By Alison Wood
When faced with the choice of a tough climb or an easy one, Jen Bawden always takes the most arduous ascent. She believes in herself and knows if it doesn¹t work out, she can always backtrack and travel the comfortable path. Not that she¹d let that happen. While a student at Branksome Hall, Jen Bawden was happy, optimistic and more than a little bit impish. Chronically late, with a penchant for wearing her kilt as a "mini," she was a regular mischievous fixture in the headmistress¹ office.
"Late for class as usual, one day I helped an old lady across the road instead of taking the overpass," Jen describes. "While the class looked on, I climbed to the top of a tree in the courtyard to rescue a kitten."
These playful antics were less defiance and more a release of pent-up pain caused by what she describes as an unhappy home life. "Boarding at Branksome was like being let out of jail," she says. "What seemed to others as strict rules were lapse compared to those I had been used to."
Thriving in the independent thinking environment, Jen learned it was OK to question established ideas. Her most important role model was her headmistress, Allison Roach. Responsible for hundreds of other students, Roach still managed to make her feel special someone with a good life that was worth living on her own terms.
"She nurtured and encouraged my independent and free-spirited nature where many others would have tried to squash it on the spot," Jen explained.
In its infant stage at Branksome, this strong self-image matured during her post-secondary education at Neuchatel College in Switzerland, then the University of Western Ontario in London and finally The Fashion Institute in Los Angeles, where she received a graduate degree in Design and Marketing.
Demonstrating just how powerful her spirit and talents were, Jen took a startup fashion design and production company from conception to implementation in less than 18 months. Customers such as Bergdorf Goodman, I. Magnin, Nordstrom's, Holt Renfrew and others carried Jen Bawden's elaborate gowns, worn by singers Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, models Carol Alt and Daisy Fuentes, plus other noted women such as Ivana Trump and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson.
"I never wanted to follow the pattern in sewing class, creating my own designer originals out of my grandmother¹s old velvet dresses instead," Jen explained. "I don't think I've fundamentally changed much. I still take risks, push boundaries and make my own rules."
Her blend of creativity and business acumen is a powerful Combination-especially when it¹s put to work on Wall Street, Jen Bawden's new home. How she got there is also a testament to her talents.
While running her fashion company Bawden raised capital for various charities, getting a taste for the money chase. During this time, she was also inspired to author a book, Get a Life THEN Get a Man, to help other women follow their dreams (Available in most Toronto bookstores). As the Internet "exploded around her," she was offered a job as head of marketing at a venture capital firm. Six months ago, Jen took her experiences and connections and opened her own Technology development and finance business, Bawden Capital.
"I am every bit as creative now as I was when I ran my fashion company," Bawden explains. "Instead of knowing what top works with what skirt I figure out ways for company one to work with company two. My people skills and ability to adapt to change are great assets on Wall Street. You have to be very creative in a tough market always coming up with new ways to help your clients."
Bawden saved thousands of dollars by designing her own logos and website JenniferBawden.com & BawdenCapital.com, proving an artistic woman can excel in the business world and enjoy it. She¹s addicted to the liveliness and fast pace of New York. ("it's the only drug I've ever needed") and the thrill of closing a big deal, working with bold, talented entrepreneurs and being part of the fast-changing technology world.
"I don't look at business the way most people do something you do just for the money. I see it as a creative process. I feel like I'm building layer by layer," Jen Bawden says. "My goal is always to do the best I cannot to compete with others. Although I must admit I do get quite a thrill when I'm beating the boys at their own game!"