Continuing our series on some amazing women in Chicago, we sat down with the founder of Closet Angels, Jayna Cooke. Before starting the non-profit organization, Jayna was the Vice President of Business Development at Groupon and was responsible for as much as 25 percent of the company’s revenue. This lady knows what she’s doing, and she shared with Shy Town Girls some tips on starting out and growing up.
1. What is Closet Angels? What inspired you to start it?
“Closet Angels is a non-profit organization that takes donated designer goods and resells those items. The monies raised are donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to support their efforts in providing the highest level of care to those in need. Our mission is to help all children lead happy, healthy lives by giving in a way that is convenient for you. Our foundation appreciates the value of designer goods, and we turn those items into dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
I was inspired to start Closet Angels as a way to take an under utilized resource (clothes and accessories sitting in your closet) and monetize them to turn them in to lifesaving treatment and research for children. There is so much going on in the city and you constantly want to support your friends but I was not able to attend all the events and donations and wanted to create a way that was convenient for everyone to give.”
2. What in your career path led you to this point?
“Well that is a long story! I have done everything from being a swim coach, to working the drive-thru at Wendy’s, to telemarketing. I started working when I was 13 and have had plethora of jobs, so I think the diverse background has taught me some amazing life skills, but probably most importantly the ability to adapt and try anything.”
3. What mistakes did you learn from starting out?
“Just jump in, don’t think about it too much. I find myself looking for reasons for ideas and businesses to fail when I do believe, like Steve Jobs said, you need to ‘stay foolish.’ You need to be able to block out the noise.”
4. What has been the biggest challenge of starting Closet Angels and what has been the biggest reward?
“The largest challenge is just not having the resources I had at the other two start-ups I was at. So learning to prioritize what needs to get done when everything needs to get done at the same time.
“The largest reward is creating something that benefits others and that people are excited about.”
5. Who is the most inspirational woman in your life?
“Oprah. She is such an inspiration in so many aspects of life. Also, my grandma is my go-to for good advice from a woman. She knows how to ask the right questions and can always help me find the answer. Weird as it sounds, sometimes I just think what would she say and I know the answer.”
6. What do you love about Chicago?
“I LOVE the summers, the nice and honest people, and great restaurants.”
7. If you could tell your 20-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
“It’s going to be all right, enjoy life!”