Jen Andruzzi Joe Andruzzi Foundation
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About this Episode

There are over 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States alone. And just like the world of business, nonprofits come in many shapes and sizes, globally recognized charities, universities, chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations, civic leagues, and private foundations are all different types of nonprofit organizations. While profit may not be a driving force when it comes to many nonprofits, there are many other similarities between small businesses and small nonprofits, from living your passion to people management to planning for the future. Today, we’ll touch on many of those topics with Jen Andruzzi, co-founder president and CEO of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation.

Episode Transcript

Jen Andruzzi 0:00
A lot of our major donors, they want to see like, what is the plan? Like how are you going to be open in six months from now? What is your finance strategy? And that’s how you have to look at it. It’s no different than getting investors, to have a startup coffee shop.

Angela Giovine 0:21
Pop culture has become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I’m Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast. This episode is brought to you by WP Engine.

Angela Giovine 1:02
There are over 1.5 million registered nonprofits in the United States alone. And just like the world of business, nonprofits come in many shapes and sizes, globally recognized charities, universities, chambers of commerce, fraternal organizations, civic leagues, and private foundations are all different types of nonprofit organizations. While profit may not be a driving force when it comes to many nonprofits, there are many other similarities between small businesses and small nonprofits, from living your passion to people management to planning for the future. Today, we’ll touch on many of those topics with Jen Andruzzi, co-founder president and CEO of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation. In 2007, Jen’s husband, former New England Patriot’s three times Super Bowl-winning offensive guard Joe Andruzzi was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Burkitt Lymphoma, ending his football career. Joe would go on to beat the disease and still remains cancer-free today. But a new passion grew from his own battle, helping less fortunate patients and their families. After witnessing firsthand the stress cancer can cause, Jen and Joe formed the Joe Andruzzi Foundation to help cancer patients and their families meet life’s day to day challenges.

Jen Andruzzi 2:38
Hello, my name is Jenny Andruzzi and I am the president CEO of the Joe Andruzzi Foundation.

Angela Giovine 2:44
Now, what does the Joe Andruzzi Foundation support?

Jen Andruzzi 2:48
So the Joe Andruzzi Foundation supports cancer patients and families who are facing financial toxicity due to a cancer diagnosis. So we have our biggest program is our financial assistance program and that supports an active cancer patient, individual or family that is having the facts of the cost of cancer. So, like what we will support and we will provide grants for, his home mortgage rent, your electric, phone bill, groceries, things that the family and individual could on a regular day that was in their family budget, and now that they have cancer, and there’s the additional cost of cancer, from co-pays, to parking garage to all these different things that their their monthly budget weekly budget looks different.

Angela Giovine 3:42
That’s amazing. Now obviously you’re Jenny Andruzzi, it’s the The Joe Andruzzi Foundation. There’s a story there, how did you come into being passionate about this cause?

Jen Andruzzi 3:53
So you know, it’s it’s so we’re just celebrated our 12th year on May 22nd, and I did a lunch and learn with statestreet this week with Joe and you know, I said to them like 13 years ago, Joe was diagnosed that literally this week he has first appointment at Dana Farber was on May 31st. So, to kind of rewind just a tad bit to Joe, my husband played in the NFL for 10 successful years, we were very blessed. And through that we were very involved with various different philanthropic efforts and actually became really close to a family in Providence, Rhode Island, who had a son that had pediatric brain cancer, unfortunately, he lost his battle in 2002 and 2003, I went to the family with a with a family friend actually, the woman who introduced us and said, What would you think of us doing a fundraising event in CJs memory. And donating those funds straight to like it was a third party event that everything went right to Boston Children’s Hospital, you know, would you bless that? And they said, Yes. So within three years, we had three events and raised over half a million dollars for pediatric brain cancer research. And I wasn’t I was not a fundraiser by trait but just see now, very passionate.

Angela Giovine 5:24
It just moved you.

