LIVESTRONG met with Ban.do founder and chief creative officer Jen Gotch at her home in Los Angeles to interview her for our Stronger Women series.
Ban.do is a quirky L.A.-based design shop that specializes in creating stylish gifts and accessories that smart women are seduced by — everything from pastel-pink letter boards to tops with clever messages to watermelon cooler bags.
While Ban.do is all about pastel and rainbow Instagram-ready confections, Gotch talks openly about her ongoing battles with anxiety and depression to nearly 200,000 followers in her Instagram Stories. She aims to make a difference in removing the stigmas around discussing mental health issues in our professional lives.
Gotch recently worked with Iconery to launch a collection of “depression” and “anxiety” cursive nameplate necklaces that have already sold out. (Actress Busy Philipps wears the anxiety one.) All the proceeds are going to Bring Change to Mind, a nonprofit organization aimed at encouraging dialogue about mental health.
In an Instagram post about the necklace, Philipps wrote: “I’m proud to wear my anxiety around my neck for everyone to see. I work very hard daily to push through it and not let it get the best of me. Some days it does, some days it doesn’t.”
On a rare rainy day in Los Angeles we hunkered down in Gotch’s eclectic and homey bungalow, and I asked if there is any downside to being so open about her emotions. We also discussed her best career advice and her top tips on self-care, food and fitness.
During our conversation, Gotch revealed her 13 secret weapons:
1. Power Poses, Including Starfish!
Since Gotch deals so openly with anxiety in her Instagram Stories, I was curious to find out how she calms her nerves before important meetings or media appearances.
“I saw a TED Talk on power poses,” she said. “I will literally go in the green room and just do starfish pose for two minutes.”
2. Positivity, Hope and Optimism
The power of positivity is another one of Gotch’s secret weapons.
“I do feel like being able to feel hopeful and positive has been so impactful in my life, and at Ban.do we’ve been so committed to being a bright spot in people’s lives,” explained Gotch. “Anything you can do to let that in, even in a very dark time for a lot of people, it’s been so impactful and it’s worked for me.”
3. Expressing Emotions
I asked Gotch what it means to her to be a #LadyBoss.
“I almost feel like an outlier, because I’ve had a very positive experience being a female leader,” Gotch said. “My company is mostly women. And the men that I work with have always just been incredibly respectful. I emote all over the place at work, and they embrace it. I’ve been really lucky in my experience.”
4. Her Beacon Is Ban.do
What is Gotch’s advice to a prospective entrepreneur who wants to start her own business?
“When people ask me that, my advice is: ‘Don’t do it!’ Because it’s really hard. And I feel like that was the advice that I received more than any other advice,” she said. “If I give you that advice, and you’re like, ‘I’m not going to listen to you — I want to persevere,’ then you’re more cut out for starting your own business than someone who would be deterred by that.”
She explained that she gave up another career and a lot of free time with her family to start Ban.do.
“Ban.do always seemed like my beacon, so if it doesn’t feel like that for you, then it’s probably not worth pursuing. That’s my advice,” Gotch continued. “Because otherwise you can just work for someone else and have a really rewarding career and not make the mountain of sacrifices that you do if you’re a business owner.”
5. Prioritizing Fun
If Ban.do is her beacon, then what does work-life balance mean to Gotch?
“This year will be our 10th year in business, and my relationship with work-life balance has changed a lot from when I started,” she said. “When you’re starting a company, it’s sweat equity. There was no balance, there was only work. That was a mistake on my part.”
In more recent years, Gotch explained that she started to understand the toll that was taking on her well-being, her mental health and her relationships.
“I had a doctor two years ago tell me, ‘You need to make time for fun.’ So now it’s setting guidelines and being careful about not being too obsessed,” she said.
6. Writing Down the Details
What was the best piece of career advice Gotch ever received?
“I remember very early on when I was doing set decorating, and I was in a meeting and my boss at the time looked at me and said: ‘You should be writing this down.’” she explained. “And I was 24 at the time, and I said: ‘I don’t need to write things down — I’m very sharp.’”
According to Gotch, that advice made an impact on her, and the people working with her today know that she loves to take notes and write in notebooks.
“There’s going to be so much information in your work and life, you have to find a way to record it and work with it,” Gotch said. “That has always stuck with me.”
7. Daily Masks and Scrubs
What’s Gotch’s self-care routine?
“I’ve always prioritized self-care. It’s like a spa here — every day is a new mask and a scrub,” she said.
8. Getting Eight Hours of Sleep
“My number-one thing is sleep. I like to get eight hours of sleep,” Gotch explained. “Most doctors that I’ve gone to — especially if you’re struggling with mental health — talk about the importance of going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time every day, even on the weekends, so I try to honor that.”
9. A Shot of Tequila (When Needed)
She expressed an unexpected angle on self-care.
“I’ve always said that, to me, self-care is whatever you need to be OK in that moment, so sometimes it’s having a shot of tequila,” Gotch pointed out. “Not seven, because that’s awful!”
10. Bulletproof Coffee
Gotch is obsessed with Bulletproof Coffee.
“I was in Hawaii, and I happened on this little shack and tried Bulletproof Coffee, and I felt great,” she said. “The first time I did it I didn’t realize that you weren’t supposed to eat with it, so I was eating a chocolate croissant.”
11. Eating Keto to Enhance Mental Clarity and Productivity
According to Gotch, she’s regularly a huge fan of carbs, but has cut them out to achieve ketosis on the Bulletproof Diet.
“Off the diet, I’m definitely a pizza, pasta, french fries person. So, honestly, this has been a real transition for me to not base all of my emotions in food,” she explained.
“I recently got divorced, and I ate my way through that process. And I really just wasn’t feeling good and was feeling foggy,” she said. “I feel like there is a lot I want to do, and I want to be strong enough to do it. And I knew that if I was smarter about what I put in my body, I would feel better.”
Gotch pointed out that mental clarity is a far more immediate and rewarding result of her diet than weight loss, which comes slower.
“Especially as you get older, it takes a little longer even for a small bit of weight to come off, but the mental clarity comes really fast.” Gotch said. “And it’s such a good motivator more than anything else, because I can wake up tomorrow and get stuff done from the moment I get up.”
12. Bubbies Kosher Dills
She told me she eats a lot of pickles and is a particular fan of Bubbies Kosher Dills. (Can you trust anyone who doesn’t like pickles?)
13. LEKFit Mini-Trampoline Workouts
Gotch has a favorite workout that she loves, and she proudly showed me her mini-trampoline in her house.
“I’ve been doing LEKFit,” she said. “The class I take is called Bounce, so you do your cardio on a mini-trampoline, which sounds really scary, but no one ever really falls off. You do a choreographed routine on there. It’s much less impact, and it’s really fun.”
Leave it to Jen Gotch to find a way to even make workouts fun and bouncy! We can all learn so much from her.
See more of LIVESTRONG’s Stronger Women interviews.
About the Author
JESS BARRON is Editor-in-Chief and GM for LIVESTRONG.COM, a leading healthy lifestyle website with more than 32 million unique monthly viewers. In addition to LIVESTRONG, her writing has appeared in Entrepreneur, Fortune and MyDomaine. Jess has appeared on MSNBC and ABC News and has been a keynote speaker at Health Further and a panelist at SXSW, Create & Cultivate and Digital Hollywood. Follow Jess on Instagram at @jessbeegood and Twitter too!
Jess Barron is head of editorial at LIVESTRONG.COM.She has appeared on MSNBC's "The Most," ABC News Now, and XM satellite radio. Barron's writing has appeared on Wired.com, Yahoo! and Poprocks.com.