Jen Martinelli on humanizing and building connection through your why.
When people ask, “What is Canvas Me?,” I get so excited that I burst out with, “it’s a website that empowers beauty pro’s to create beautiful digital portfolios; it’s a platform where business owners can create career opportunities and humanize their businesses to attract the right employees; It’s a place, where beauty professionals come to share their stories, form connection, and manifest their dreams.” But most importantly, for me, Canvas Me is a place of personal transformation, vulnerability and courage. And after having these conversations, I started to realize: while people always asked about the what, they really cared about the why.
Rewind to the start. I wasn’t always living out my true purpose as Co-Founder of Canvas Me. To be quite honest, I didn’t even know what my purpose or why was. Just a few short years ago, I was living in a beautiful home with my husband and two children. I held a high position in a well-known beauty company and a healthy social life. But, despite it all, I felt unsuccessful, insecure and lost.
At the time, I was constantly in front of beauty business owners as head of education and marketing. With this constant interaction, I often witnessed the worries, fears and pain points of others. One thing stood out was that everyone had trouble hiring the right cultural fit to join their salon family.
While I came across this need over and over again, I never thought I would sit as the co-founder of the very company that is solving this issue; not until I went to a seminar that helped me dig into my emotional past and uncover my burning desire to live out my purpose and dive deep into my why.
I was born to 17-year-old, high-school parents who were still kids trying to figure out life. As a result, my immigrant grandmother from Portugal stepped in to help raise me. Because she didn’t speak English, I became her translator at the young age of 8; being her voice at the grocery store, the doctor’s office and even translating her mail. Because of this new family dynamic, my mom’s younger sisters (while technically my aunts) grew up more like my older siblings. This meant I was the youngest –– and also the “annoying” one.
In the seminar, I began remembering how insecure my eight-year-old self felt: completely invisible, different from her friends with “normal” families, like her opinion didn’t matter and that she wasn’t good enough. That’s when it hit me. As a child, I felt like I didn’t have a voice. As an adult, I would stop at nothing to empower others to find their voice and be heard.
I was even doing this at work! In fact, I made a name for myself and the teams I led as the “Rainbows and Unicorns” department. This was because, while they were high-performing individuals, they were also happy and felt safe being themselves. I unconsciously created an environment where everyone felt safe to be themselves and discovered a sense of belonging.
For the longest time, I felt like I didn’t belong. Therefore, every inch of my adult self did whatever it took to make people around me feel safe and heard. What I didn’t realize was that this also created high-performing, happy team members.
When I was able to stitch these pieces of the puzzle together, I shot out of bed, turned to my husband and said, “My purpose is Empowerment; to give people a voice and make them feel heard. As a child, I felt like I didn’t have a voice. Today, I will stop at nothing to give people theirs.”
Even with this realization, I still had to work to make it a reality. As I mentioned, I received calls all day long from owners who were having trouble hiring beauty professionals to join their work family. I quickly realized that this was because there was no platform that gave artists a voice to show off their work in a professional way and land careers of their dreams.
This was my opportunity.
My husband and I decided to quit our high-paying jobs, rent our house, get rid of a car and pack up our things. We took our two young kids and moved cross country from New Jersey to California to live with my mom and put everything we had into Canvas Me. Today, we are back in our own home and giving thousands of beauty professionals and businesses a voice.
Through this experience, I learned that telling your why turns you into a mirror for your audience. It reminds them of their old wounds and inspires healing from a place of empowerment. It creates a movement of motivated, passionate humans marching to join you.
So yes, Canvas Me is solving the recruitment issue in the beauty space, but it’s so much bigger than that. It’s about being seen, having a voice, celebrating your accomplishments, showing up as the best version of yourself and sharing your story to find the right work family or career opportunity.
If you are a business owner or a beauty professional, I encourage you to get clear with your why. Doing so lets you form deep, meaningful connections with your team or potential employers. Not only does this make you more human, but it creates a movement of fans marching for a greater purpose.
And guess what happens when you have a movement of employees marching to your greater purpose? Your clients feel it! When someone asks, “So, tell me about yourself,” knowing your why lets you take them on a journey of grit, passion and purpose that they will never forget.
So, what’s yours?