Jen Andruzzi 5:25
Yeah, like you see something and I kind of just go after it and

Angela Giovine 5:30

Jen Andruzzi 5:30
So we got really involved with Boston Children’s Hospital. And then so that was we had an event in 03 04 and 06 because actually 05 was a little bit of a lag. We were with the Cleveland Browns for two years. And then in 2007, after Joe’s 10th year in NFL in May, mid May. Joe started not to feel well and after a series of tests over two weeks, was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma. And so we were in Cleveland, like I just mentioned for all his tests at Cleveland Clinic. They were great to us, but it was told to us that if Joe was was diagnosed with Burkitt Lymphoma, he really should be on a clinical trial. And so during those two weeks, they did research on where there was an open trial that he could get into and qualify for and and Dana Farber had an opening. And so we reached out, actually through the doctor of CJ Buckley, the boy that we had met in 02, and had passed away. We reached out to Dr. Marquiran, who was a doctor at Dana Farber in the pedes unit, and said, you know, told him the story, and he got us in the next day, we had an appointment with Dr. David Fisher and so, from May 31 until August 6, Joe was inpatient 50 plus days, he had four rounds of chemo, some very long. So his rounds would last like up to five days, like all day of treatment. And he was just like, Why do I get so sick, if he didn’t, you know, the goal was to get him home but if he came home is like turn around like 24 hours he was like back in Brigham and Women’s Hospital. And so, you know, we knew the experience of the Buckley family had the hardship and the the tragedy of losing, you know, their son and watch that, but we would like watch that happen. We weren’t like in it every day, you know. So when Joe was sick, and we had, you know, again, you know, I shared we were so blessed, right? We, you know, Joe had 10 successful years, and we didn’t have to think about picking up our family and moving from Cleveland to Boston. You know, I’d have to think about paying parking, you know, for the parking garage in Boston, you know, sometimes up to two, three times a day. I didn’t have to think about going down to you know, the cafe to get a coffee or a soup or something when I was there, because we’re fortunate we had means, we were in a place where we could do those things without really thinking twice. Both Joe and I didn’t grow up that way. We did not have we were very privileged to have food on our table, but we didn’t grow up with, you know, kind of, we’ll say luxury, right? And so you sit with that, and you think, like, what would our families have done? You know, what would our parents have done If, if one of them were stricken with cancer and had to be inpatient?You know, for that whole time and lose your salary? Really. And that’s when I just started diving in and looking at, you know, what are what financial resources are out there for cancer patients? You know, and 13 years ago, there was like a handful, you know, thankfully for cancer patients now there’s much more and, you know, even 13 years ago, financial toxicity wasn’t even a term That’s kind of been coined in the in the last few years and you can, you know, read about it on all the National Cancer Institute’s and a lot of research being done with it. But it wasn’t a thing, 13 years ago. For me, it was just like I saw a problem I acted on it. Say no different than, you know, you see, a teenage boy loses life, so you’d you know, you want to invest all your time and, and resources into helping find a cure. You know, nonprofit is, so when we were smaller, it was a little different in the sense of you didn’t have to like worry about having a staff or, but in the last five years, we’ve really grown and it’s turned into more of a business, really thinking about like your sustainability. And in this world that we’re living in right now, this pandemic that we’re in is like cancer doesn’t stop. You know, our, our families, we’re dealing with food insecurities, before the pandemic and now the world is dealing with food insecurities and our nation has, like doubled, right? Like the the individuals that are having problems. So, you know, I would never step away and say, I’m going to move on from what I’m doing because there’s so much more work to be done.

Angela Giovine 10:17
Right. And yes, you’re right, you’re never going to quote like sell a nonprofit the way you start a business and sell it. But we should say, we met in real life, I met you at the Rise Business Conference back in November, the Rachel Hollis conference, and you sat down next to me and we became buddies we hung the whole time. And it just impressed me so much, because, you know, I know from what the work I do in my small business, there are so many small charities and what you’ve done, is you’ve had so many accomplishments in this time that you’ve had the foundation. And I think that is really attributed to the fact that you do have to begin to treat it like a business and make business decisions. And that’s why when I was looking at the season in who I wanted to interview for this podcast, I thought we should talk about nonprofit because yes, there may be your, your end goal is not profit, but there are a lot of the same challenges and stumbling blocks in a nonprofit and a small nonprofit versus a big nonprofit. So I think you’re being so humble. Tell us about how big you’ve grown the Joe Andruzzi Foundation over the years?

