My So-Called Life - Joanna Rees Gallanter

Joanna Rees Gallanter has experienced wholesale life and career changes and learned the true meaning of success along the way.

Old Life: Director of New Product Development, Dannon Co.

New Life: Founder and Managing Director, Venture Strategy Group

My first steps along a career path were right for the fast track. I got an important job with a well-known company when I was still in my twenties. I was responsible for a $190 million brand. I was planning to move to corporate headquarters in France. Then I married the vice president of sales. Then I had a baby. Well, so much for France. Instead, I got my MBA - and I did the program in a year and a half.

That was typical. I did everything as if I were running a race. Eventually, though, it felt like a race to nowhere. My husband had urged me to find a job that would let me spend more time with our son. So I agreed to run a country inn that my family owned. It sounded like a great idea. But a month after we began our new life, my husband left. It was the first time that anything had failed for me, and it forced me to ask myself some questions: What is this race really about? What am I trying to win?

Later I got married again and moved to San Francisco. I had another baby. And in 1996, I founded Venture Strategy Group. We invest in specialty-retail, consumer-products, and electronic- commerce companies. Sure, I'm still committed to success, but now it's a different kind of success. It has to include my husband, my children, and my service to the community.

I was interviewing a job candidate the other day, and she asked where I had gotten the "guts" to start my own company. What a question! I really don't think about it in terms of guts anymore. It's just a matter of following my own vision and staying true to my values.

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