Interviews

Off Duty: Jen Gotch, Founder of Ban.do

Written By James Kicinski-McCoy

Photography by: The Bleu

To know Jen Gotch is to have an extra spark of joy in your life. If you follow her, as I am sure so many of you do, you will know exactly why I say that. For those that have yet to discover Jen, here’s a quick rundown: she founded the empire Ban.do, she has a podcast on Girlboss Radio called Jen Gotch Is OK…Sometimes (It’s really good!), she speaks candidly and publicly about her mental health, and she’s funny as hell.

Jen was in Nashville a few months ago for a conference she was speaking at. Her trip was brief, but we met up at one of my favorite spots for coffee (I also had an omelette) to catch up. I told her about Bleu (one of the first outside of my close circle) because I admire her immensely as a business woman and wanted to get her feedback. Jen is constantly kicking ass and taking names, all while simultaneously being a realistic and necessary role model and advocate for women and self-care. I asked her if the next time I was in L.A. I could photograph her for the site and she humbly said “yes.” After our coffee date, we did a little shopping — I bought shoes — and we parted ways.

Fast forward a month and a half later and I land in sunny Los Angeles. Our shoot was scheduled early in the day, and I had an hour or so to kill beforehand, however not enough time to drop my things at the apartment where I was staying. Armed with a few solid recommendations for coffee and a quick bite in Jen’s ‘hood, I wheeled my suitcase alongside me for an almond milk latte and avocado mash toast with dukkah. Both were insanely good and consumed in just enough time to enjoy before it was time to meet Jen. I opened up Uber to see how long it would take to get a car, and turns out Jen was only a ten-ish minute walk. I set off on foot with my Tumi in tow for a dose of vitamin D and an extra seven dollars in my wallet. Win-win. Now, let’s dive into the interview…

Jen's living room.
Jen's living room.

Tell us about your home.  “It’s cozy, with a great energy. Filled with lots of swap meet finds and is probably a more neutral palette than what most people would assume. Lots of places to chill, listen to music, or just listen to my loud neighbors.”

A few of your favorite things in your home?  “My dog, Phillip, a labradoodle terrier mix that we rescued about eight years ago. My mattress, so weird, but it is like sleeping on a cloud, but a really supportive cloud (from Tuft & Needle). My collection of crystals and shells — I have loved rocks, crystals, and shells since I was a little girl, and I collect them everywhere I go. Plus, obviously, they have magical powers — an added bonus.”

Where do you shop for home decor?  “My brother, Jason, finds me amazing vintage stuff (@americangarage) and the rest I get at the swap meet. I haven’t bought something for the home from an actual store in a long time. I think hunting is more fun.”

Favorite way to spend a day off?  “I like to do something nice for myself, like a massage or a session with my reiki healer. Something outside like a hike, so I can get sun in my eyes and then hang with my brother or some close friends. Oh, and NAP.”

Do you sleep-in on your days off?  “Nope. I’ve found it’s best for my mental health to get up at the same time every day and, thankfully, I’m a morning person.”

What’s on your bedside table?  “Crystals, rocks, books, palo santo, the earrings I wore yesterday, and half a can of lime La Croix.”

What’s your sign?  “Libra.”

Any must-read books to note? The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel S.F. Heller, Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, and Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry and Jean Greaves.”

Coffee table books or magazines you love?  “I still love Lula Mag and I have a copy of Nudist Magazine from the 70’s that’s pretty great, too.”

Favorite candle?  “Maison Louis Marie No. 5”

What are your hobbies?  “Reading, hiking, learning, sleeping, vintage shopping, and bouncing on a tiny trampoline.”

Night in or night out? How do you spend it?  “Night in with friends and drinks, great conversation, and lots of laughs.”

Favorite Netflix series?  “I don’t watch a ton of TV. I was into Big Mouth on Netflix, because I had a crush on Nick Kroll. Otherwise, I usually use Netflix to watch an episode of Friends or Schitt’s Creek — I love Dan Levy.”

Song on repeat?  “I have been listening to a ton of Paul Simon lately. ‘Slip Sliding Away’, ‘American Tune’, and ‘Late in the Evening’ to name a few.”

& Other Stories dress.
& Other Stories dress.

What’s the one thing in your closet you would save in a fire?  “Gertie (my cat). She hides in there all the time.”

Describe your personal style.  “That’s tough, because I feel like it evolves a lot depending on my mood, the weather, and how I’m feeling about my body. I love vintage, and I love to create unique, unexpected outfits, but I also am a sucker for a white t-shirt and jeans.”

Your biggest fashion failure?  “Conforming!”

What do you wear when you’re spending the day comfortable, at home, off duty?  “Pajamas and Uggs or jeans and a t-shirt.”

What are three things on your want list?  “Peace, love, and joy. [Laughs] Sorry, I don’t really have a fashion want list. I’d love some nicer jewelry — coming off of years of buying $2 earrings and $5 necklaces at the swap meet. I’m ready to make the commitment.”