Jen Andruzzi 11:32
Yeah. So I would say going to the Rise event, that first Rise business that was game changing for me as a leader of the organization, because it’s hard for me to sometimes, you know, not get discouraged and not to, you know, get in my own way because I can do that a lot. Not necessarily my body, my head, right like allowing myself and investing myself to go to Rise by myself, you know, that took a lot like anybody that knows me was like, Wow.

Angela Giovine 12:08
We both went on our own, we both got our own hotel rooms, didn’t know anybody else going, get on a plane, we both have children at home, and husbands with careers and we are both took that time and I don’t know about you, but that was the first time I took time for myself to develop myself.

Jen Andruzzi 12:23
Oh yeah.

Angela Giovine 12:24
almost since I left my corporate career in 2009 and

Jen Andruzzi 12:29

Angela Giovine 12:29
And I definitely got a lot out of it too.

Jen Andruzzi 12:32
Yeah, it was you know, we started the foundation in our home one woman show you know, Joe supports me it you know, he’s the face of the organization.

Angela Giovine 12:43
He’s the spokesperson, sure.

Jen Andruzzi 12:44
We tease and we say I say he’s the mascot, he does that personality piece of it and I’m really kind of the brain behind the the madness and, and so for for me, it was like I went from one to two to five to now we are a team of 11. And being a small business and an entrepreneur, right, you didn’t always have the experiences that you go through. You, you know, it’s a lot of things are first time situations. And I think what, you know, you and I both heard in November of 19, was that no different than any other, right? Like, we’re not on this island by ourselves, we everybody that you know, is an entrepreneur and has not have former business experience. Everything’s for the first time, like, you have to learn it on the fly sometimes, and it can stop you but you have to, like push through, you know, have months like, I know, like, I’ve had a timeframe where I was like, is this the thing we want? Like, is this is this the best thing for the organization? And it’s okay to like, honor those feelings and sit with them because it’s you. It’s yourself it’s your work, but I would say last year was really game changing for me, you know, Joe and I said, you know, we do want to grow the organization to be bigger than what it is. We do want to grow our programs for cancer patients and be able to help find additional solutions for patients that are facing, you know, financial toxicity. And so we sat down and you know, was I’m going to work, a heck of a lot more hours, than I then I have in the past, you know, do you support that?

Angela Giovine 14:29
So let’s talk about that. How far in were you before you said, Okay, this is not just the thing I’m going to do on the side, I’m going to think about this from a strategic perspective and have a long term vision?

Jen Andruzzi 14:42
So I would say probably about six years ago, the board and I did think it was seven years ago did a retreat, where we said, you know, we had always given to pediatric brain cancer, in the beginning of JAF because that was just something that I was still very passionate about, and it’s really kind of how I got into my fundraising career. And so we sat down and we that at that point, was when we went into making a three year business plan, and really thinking about sustainability and doing research to say, are we doing making the right decisions for the program? And at the end of it, it was it was great. We work with a local Boston nonprofit firm that does business development, we fulfilled that business plan, hmm 75%, right. And there was shifts, but as you know, we grow I think what we began to notice in the last two years is that the team that you had in the beginning, doesn’t mean that it’s the right team to continue to move forward. And that was really hard.

Angela Giovine 15:56
And that’s got to do with exponential growth and having a certain skill set that’s super valuable in a scrappy startup environment versus something more established and, and maintaining?

Jen Andruzzi 16:09
Yeah. And also saying, like, I in that moment, it was like, I’ve gotten to the top of my class for what I knew as a, as a nonprofit development person. It wasn’t that it was like my full team had, like, it wasn’t, it was even evaluating, like, what I could give to the organizations. And so I think that was really like, it’s not, it’s not always, you know, looking at everybody and saying, like, oh, they’re not checking the box or, you know, really even looking internally. So, it was at that point when we said, you know, we need to bring on a VP of development. We do need a marketing expert, we do need and that’s when we started to like chart our course.

Angela Giovine 15:56
Did you make these decisions based on Okay, now we have gotten an enough in donations that we can justify it? Or it was more like we see a vision for being able to get that kind of money in donations, and we’re going to bet on it?

