Mellow music was playing as I walked into Rise Coffee House and saw Jamie sitting at a table in front of their large windows facing Manchester. She had already ordered a coffee, so I quickly ordered a green tea and took a seat across from her. I asked about her career and she immediately began telling me her story.
Originally from St. Louis, Jamie began her career with the Prosecuting Attorney’s office in the victim’s unit. Early on her focus was victim advocacy, working with domestic violence, sexual abuse, and child abuse victims to help them navigate the legal system and find outside resources to cope with PTSD or other issues.
Not long after, Jamie’s husband, a navy pilot, was stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, so she accepted a position as the head of the victim services unit there. “I was focusing on the special assault division. I graduated from dealing with, and this sounds terrible, but lesser crimes, to dealing with more serious crimes. Families of victims of homicide, extreme child sexual abuse, the special assault cases…”
Her husband’s role moved them to San Diego not long after, where she worked with the U.S. Navy in charge of the southwest region of the country’s sexual assault program. This position challenged her in a different way. “That was a phenomenal, phenomenal leadership opportunity, travel opportunity. Not only was I dealing with higher echelons in the military, but also I’m a female so I’m dealing with mostly men. Some of the people at the bases I managed were much older than me, so it was really a challenge to establish credibility in myself.”
In California, a ground-breaking and controversial law was passed stating that if a woman is intoxicated her sexual consent is invalid. Jamie was working in the Navy’s sexual assault program when this law was passed, giving her the momentous task of educating Navy recruits and the general public. She organized a 5k to promote awareness, ran public service announcements on TV, and put together brochures explaining the law. “It was kind of at that point, that I realized, you know, I kind of really wanted to focus more on marketing. And I knew my passions were non-profits and wellness, so I was like how can I meld the two together?”
The cost of living in San Diego is “atrocious”. That was one factor that brought Jamie, her husband, and their two daughters back to St. Louis. The other was that juggling two jobs and family wasn’t easy especially while moving all over the country for the Navy. In December 2007 they moved back and Jamie quickly accepted a grant funded position through the Jefferson County Department of Health.
I grew up in Festus, so when she told me there were heavy amounts of chronic disease in Jefferson County, I can’t say I was surprised. She was hired to start a wellness program for the city of Festus in conjunction with the hospital and was shocked with what she learned. “Some of these kids had never had a celery before!” The lack of farmer’s markets, no place to walk, and a lot of fast food in the area were huge factors in the problem, so she implemented cooking demonstrations, walking groups, and a 5k called Get Fit Festus that is still an annual event.
The economy hit Jamie pretty hard. After her stint with Jeff County, one of the largest marketing firms in St. Louis hired her and was sponsoring her to attend Washington University’s MBA program. But the economy tanked and Jamie’s entire department was eliminated. Her plans for attending Wash U were put on hold indefinitely. After months of fruitlessly searching for a job, she thought, “You know what, I’m going to start my own thing. What do I have to lose?”
She began a marketing consultancy, focusing on non-profits and small businesses. “I always had this entrepreneurial streak in me, but I just didn’t know like, how to like channel that.” But running her own business wasn’t exactly easy either. “I quickly found the challenges of running your own business, in terms of, you know, the ups and downs. One month it could be totally kick-ass awesome, the next month its like ‘oh, my god’.”
Yeah. That wasn’t enough of a challenge for her. So… “I utimately decided, because I’m type A and I’m all or nothing, I decided, ok, running my own business isn’t enough, we’re going to go back to school too and screw it, I’ll just pay for it myself.” There’s no time like the present, I guess! Except that she was also pregnant. “That goes to my craziness, because I was actually pregnant with my daughter at the time. I don’t know how I did it. That whole period of time was a blur.” On top of all of this, her husband was deployed.
In the middle of her degree program Jamie had to do a 2 week international residency. She was off to Shanghai! Her class toured the largest Wal-Mart in the city. “Aubrey, it was crazy. It was a 3 level walmart and, ok, so… in the meat and fruit department OSHA would have had a field day. They had bins of ice with raw meat just in there. People go and hand pick their meat. Us Americans, we were shocked. Plus, I don’t understand the placement of like, here’s some tampons and here are like, cupcakes. I mean just WEIRD!”
Jamie is very into natural health and wellness, but when she was recruited to work for a local agency as an account executive for Monsanto, she reluctantly accepted. As a co-founder of a wellness organization, a contributing editor for Natural Mother magazine, and a sales rep for health wraps, working with Monsanto was a big stretch. It finally got to her. After being micro-managed and struggling to work with a company that goes against many of her beliefs, she left.
When we met, Jamie was looking for her next career move, but still keeping busy by selling wellness products. Something much more in line with her passion for healthy living. “I’ve been doing this for about 2 years and the company and the products are top-notch."
When I asked about St. Louis she said, "St. Louis is on the brink of a revolution. There are a bunch of innovative and creative people here that see what potential this city has. If people would take the time to get out of their comfort zone and meet people, they'd be in for a unique surprise. Everyone is rallying for STL to be better. Better for all of us and generations to come. What a kick ass time to live here!"
It was getting close to 8:30am, time for both of us to head out. We struggled to finish our conversation, as we kept stumbling onto topics that interested both of us. Finally, we said our goodbyes and left the cozy coffee house to pursue whatever else our day would bring.
UPDATE: Jamie has found a new job with HD Supply Waterworks as their Senior Communications Manager but is still looking for freelance writing opportunities. Learn more on her website.