Starting any business is hard. But making it successful with two small children at home amid a global pandemic? That’s the challenge Chicago’s Jen Naye Herrmann faced just a few short years ago. With the help of a strong family, a good business partner, and her own unquenchable will to succeed — plus a desire to improve the lives of other women business owners in the process — she made it work.
Today, her business, a marketing agency, is thriving, her family life is happier than ever, and she has a message that she’s eager to share with women everywhere: everything is possible! You can live your dream and build any life you want, no matter the odds you’re forced to overcome. You just have to get started and believe success is possible.
Following in the family’s entrepreneurial footsteps
Born and raised in Illinois, Naye Herrmann is originally from Arlington Heights, a northwestern suburb of Chicago, about 25 miles from the city’s downtown.
Naye Herrmann got her start working in the corporate world after college. But it wasn’t the life she was after, she says, admitting she even told a vice president at one of her jobs as much, inadvertently, during a conversation about what she saw for her future.
“I come from a long line of entrepreneurs,” Naye Herrmann says proudly. “My great-grandfather started one of the first grocery stores in [Chicago’s] Little Italy. My grandfather ran his own tax business. My mom ran her own tax business. So, becoming an entrepreneur was an itch I had to scratch. I knew it was something that I wanted to do for a very long time.”
Following those life-long ambitions, but not quite sure where they would go, Naye Herrmann started building her own brand, blog, and social media channels at the end of 2015, gaining followers and letting her path unfold organically to see how things might develop.
“Things could happen a lot more authentically back then,” she says, “and I wanted to see if this might be my path.”
Charting her course
From those simple beginnings, success blossomed relatively quickly. By 2018, Naye Herrmann was well on her way — she had amassed enough work as a social media consultant that she could finally say goodbye to the corporate world and start working for herself exclusively. She also had her daughter Emmie that same year and has “been building the business ever since,” she says.
In addition to her current role of creating inspiring lifestyle content about parenting, travel, home décor, and more, Naye Herrmann remains ever-ambitious. She started a second business four years ago, partnering with her friend Jessie Bernhardt to launch The Marketing Greenhouse, a boutique marketing agency that works primarily with other women-owned businesses, helping them get started, and scale as they grow.
Naye Herrmann and Bernhardt launched the company in March 2020. “Our timing was impeccable,” she jokes. “But we made it work. Having Jessie as a business partner has truly been a blessing. We laugh a lot about it now. But at the start, with young kids and being in the pandemic, it was a scary period. Today, we’re very much each other’s support systems, which has made a huge difference.”
How did they meet? “Like true millennials, we met on Instagram,” Naye Herrmann says.
The power of women
Just as Naye Herrmann’s social media presence grew and evolved over time, so too did the model for her business. And that’s something she couldn’t be happier about.
“I definitely didn’t start the business initially thinking I only wanted to work with women,” she says. “But it’s a little bit of ‘what you put out, you attract.’ And I believe so much in the ethos of supporting more women-owned businesses and simply women supporting women in general.”
As a mom, Naye Herrmann knows how hard it can be to find time to do everything and pull it all together. And she wants to help other women in that struggle, letting everyone know it’s a battle that can be won.
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help — it’s an important message, for parenting but also for business.”Jen Naye Herrmann
“When we make the decision to become moms, life can get a bit more complicated, and pursuing the career that you want gets even more complicated,” she says. “I feel passionately about helping women figure out a life that works for them. That’s what we’re here to do.”
Those lessons, she says, start with one simple message: You’ve got this!
According to Naye Herrmann, “One of the things that I try to teach people that I work with — and a mantra I follow — is to remember just how dynamic you are and how much you are capable of, whether you have kids or not. Embrace different interests. Create a mentality where work can seamlessly blend with your lifestyle. You don’t have to work 24/7, but you also don’t have to follow a traditional 9-to-5 schedule. Work in chunks and spurts, when you have the energy to do so.”
In other words, the model that works for you doesn’t have to be the model that works for anyone else. Success is what we each make it.
The importance of family
As an only child to her dad, Paul, and mom, Maria — “a five-foot-two sassy Sicilian lady,” she says — Naye Herrmann believes her family has always been her greatest source of inspiration and the driving force that got her to where she is today.
“My mom’s my best friend, and I’m extremely close with my dad, too,” she says. “My mom taught me from a very young age that if you want something, you make it happen. She worked hard to give me a great life. She worked around my school schedule and always found a way to get things done. I remember mornings when she was building her tax business, I’d wake up to get ready for school, and she would have already been sitting at her desk for hours working. At the same time, she was also always there as a mom — she set the tone that you really can do both. She was very human about it too, acknowledging it can be a challenge.”
Another essential lesson Paul and Maria taught their daughter: the importance of partnership and figuring things out together.
“I think it makes a big difference that my dad was always really involved as well in the home when I was growing up,” Naye Herrmann says. “We didn’t have the stereotypical gender roles that a lot of ’90s kids did. My dad made my school lunches. There were no roles that were designated specifically for mom versus dad. I think that helped to set the tone for me from a very early age that women really can do anything.”
That’s a message Naye Herrmann and her husband, Matt, want to instill in Emmie (now 5) and her brother Archie, 2.
“When I’m working today,” she says, “I follow my mother’s model when raising me. I very much flex my schedule around the kids so that I don’t miss out on gymnastics or school reading times or whatever is going on in their lives.”
As her kids get older, that also means being able to ask for help when it’s needed. Naye Herrmann says her parents live about a half hour away and are retired, so they’re a wonderful resource, as is Matt. So, too, is having a business partner with a family of young children of her own, which creates a strong sounding board for advice and support.
“With a daughter entering her school-age years, so much of the challenge is just logistics,” Naye Herrmann says. “There’s just more activities and an endless stream of coordination. I used to be too proud to ask for help — I would try to do as much as I could myself. But not anymore. Outsource when you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help — it’s an important message, for parenting but also for business.”