Jen Andruzzi 17:11
Yeah. So we were really good about having reserves. Oh my god, up until like, a year and a half ago, we had reserves, really healthy reserves, but we were investing into like the program and some of the staff, we needed to take that next step and invest more into the staff and understand it takes three years to see the results of that. And so that can be you know, tricky and as you can imagine going into then COVID into year 2 of this right? So year 2 of taking that leap, is

Angela Giovine 17:47
Yes, wrench thrown into it.

Jen Andruzzi 17:49
Like kind of step back and you’re like, Oh, my God, I don’t have the cash reserves that I had before. Like, how are we going to do this? What will we look like? But you know what, that’s everybody.

Angela Giovine 18:00
Right, it was stressful as it was to have less cash reserves in a really good economy and when you felt like everything was normal, but now, when you’re like, Are people even going to make donations? Like that’s a whole different environment?

Jen Andruzzi 18:14
Yeah, yeah. And every nonprofit is, you know, going after the same dollar, really. So I think, you know, for us, we understand that we were just going to go into creating, you know, our next strategic plan, and business plan, and then COVID happened and it was almost like, well, thank God, I didn’t spend all that time yet because I would have actually had to, like bookshelf that and insert something new. So, you know, the leadership at the Foundation has really said, you know, what are the things that we have to pivot on? You know, what are the things that, feel for me, it’s like, I have a team of 10 that their families rely on our foundation, right? Like, a lot of them are are the health insurance carrier for their families.

Angela Giovine 19:03
Right, so it’s not just about I mean, yes, of course, it’s about the patients, but it’s about your employees.

Jen Andruzzi 19:08
Now It’s like it’s bigger than, for us, we’ve 120 healthcare facilities that rely on us. We have awarded over $7 million to cancer patients and families, and supported over 25,000 patients and family members. That is a large group of people. We have all those stories, and that’s what we just need to keep doing is, in this time, during the pandemic, tell people that what we’ve done, what our track record is, you know, we are here, we’re not going anywhere. You know, are we shifting? Yes. What are we doing? You know, we were a nonprofit that was very heavy development focused on having events and all those things, attract people and that was like, the way that we were able to have the cash reserves that we had.

Angela Giovine 20:03
So a lot of your donations were coming in were event based?

Jen Andruzzi 20:06
Event based. So the triangle was, you know, the program was the smallest piece not of our budget, but of our, you know, the tension, right. But there was so much time and effort going into the event side of things. We are literally right now, putting it upside down, like I have actually taken over leading the program. So for me, which started in 2019, to be honest with you, so before the pandemic, but, you know, we’re gonna launch a healthcare council, there are a lot of things that we’re doing to change and to shift and they were things that we were doing before but now, they might be happening sooner or something might take longer, but all things that, you know, how can we share and tell our donors and show them that their investment be at $10 $100 $1,000 like, how can we show that, you know, they’re making investment in the organization that is going to be around? Now a lot of our major donors, they want to see like, what is the plan? Like, how are you going to be open in six months from now? What is your finance strategy? You know, and that’s how you have to look at it. It’s no different than getting investors to have a startup coffee shop, it’s no different. Will they get profit back and margin? No, but they will in a different way. They will know that they supported and made it possible for 50% of the patients that we fund to stay in their homes and have a roof over their head.

Angela Giovine 21:46
Right. If you’re a donor and you’re giving $100 you want to make sure that that hundred dollars is being put to the best use possible. And so sure, someone who’s very philanthropic is going to wonder, you know, If their intention for that money is to help a person,

Jen Andruzzi 22:02

Angela Giovine 22:03
They want to make sure it’s actually getting there.

Jen Andruzzi 22:05

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Angela Giovine 22:40
From a one woman show to a team of 11, so tell us about some times early in the growth of the organization where you had to take a risk and you weren’t sure which way to go and did that work out or how did you pivot?