Your five wardrobe staples, go…  “Freda Salvador Hike combat boots, a great pair of Levi’s, a vintage white blouse (preferably with a high collar and lace detail), vintage graphic tee, and my Lazy Oaf oversized check pea coat.”

Favorite designers and brands? Freda Salvador: I love their shoes and I love Megan and Cristina’s mission. Ace & Jig: Cary and Jenna also have a great mission and their clothes are beautiful, so soft, and comfortable! Clare V. because she is a good friend, incredibly smart and funny, and her bags are EPIC! Ban.do because I founded the company and I like that our mission is to encourage joy.”

Very favorite online shop? Bando.com!!!”

Dresses or jeans?  “Dresses in summer, jeans in winter or whenever I haven’t shaved my legs.”

Heels or flats?  “Flats.”

Vintage or new?  “Vintage!”

Favorite places to buy vintage?  “The Rose Bowl Flea Market is really the one place I go for vintage and I always come home with amazing finds.”

Bougainvillea wall.
Bougainvillea wall.

Coffee or tea?  “Coffee, preferably Bulletproof.”

Fave local coffee shop?  “Collage for an almond milk latte.”

Fave cookbooks? “Anything by Donna Hay.”

What’s your go-to dinner recipe when at home?  “When I want to treat myself/emotionally eat, I make spaghetti with butter, pine nuts, crispy prosciutto parm, and parsley.”

Gertie.
Gertie.

Favorite local lunch dish?  “I love the brisket tacos at Home State.”

Regular Postmates order?  “Yellow Coconut Curry Udon from M Cafe.”

Any supplements you take/magic elixirs you make or swear by?  “Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil in my coffee, Natural Calm when I’m feeling anxious, and Super You from Moon Juice.”

Your most-loved kitchen gadget?  “My vintage blender from Gertrude Tauritz — not a brand, but my grandma.”

Do you work out?  “Yes, I do LEKfit! It’s a dance inspired fitness method with high intensity cardio, muscle sculpting, and jumping on a small trampoline. The class I go to regularly is called Bounce.”

What are your thoughts on getting older?  “I’m enjoying it. There is a lot of wisdom that comes with age, which helps me when approaching challenges. Sometimes I wish I could still look like I did when I was 25, but I’m finding it interesting to experience what growing old gracefully looks (and feels) like.”

What does self-care look like for you?  “Self-care, at its core, is giving yourself permission to do whatever it is that you need to be okay. Stay in bed all weekend and watch TV, find the positive in a negative situation, cry when you feel like crying, accept the compliments that are given to you with an open heart, have fun, or yes, take that bubble bath.”

How did Ban.do begin?  “It was actually kind of an accident. My friend Jamie and I were both working 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. I ran a blog at the time and had started shooting a bit of commercial photography. I thought between my photo knowledge and blogging connections, we might be able to put together a site and get the word out pretty quickly. Keep in mind, this was before Twitter was popular or Instagram was even invented, so social media wasn’t a thing. It took us a few months to get everything together. We had to make the pieces (they were all one-of-a-kind at the time), photograph them, and set up a simple website. But in early August of 2008, we launched and then sold out almost immediately. Clearly, since then the brand has changed and evolved in many ways, but that’s where we got our start.”

What does a typical work day look like for you?  “I don’t really have a typical work day at the moment. I’m writing a book, so it’s mostly been working out in the morning, attending to any time-sensitive business, and then diving into the writing process.”

How do you stay productive and get in the zone?  “[Laughs] Still figuring out new ways to do that, but I never stop trying. I have ADD, so getting in the zone is tough. Bulletproof coffee has helped a lot with that. Minimal distractions and a to-do list that is manageable has helped. Also, identifying when I am absolutely not going to be productive (even if I should be) and accepting that and just relaxing or doing something fun instead of stressing about it.”

What do you attribute to your success?  “I attribute it to patience, hard work, emotional intelligence, sacrifice, resilience, gratitude, LUCK, and the kindness of others.”

Advice for fellow entrepreneurs?  “Gain self-awareness and emotional intelligence.”

Tell us about your podcast?  “It’s called Jen Gotch Is OK…Sometimes. It’s weird, original, funny, and honest. I talk about my fears, my pain, my triumphs — all in the hopes that it will help my audience to become more self aware, build their emotional intelligence, and more than anything else feel less alone.”

What’s coming up next for you?  “My book, a memoir about mental health and success, is coming out in the fall!”

What does the book writing process look like for you?  “Lots of trial and error, and also persistence and a lot of crying.”

Written by: James Kicinski-McCoy

James Kicinski-McCoy is the 30-something Founder and Editor-In-Chief of The Bleu. She likes tequila, picks fights with her husband so she can have the bed to herself, and is trying to figure out that work / life balance.

2 Comments

  1. Kate Bowdren

    April 8, 2019 at 10:57 am

    Great interview about a lady who brings such inspiration and joy to others! Thanks for featuring her and making my morning bright!

    Reply
  2. jessica dolan

    April 14, 2019 at 2:52 pm

    love the interview! love jen!

    Reply

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