at work!
MiniLuxe: Favorite book?
Jessica: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. Super moving story.
MiniLuxe: Who’s the first person you call when you get good news?
Jessica: My husband, Peter. He is my best friend. We’ve been dating since we were 19 years old and we’ve been married for 16 years. He is my person.
MiniLuxe: If you were going to host an un-socially distanced dinner party – in theory – who would you invite and why?
Jessica: I have a close crew of friends called “My Peeps” (group text thread name). We show up for each other and I’m totally myself. As a startup founder, I’m often “on”. I find rest and joy being with close friends.
MiniLuxe: What’s brought you the most joy during these last few months?
Jessica: Spending extra time with my three kids: Kayla (13), Grant (10), and Brandon (8). It has been so nice not rushing around, being able to play board games, and even feeling bored together. They regularly Zoom bomb my important meetings, but I secretly find it hilarious. When will I ever get this much time with them like this again? I’m choosing to savor it.
MiniLuxe: Most played song on your Spotify list/what would your theme song be?
Jessica: Rescue by Lauren Daigle. It reminds me that in our hardest or darkest moments, we are not alone. We will always be rescued.