Jen Andruzzi 24:57
So I would say the one that stands out the most for me is that, so when JAF started we funded all six New England states, New York and New Jersey. And we funded New York and New Jersey, mainly because Joe’s from New York, and we have established supporters there. And as we grew, we looked at the states that our revenue was coming in, and we also said, like, What is the impact that we want to have? And we want to have like, overall impact, right? So we really dove in to say, Okay, the poor giving acts in New Jersey, what’s coming out of that, right? And did that but right before that, we said, we’re going to test fundraising in New York. And I was like, you know, bend in New York a gazillion and one times and I and I did a couple visits with team members, and we had planned an event in New York City at Davios. And we’re close with the with the group, we know them and after like, you know, tons of research, you know, we knew what we could do, we knew we weren’t going to like come home with breaking the bank, and something happened in my personal life that I had to pause. And not that i was i was work still working full time, but my family needed me at home. And so I had to limit the time that I would go to New York and try and like, build the brand and go out and meet with people, new people, new faces. And during that, that felt like it did feel a little bit like a failure, right? Like I was like, Okay, I’m doing the right thing for my home life, but for my business life, I felt like I I couldn’t do it all but I also was like, I am not going to go to New York and fail. Like I was like, we cannot go and fall on our face. Like it’s just not who I am. So as fall of 2015, and I did like all the, you know, calculations and I was like we got to pull out. We can’t do it.

Angela Giovine 27:14
Was it going to be like a fundraising event?

Jen Andruzzi 27:16
Yeah. And we had sponsors and everything. And I said, we have to contact the sponsors, we have to tell them that we will, we will refund their money or we will direct it towards another partnership, another, you know, event or marketing opportunity. But we can’t hold the event we have to pull out which is really hard. And at the end of the year, when the executive committee my board chair, gave me my review, that was the thing she recognized my leadership for.

Angela Giovine 27:53
Like calling it?

Jen Andruzzi 27:54
For knowing that it’s not always going to go the way you want, and when you’re able to raise your hand and say, You know what, the products not going to sell, we have to take a step back. Life is shifting. It’s not the right time. That was actually like the only thing she talked about in my review. And that’s a lot to me and I and I do tell that to my staff, at moments when I do feel like they need to hear you know, that I will accept them to say, I can’t do it, it’s not going to work, you know, and I don’t, you know, who knows what they get out of it but I think for me, that was such a learning moment to say like, it’s okay to raise your hand and say, It’s not going to work. That was like a huge thing. And then the following year in 2016, was when we did like the revenue analysis, and we made the decision to pull out of New York and New Jersey because we would never have full impact in all of the facilities at the revenue that we were bringing in. And so of course, like it was, like, we thought for sure, like New York, the city of New York was going to just go like come at us with like anger, and I don’t know why. But I was like, Oh my god, I can just like hear them, right? But we are very thoughtful in our messaging, we told them exactly like, we looked at the revenue, you know, in a very respectful way, told them about like, what we are doing and why. And we got only one person came back to us and said, Well, how come you have a team and you participate in the New York City half marathon? Like if you’re not giving to to New Yorkers, then why are you participating? That was a part of the plan before we made the decision, you know, and we replied very respectfully. She accepted it. You know, and that took a while too because I was like, again, it’s like that’s not what you envisioned, when you start you’re like, I want to stay in these eight states, and I’m going to grow eight states to be 10 states, not that you’re going to go eight states to six states. But again, we are in all of the New England cancer facilities. We are in 120. That’s good stuff. So the decision was made, right.

Angela Giovine 30:20
I had to make a decision like that, similarly, for the first time last year, and I couldn’t sleep like before I made the decision, I was like, I told my husband, I’m like, I’m just laying in bed and I’m staring at the ceiling, and I don’t know why my heart is racing all of the time. It was an event that wasn’t coming together well, and he and I talked about it and he was like, I think you know what you have to do, and you have to do the hard thing. And then afterwards, I kind of had to take a step back and I reminded myself, Angela, you made a commitment to yourself that you’re going to take bigger swings. And when you take bigger swings, sometimes you’re going to miss. And maybe that is not something that you feel comfortable with because you haven’t done it much, but maybe that’s because you haven’t been pushing yourself out of your comfort zone far enough. So just get comfortable with you just have to have the swing and a miss sometimes. But I can totally relate to that. So let’s talk about that 120, and that growth. There are so many across the country and across the world, small organizations, some intentionally they stay small, it’s it’s the organization is created in the memory of a friend or a family member. And it’s meant to stay small, there’s no staff, and they give what they can and it’s maintained. And then there are people like you who have grown into something that’s regional with a full staff and like you said, you’re not only supporting institutions, you’re not only supporting patients, but you’re supporting people who are paying their mortgage and their rent and their health care. So tell us how that happened. Tell us what do you think are some of the reasons that you were able to achieve those things?

