Serial entrepreneur. Global citizen. Wife. Mother. Sports woman. Aspiring social entrepreneur committed to making the world a better place for all.
Several years ago, Unlimited Magazine interviewed me and dubbed me a “serial entrepreneur.” I was quite honored by their recognition and by the quotes they uncovered from former colleagues. Here is part of their article.
“…With an ambition that reaches around the globe, Linda Jenkinson is already celebrated by friends and relatives as a home-grown success story. Okay, so maybe that’s not hard when you come, as she does, from a family that regarded attending university as over-achieving. Moreover, making millions doesn’t mean you’re necessarily a success, right? Jenkinson, for one, is doubtful. ‘It’s all relative. I have higher goals. I want to build a billion-dollar company and conquer the world.’
“So who is this export from Palmy? She inherited her entrepreneurial genes from her father, Jim Jenkinson, who started a number of companies in New Zealand. Unlimited went to see her presentation to fellow entrepreneurs, and we got hooked by the woman’s chutzpah. Jenkinson’s early background as a consultant to some pretty big global companies obviously gives her a leg up when it comes to confidence and familiarity with high finance and international thinking. But what strikes you most about her is not so much her experience and no-nonsense approach, it’s that she seems totally fearless. She has no intention of failing but is not freaked out at the prospect. When asked how hard it was for a Kiwi woman to break into the US market, she simply shrugs. ‘It is not so much the fact you are a woman, it is how to break into the club. You have to play the game the way they do, and it helped me to be a comedian.’ What was the most important lesson she had learned so far? Jenkinson didn’t hesitate: ‘It is the basic Kiwi philosophy — give it a go, just do it.’ Colleagues describe Jenkinson as formidably bright, driven, focused, ambitious and hugely energetic. Company director and former AT Kearney colleague Alison Davis says Jenkinson has faced a huge marathon in the execution of the business plans for her companies but has had the energy and adaptability to keep going through difficult times. Business partner Patel probably has the closest insight into what makes Jenkinson tick. She’s changed his opinion of women bosses, and he says he’s never worked with anyone that’s better at seeing the big picture in terms of growing the company.”
As I reflect on their story, I can only add that the personal qualities learned at home and the business acumen accumulated over time have served me well in a career marked by entrepreneurship at every step along the way. The day after I made partner at AT Kearney in record time, I traded a plum position for the risky prospect of creating my own company (DMS). And having succeeded beyond my wildest expectations, I continued to embark on new challenges, creating another two successful for-profit companies (LesConcierges and Porthos) and a non-profit (WOW for Africa). Indeed having a vision and executing it from scratch is what makes my pulse race a little faster.
I’m also very passionate about New Zealand’s place on the international business landscape. I am a founding member of the Bay Area KEA. I have represented offshore KEA members at Knowledge Wave and have supported Kiwis in Business through KEA for more than ten years. In my frequent public speaking engagements in New Zealand, I encourage entrepreneurship and seek to inspire women to be all that they can be.
I have also made it my mission to inculcate the Kiwi spirit of giving and giving back that I learned as a girl growing up in New Zealand both in my family and among my fellow employees. I’ve always believed that you lead by example.
Personally, I have concentrated my philanthropy in three key areas: disaster relief, education, and women’s empowerment. In the four years that I served as volunteer co-chair/director for the Bay Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, we initiated programs that are now a staple of our community reachout and fundraising. First, we set up a series of bi-monthly receptions hosted by foreign consuls to reflect the international relief efforts of the Red Cross. These evenings have become coveted affairs in the city and have cemented community support for the Red Cross. Second, we created an annual gala marked by a red-dress ball, complete with a series of fashion shows leading up to the gala and thereby engaging San Francisco’s socially-conscious volunteer community.
In the area of education, I sit on the board of the Massey University Foundation and I mentor women students at my alma mater, Wharton Business School as well as Stanford Business School and U.C. Berkeley’s Haas Business School. I have found that I can be an excellent role model on how to balance a rich family life and a demanding career track, which is the leading concern among women students.
I also contribute time and treasure to a wide variety of women’s causes on a consistent basis. My most rewarding undertaking has been on the global stage – in Western Africa. In 2006, I traveled to Dakar with several businesswomen colleagues and founded WOW for Africa, a Social Enterprise Fund investing in women-owned businesses in West Africa. WOW helps grow small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). Too often lack of access to capital, networks, business expertise and training in low-income countries constrains the growth of these SMEs. WOW, which means “yes” in Senegalese, favors sustainable businesses that reflects the three P’s (people, profit and planet). Our holistic business model is well suited for the unique challenges of West Africa, providing capital, market access, global networks, business center support and capacity building to our portfolio companies. We invested $20k to $100k per company in debt and equity and provide extensive day-to-day support to build sustainable businesses. WOW has collaborated with leading organizations such as OXFAM, Stanford University, The Wharton School, Adina for Life/Wholefoods. I was the founding CEO and lead fundraiser. When I spoke at the Clinton Global Initiatiative in 2008, WOW was acknowledged as the most successful SME investment model in Africa.
Business Résumé: LJResume.2011.photo