Ethical and PR are not two words that you see side-by-side very often. And that is partly what makes Janelle Brunton-Rennie, founder of the highly successful ethical PR company, Media Jam, so special.
After a series of events that lead Janelle to re-evaluate her personal approach to health and wellbeing, she decided she could no longer lend her voice and business acumen to brands that didn't align with her core values of human respect, equality, ethicality, cruelty-free treatment and environmental care.
So, she did what many people would love to do but most are afraid to, and took the leap to start Media Jam, a company which aligns her business practice with her personal values.
I know. Amazing, right?!
Sach caught up with Janelle to discuss health, inner happiness and the advice she has for other young women wanting to start their own business:
Thanks for having a chat, Janelle! Can you start by sharing what it was that made you want to divert from the normal path of PR and start Media Jam?
My life really changed when I became unwell. I had spent years hammering my body, training for marathons, triathlons and iron man and even became a competitive body builder for four years, and the physical stress of the intense diet regime and training combined with the stress of running a successful business took its toll on me and I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's disease (an auto-immune disease of the thyroid), hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue.
I was super-tired all the time, which was frustrating for someone who took a lot of pride in branding themselves a lifetime athlete. In essence, my body was overriding me, and telling me that my intense lifestyle was hurting it, and as much as I begrudgingly didn’t want to hear it and had been ignoring it for some time, I wasn’t going to be able to hit the override button anymore.
Our bodies are very good at telling us when something is off, but as a society we have become very good and distracting ourselves, ignoring, and masking the warning signs until ultimately the body will end up overriding us.
I decided to take full responsibility for my own journey back to health. I have read countless numbers of books and studies on optimal health, poor health and the contributing factors. Once I started reconnecting and really listening to my body I was able to establish what factors had contributed to my becoming unwell in the first place.
I could no longer work with brands that contain parabens and chemicals that we shouldn’t be applying to our skin (think about how a nicotine patch works and it’s pretty clear that our body absorb everything that we put onto it). I couldn’t work with brands that were contributing to the demise of the planet via polluting waterways with dyes or microplastics or using harsh pesticides and herbicides in their production. I couldn’t lend my voice to brands who don’t consider all humans equal and who use child or slave labour to manufacture their clothing so they can make top margins, or brands that contain uncertified palm oil and are contributing to deforestation and the demise of the beautiful wildlife that call those forests home.
I ‘woke up’ so to speak and realised that everything you buy is a vote for the kind of world you want to live in and you want your children to inherit. I believe we are caretakers of this earth and that being eco-conscious is a responsibility we all share.
So, I repositioned Media Jam to be aligned with my new values, and my team and I are passionate advocates of health, well-being and self-care principles, natural and organic beauty brands, cruelty free products, eco-conscious labels, ethically produced fashion and leading NZ entrepreneurs with a conscience.
It's really inspiring to see someone aligning their business and personal values. What does a normal working day look like for you?
I usually start work nice and early as I’m a morning person and I function at my best with a super clear head in the mornings. I work from home so I’m at my laptop by 7.30am clearing and responding to emails that have arrived overnight. I’ll spend the next couple of hours submitting fashion and beauty images to media for upcoming themes they’re working on, arranging couriers of stock for shoots coming up, sending information and pricing on various beauty treatments, health products or upcoming new fashion and beauty releases and liaising with my clients to have them answer questions for various interviews or expert quotes in upcoming publications.
Then I usually head to my first meeting at 10am, followed by my second meeting at 12noon (usually with clients, media, bloggers or my team) and then I’m back to the office to catch up on email that’s arrived whilst I’ve been out and about for the afternoon.
How do you practice responding in challenging times or when life doesn't go "your" way?
Great question! I actually think a massive contributor to my becoming unwell was the amount of ‘fight’ that I approached every day with. I had a ‘winners make it happen, losers let it happen’ attitude, and to be honest this mantra served me well, until making it happen all too frequently almost broke me. Through my recovery and learning how to approach life and business in a better way for me I honestly believe that the universe is working for us not against us. Everything comes to us in the right moment, when it’s meant for us. When I miss out on a huge new client that I really wanted, I do feel disappointment, but I also know that the client wasn’t meant for me in this moment – and for whatever reason, I find a lot of peace in that. And the reason is usually revealed in the next month or so via a better suited client in the same space or a new opportunity that I wouldn’t have had the time for! I’m certainly not saying that if you sit at home on the sofa and do nothing at all that you’ll achieve all your hearts desires, but what I am saying is if you work really hard, from a place of honesty and authenticity – all the right things, people and opportunities will come to you in the right moment. And those that you miss out on, were not meant for you on your journey in the first place.
That is such a beautiful way to look at and learn from adversity! So, what advice do you have for girls wanting to start their own business?
Be prepared to work harder than you ever imagined. Starting a business is the single most terrifying thing I've ever done. No guarantees, no security, no certainty other than that in my skill set, my abilities and sheer grit, determination and drive. There are so many naysayers, so many people who encourage you to play it safe. When Media Jam turned two (we are turning six later this year!) I stood in the shower and sobbed for a good 10 minutes out of sheer relief as I was reminded by so many along the way that 80% of businesses fail in the first two years, and I was so solidly determined this was not going to be me.
I respect anyone who has ever had the courage to start their own business. I think people fantasise about working for themselves, and not having a boss but the truth is, the certainty of a salary, and actually being able to have four weeks holiday each year shouldn't be underestimated. Starting, growing and running a business is the single riskiest, hardest, yet rewarding thing I've ever done, but in the last five and a half years I've had one weeks true holiday, one week where I unplugged and wasn't available.
So be prepared to work super hard – but from a place of heart.
What is the best piece of advice you've been given?
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony” – Mahatma Gandhi
If you could go back to your 17-year-old self and tell her a piece of advice; what would it be?
1. Trust your gut. Energy doesn’t lie. If you feel something is ‘off’ or wrong or isn’t sitting right with you, there’s a very good reason for that.
2. Choose certified natural and organic beauty products and cleaning products at all times. What we put ONTO our body is as important as what we put INTO our body.
3. Make friends with yourself and your body.
4. Buy organic everything where possible so you can minimize your ingestion of products containing growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides. Or at least wash your fruit and vegetables before eating them in a sink with apple cider vinegar or a good natural vegetable wash to remove pesticide and herbicide residues.
5. Manage everything out of your life that no longer serves you including relationships, friendships, jobs and clients.
And lastly, how do you like to practice self-care either physically, mentally or spiritually?
I practice yoga, mindfulness and meditation as often as I can.
I speak to myself with love and kindness.
Exercise should give you energy not strip it. I used to exercise myself to exhaustion as it was the only way I knew how to cope with stress. Find better ways to cope with your stress such as meditation, mindful walks, yoga, painting, whatever re-centres you and use exercise as a tool for giving you energy and endorphins – rather than depleting it.
I practice loving kindness not only towards myself, but towards others.
I switch off the TV and read as often as possible.
I don’t say yes when I really want to say no anymore.
I surround myself with good people. Energy doesn’t lie. I believe that we truly know how we feel about somebody when we see who is calling us on our cellphones. If you look at the screen and think ‘uh, what do they want’? Chances are you should be reducing the amount of time and energy you spend with that person.
I understand that ‘as I think, so I become’. The brain is a muscle, and like other muscles we can train it – and I work every day toward ensuring that I’m training my mind to work for me, not against me.
Thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us and share your inspiring personal and courageous entrepreneurial journey with us!
You can check out more about Media Jam:
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