Jen Andruzzi 31:59
Yeah, I think you can never get bigger than yourself, meaning like your hype cannot get big, right? Like you just and I think the best advice I got was when we first started was from a dear friend who was a board member for a very long time. And I knew him previously, when Joe was a player for the Patriots, and he said to me, he’s like Rome was not built in a day. And I think that just spoke loudly to me, because I think as like really excited, passionate, you know, you want to do this, you want to, you know, you want to hit all these milestones. And you have to remember like, nobody said the milestone can’t move. We put our own deadlines on ourselves sometimes, right? Like, you don’t have to do that. Nobody said that that’s part of the rule book. And I think like that was really huge. And I think for myself, it took me some time to learn that having the right mentors in your life is one of the most impactful things as a business leader, because if you pick the right ones will help inform you, inform you, but they’ll also remind you, they’ll remind you of who you are. When if you can get bigger than yourself, or if you’re getting challenged by a staff member. And I think like that has been like extraordinarily helpful to me to have people I can trust that, that know me for me, but they also know my goals and they’re themselves have been in the field longer or they have more experience or their experience is not mine. So it it only adds value to what I have. And I would say for growth of a business and of people, is like I treat it this way at least it’s like your culture, It is has to be strong, like you have to invest in your culture, you can’t expect and I and I made this mistake, you can expect for somebody that you think is a leader in your organization to be able to carry on the culture that you want. Because it’s your culture, right? It’s your culture. And as long as you are the leader and you are the one, you know, that has that mindset, you have to be the one that carries it out. You can’t put that on to anybody else. And then you have to be able to accept if there is somebody on your team that can’t do that, that struggles with that, then that’s, that’s a whole separate thing that you have to address. But I think like for us, is like the culture of our organization has enabled us to grow as much as we have because we believe in like being open and honest, you know, people’s feelings are their feelings. They’re not mine, I can’t change yours, you know, like, and that goes for like a cancer patient, right? Like who’s to tell a cancer patient, you’re a warrior. Some people that sound like cancer patients that are like you’re warrior, they’re like, FU I am not a warrior. I am a cancer patient. I hate it, you know, like, so you can’t tell people that. It’s no different than I can’t go to an employee to be like, you’re doing a great job at your work from home environment, and they’re like I’m failing miserably. You have to be careful with your words and make sure that you’re not telling anybody how they’re feeling or you just have to let them know that you’re there, you know, and that they’re, they’re not alone. And I think that has a lot to do with, you know, our community and how we’ve grown and why like our team JF athletes have done the Boston Marathon, are filled with road race or another, you know, sports event for us, they still are involved, like they still like participate and come back. And the cancer patients that become our ambassadors, they’re no different, you know, and we do say it’s like a JAF family. So I think that has a lot to do with, you know, you have to be smart, you have to be strategic. And you have to also accept that sometimes you know, what you thought was going to happen, not always gonna happen, that takes time but, you know, investing in yourself, investing in your organization, if you invest in yourself, you’re investing in your organization.

Angela Giovine 36:40
Tell me how you would describe that culture, like what is a word to describe the culture of your group?

Jen Andruzzi 36:46
Well, I would say, you know, we’re, we’re very upbeat, we, we have a lot of laughter, we always say laughter is the best medicine, but I would say compassionate, you know, it’s a really compassionate smart group, you know, the conference that you and I met at, you know, Rachel Hollis, she got me out of my comfort zone because, you know, I was a young mom, I did not get to go to college, you know, I and I still sometimes struggle with that going out in into Boston and going to like a business event. And people are like, Oh, where’d you graduate? I’m like,

Angela Giovine 37:23
Right, especially in a time that has Harvard

Jen Andruzzi 37:27
University of Jenny Andruzzi, you know, like, I think, you know, listening to Rachel Hollis and how she proudly is like, you know, how she is built all of her companies and you know, on a school diploma, right? Like, and and you don’t really hear people saying that? No. So I think one thing that we say at the office is like that said, does not matter, whatsoever. Yes, everybody has titles, and yes, there is like a leadership team that has to make tough decisions, but we’re a team. Like it doesn’t matter, like what kind of shirt you wear or name tag you have. I went to an event, it spoke so loudly to me and this is probably like four years ago at the classy collaborative, so classy is like a fundraising platform but they had a speaker who he was in the military. He actually after the military started a nonprofit for for veterans, and he explained how he and his team are gray shirts. So like, no matter what your title is, everybody has a gray shirt. So like no titles, we’re all like if you pick up trash, you’re a gray shirt. If you’re the CEO, you’re a gray shirt. So it’s about like accepting. You know, everybody kind of tells me you don’t need it your college diploma to run JAF, you know it doesn’t make it any easier.

