429 Magazine

Diversity is her business

Committed to guiding leaders and organizations to healthy and diverse workplace cultures, Jennifer Brown is a passionate advocate and award-winning entrepreneur. 

After her dream of being an opera singer was derailed by a throat injury, Brown found her voice in a new way by teaching workplaces to sing in harmony using the voices of all their employees.

In 2006, she founded Jennifer Brown Consulting, LLC, to help large corporations get the best performance from their diverse employees. Now, with more than a dozen employees, JBC counts Cisco, MetLife, McKesson, Intuit, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, PricewaterhouseCoopers and more among their satisfied clients.

With half a decade of success under her belt, Brown reflects on how she built a multi-million dollar, lesbian-owned business that creates more inclusive and productive workplaces for everyone.

Is there an ah-ha moment when you took your idea and turned it into a business?
When I got laid off from my last corporate HR job, instead of returning to a full-time salaried job, I thought I could succeed as an independent. I hung out my shingle as a sub-contracted trainer and coach, working under larger leadership development and training companies. 

I spent several years being a road warrior, delivering training programs in such varied corporate environments. It was eye opening. Not only did I discover a passion for facilitation and coaching, but it hit me that I had a much larger vision and agenda to enable more inclusive workplaces. I needed to build a business to support this idea, broaden our reach and deepen the impact beyond what I could accomplish alone. 
How did you get started?
A couple things happened at the same time: I got a few really big clients who wanted to work directly with me, I ended my subcontractor relationships, I incorporated, and I found a few great people I trusted to represent our brand in the learning environment, so I could start working "on the business" more than in the business. 

What was your goal when you started? How has it evolved?
My goal when I started was to build a self-sustaining team to sell and deliver our services, attract the best consultants and staff to the team, and maintain a commitment to innovation on the topics of leadership and diversity. 

This is still our goal, however my role continues to change as I grow the company, beyond me as the founder, but also to be able to deliver larger scale programs, broaden our offerings, and look for additional innovative "stars" in our field who want to be on this journey with us.

What's your favorite thing about the amazing company you created?
My favorite thing is to hear from clients what a great job the team did, how they experience working with us, and the professional and personal impact that’s made on them.  It is also incredible to hear that people just appreciate that we exist that we are out there doing the work of inclusion and workplace transformation, which requires bravery, insight, and tremendous optimism in people and organizations, even in tough economic times.  I think honestly our existence and our passion provides some fuel for fellow advocates for inclusion and change to keep going.
What are the three things you're most proud of?
 I am most proud of transforming myself into a woman entrepreneur and business owner – never something that was on my radar screen in my earlier professional years – and trying to build an organization, instead of a sole proprietorship, which is a unique challenge and journey. 

I am also proud that I am open as an LGBT business owner and advocate, and get the opportunity to be a resource, teacher and guide on this topic due to my personal life and experience. 

Finally, I can confidently say the thing many founders wish to say, which is "if I were hit by a bus, the organization I founded will continue to survive."  I believe our team and our clients share a passion for what we are trying to achieve that will power some form of JBC into the future.

What can we expect from you and JBC in the future?
I hope to fulfill my media dreams with a reality show where I get to coach teams on leadership. I’m half kidding. I hope to personally represent the great work we do at JBC in the media and in publications that influence the business world and society generally where inclusion is still such a persistent problem and where we aren’t realizing the power of human potential.

The company will continue to count some of the most-admired companies among its clients, and figure out how to link the contributions of all employees to the organization, and its impact on the marketplace, and on society. 

Watch Brown’s TEDwomen speech:

More information on JBC can be found at JenniferBrownConsulting.com.

Written By:
Shannon Wentworth
Shannon Wentworth
Tue, Dec 13, 2011


Comment by Barb Elgin
over 4 years ago

Great video Jennifer. Your story is inspiring and reminds me that it's in the not giving up that we eventually succeed!

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