Fun fact: Jane and I met while we were both contestants in the Stanford Social Business Challenge, a competition for a modest cash prize to launch our businesses in 2008 (I had entered the challenge for Samasource, a nonprofit business that I still run alongside LXMI). Naturally, Jane won the competition — we placed a distant second. We’ve remained friends ever since.
INTERVIEW WITH JANE CHEN
Please give us a short (3 sentence) introductory bio with links to your work - we’ll kick off with this.
Jane Chen is the CEO & Founder of Embrace Innovations, a social enterprise which has created a low cost infant incubator to help the 15M preterm and underweight babies born every year around the world. The award-winning Embrace infant warmer costs a fraction of existing solutions, and has now helped over 200,000 infants across 20 countries. Embrace Innovations recently launched a line of baby products for the US market called Little Lotus, which have a unique technology to keep babies at the perfect temperature, helping them to sleep better. They have a 1:1 model of giving - for each Little Lotus purchased, a baby in a developing country is saved by the Embrace warmer.
Why do people look up to you?
I think people look up to me because I have a strong sense of purpose; my company's mission is to save vulnerable babies around the word. Because I believe so strongly in my mission, it given me the courage and tenacity to start and grow my business (part of which included 4 years living in India), despite the myriad of challenges we've faced along the way.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve done at work?
I was a management consultant right after college, working for Monitor Group. We had just finished a training on client confidentiality, and then I was sent to Australia on a case. When I was going through Customs, the officer asked me who I worked for. Not wanting to reveal the name of my client (and stupidly, instead of just saying Monitor), I said: "I can't tell you. it's confidential." I was detained for hours as they searched every piece of my luggage.
I picked up surfing about a year and a half ago, and I am passionately in love with this sport, which teaches me so much about life. My biggest regret is not having started earlier! I told my mom recently - all those years I was playing the violin, I should have been surfing. You can check out my surf blog at www.hangingzen.wordpress.com and I recently started writing a column for Forbes about the intersection of surfing + entrepreneurship.
Favorite pair of shoes?
Right now, it's a pair of Louboutins I bought on a recent trip to Paris. They're red and black strappy heels, with a cool jungle print on the heel. I love how feminine, artsy and bold they are - all at the same time!
What would you tell your 18-year-old self if you could go back in time? I would tell her to believe in her intuition and in herself- and not to let her sense of self be defined what others think about her. I would also tell her to have fun, regardless of what she ends up doing in life. Life is short - enjoy every moment of it, and be fearless in your pursuits. The journey is more important than the destination, so learn from every experience and don't be wedded to outcomes.
Ali G. I miss his show - he cracks me up.
I really don't care about cars - I drive a beaten up Toyota Corolla, and am super happy with it. But if I had to pick one, I guess I like the way the Porsche Cayenne looks. As long as it fits my surfboard, I'm happy.
Favorite line from a movie?
Can I give a favorite quote instead: "Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth." Mike Tyson
Best skincare or makeup secret?
Drinking lots of water and getting good sleep - and keeping yourself happy. Those are the keys to looking beautiful.
Best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs in 140-characters or less?
Follow your dreams, and keep moving forward, even when other people think you're crazy! You will probably not get it right the first time – keep iterating on your ideas, and embrace failure.