Angela Giovine 38:55
Right, you’re getting in your own way.

Jen Andruzzi 38:57
But I think with the team because I am so open about that, you know, I am vulnerable. I do talk to them about the ugly stuff. You know, I do allow family conversations when it’s respectful and okay, I understand there has to be a work life balance, all of those things, I think helps the culture, like there’s a fine line, though you know, when people want to overshare. That’s not okay. You know, you have to have some sort of boundary. And that just comes with like experience. You can’t know the right boundary, you know, your first year and your second year, and that just comes with experience. I think you like, you know, I’ve a board member that is a mentor to me. She’s a VP of HR at a biotech company. And she’s like, always teases me, like, Oh, it’s been so fun to grow up with you. And I’m like for so long, I would be like, grow up with me I’m like, you’re the one that’s teaching me everything but I had to stop and think like she didn’t know what she knows today, 10 years ago, like we are always growing. I so believe you know, in having a growth mindset.

Angela Giovine 40:10
Now you’ve mentioned your mentors a few times and I think that’s really important as well. How did you choose these mentors? Did you officially asked them to mentor you? Where did you find them? How did you how did you do that?

Jen Andruzzi 40:24
So interesting enough, my board for a long time said that they were going to find me a mentor and I used to get so mad because they never came through. Like where is this mentor that they’re they’re going to tell me that they’re going to introduce me to?

Angela Giovine 40:38
Where’s yoda? Yeah..

Jen Andruzzi 40:40
Where where are they right? And finally I was like, they’re never going to do it. And so I just had it-again like expectation is such a big thing. You know they did tell me they’re going to do it but like my expectation was that they were going to deliver someone to my inbox and do an intro or something, you know. But I had to put myself out there like I attended the business women, they do that mentoring Monday, you know Boston Business Journal does it and so like, all the business jourmals I think get involved with it, but I’ve attended the ones in Boston, and and that was really helpful because I could meet some people that would I consider them my mentor. Did I find my mentor there? No. But they call me out like it’s all be out of my own skin.

Angela Giovine 41:24

Jen Andruzzi 40:40
asking people questions that I would never ask for

Angela Giovine 41:28

Jen Andruzzi 41:29
It got me sharing my business card, and you know, the mentors that I’ve had over the years have been the ones that I don’t look for, I don’t ask, I just trust them. And I’m I’m close enough to them, that it’s like the on- unspoken language. Like I’ve never said, you know a dear friend is a president, president CEO? Maybe both maybe one, of the Hockmock Area YMCA and and we’ve known as friends again since Joe’s playing days, and so there’s that trusted relationship. He has a board of directors, you know I looked to him say How do you do this? You know he has a finance committee, I’ve looked to him to say How do you do this, and I trust him. You know I I trust his word, I know he would not ill advice me.

Angela Giovine 42:23
Right, he had your best intentions in mind.

Jen Andruzzi 42:26
Yeah, like and and he knows who I am and knows what I strive for. And I think you know, there’s a couple board members that are the same our past board members, you know I think for me, I didn’t understand when I when the board originally said We’re going to help find you a mentor, I didn’t really know what that looked like.

Angela Giovine 42:48

Jen Andruzzi 42:49
You know, you have this like idea of what it is and you really, that only distracts you. You’re almost better off like creating what what do you need for a mentor. Like what are the things like what do, you need, to have that be a mentor for you? You know what are the qualities that represent a mentor to you? And do you have anybody in your life that is like that? And if you don’t then how are you going to introduce yourself to them, to see if they can support you, You know, I think that’s like a big thing too is that, it doesn’t have to look look a certain shape, say a certain thing, have a certain title, be a you know it doesn’t have to you know be all B and C with a with a role on it. I think it can be like all shape and sizes and you know it’s what will help you become who you want to be, or what are the things that you know I’m not an HR expert right? So my board member, I looked to her, you know for that HR and she’s my mentor. Like she coached me and she’s the one that like, will say like You’re making the right decision. You know, I I can’t believe how much you’ve grown, but that’s because I’m willing to listen too.

Angela Giovine 44:10
Right, you have to be open to it.

Jen Andruzzi 44:12
You know, again it’s a different lens. I had this in my head, it was supposed to look a certain way. I didn’t know what it was supposed to look like.

Angela Giovine 44:19
Right, we yes, this form of program where we’re going to sit down, mentor and mentee, wax on wax off, I don’t know.

Jen Andruzzi 44:27
Yeah, totally, totally. And and actually one of the women that I met at the mentoring Monday is Herna is still has stay in contact, she’s the head of Special Olympics Massachusetts and we, through Covid talk every Monday for an hour. We look to each other for like why are you doing? What are you doing? You know and and I think that’s one thing that can be hard and is that you have to look up people that you can trust, that are in your space, that you can have those vulnerable conversations with. You trust them, they’re not going to go spreading about, you know no ill well, you know that you can have those tough conversations say Man today sucked. I’m at my lowest, or I can’t believe that you know my committee doesn’t understand what I’m trying to tell them, or you know like or the celebratory things like Oh my God, you know like we’ve fundraised this amount, or we’ve launched this program and be happy. So like I think too like sometimes we have that, you look at another organization like Oh they’re super successful like, that jealousy, can get the best and worst of us, and I think that is so toxic. That will as soon as I allow it to enter my my space, fail. Like our well just say if I’m going to allow jealousy into my my life, whatever that is, I’m going to fail.

Angela Giovine 45:59
Right, its a buzz word now, the abundance mentality if is what you hear people calling it is just you know, there’s enough for all of us to go around. There’s no reason to feel as if you’re the only one that you know you have to be limited and that and that reasources are limited. For sure. Finish this sentence. I would not be standing here today if not for

Jen Andruzzi 46:21
Believing in myself.

Angela Giovine 46:23
Love that. You had to find that within you.

Jen Andruzzi 46:26
Hmm hmm

Angela Giovine 46:27
Yeah. And what’s one piece of advice you would give your 18 year old self?

Jen Andruzzi 46:33
Hmm.. Yeah I would say, there’s a plan. Everything happens for a reason. So for some reason we’re going to know why Covid had.

Angela Giovine 46:45
God, I do-

Jen Andruzzi 46:46
I can’t imagine what about is going to be one day, I can’t imagine what it’s going to be, but for some reason, and again I am ver- I am faithful right? So like for some reason it happened. You know 18 year old self, I was a first time mom.

Angela Giovine 47:02
Mmm hmm.. Yeah, so tell that young, overwhelmed 18 year old Jen, it all going to make sense, don’t worry.

Jen Andruzzi 47:09
It all play out. Yup, totally.

Angela Giovine 47:12
Yeah, awesome. Thank you so much Jen.

Jen Andruzzi 47:16
Thank you, and I’m so excited for you that you’re able to have this platform for for you, your business, but for all the small businesses out there, so..

Angela Giovine 47:27
Thank you, yeah, I selfishly learn so much talking to each and every guest and I really do hope that our listeners do too, so.

Jen Andruzzi 47:36

Angela Giovine 47:36
Thank you.

Jen Andruzzi 47:37
Thank you.

Angela Giovine 47:38
And one more time, thank you and shout out to WP Engine, check them out and get your special offer today at extraordinary small business dot com, backslash WP Engine.

Angela Giovine 47:54
Thanks for listening. For more information about our show and our company, head to extra ordinary small business dot com. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We would be so grateful, If you could help us reach more listeners. All you have to do, is go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcast and rate, review and subscribe. It would mean the world to us. Ratings, reviews, and subscribes are how iTunes decides which podcasts are worth sharing. Help us continue to bring these stories of extraordinary small business owners to the world. By rating, reviewing and subscribing, you’re helping our small business. It’s free and it takes just a minute. Thanks!