“I like having 9,000 balls in the air,” says entrepreneur Amy Jurkowitz. “I do better that way.”
The busy mother of five (three of whom are applying to college this year) isn’t kidding. With two businesses – Milkshake, a website she co-founded about individuals and organizations that give back, and Jurkowitz & Co., a consulting firm – the Greenwich resident thrives on organized chaos.
But working hard and thinking outside the box are nothing new for Jurkowitz, whose grandfather, Charles W. Lubin, founded Sara Lee, the food company he named after his daughter, Jurkowitz’s mother.
“I come from a family of entrepreneurs. It has always been in my blood,” says Jurkowitz, who saw firsthand growing up how a company could flourish.
“That was a big success story and I’ve also seen when things don’t work. But my dream has always been to have my own companies, run them and build a brand and connect with customers,” says the petite mom, who nonetheless packs a punch.
‘HERE I GO AGAIN’
Straight out of college, Jurkowitz took a job at a big sports marketing firm where she was able to combine her love of sports – she played tennis for Colgate University – with business. From there she went to business school at Northwestern University where she met her future husband, Dan. After graduating, Jurkowitz applied for a Paramount Pictures producer-in-training position in Los Angeles. With 10,000 applicants and only five positions open, she never expected to land the job.
“Somehow, I got the job but,” she says laughing, “I also got the ‘Will you marry me?’”
Following her heart, Jurkowitz chose love over the glamour of Hollywood.
The couple married and she took a job with Unilever, which she says was the best thing that happened to her, because it was there she learned how to run a brand with a bottom-line focus.
“I stopped working for a while, but I knew I was always going to go back,” she says about taking time off to start a family (five kids in four years, including twins).
After her third child, she decided to go back to Unilever, but in the end, her crazy hours at work were taking their toll on her young family. So again, she took time off to be home with her kids.
When her youngest was 2, she and her friend Tina Mikkelson had the idea to start an upscale workout and loungewear line for women and called it Material. In two short years, they were in 200 stores. This was around the same time Lululemon hit the scene. But unlike Lululemon, they didn’t own their own stores.
“We made a lot of mistakes, but we learned a ton.”
Their biggest mistake, she says, was not bringing in someone who knew the retail trade. Eventually, Material disbanded but the partners remained good friends.
In 2007, Barry Sternlicht – founder and CEO of Starwood Capital Group, a private investment firm focused on global real estate – asked her to consult on three new hotel brands he was creating at his company. She describes the role as ideal, except for the fact that after two years, she was back to working overtime and not having enough time for her family.
“Here I go again,” she remembers thinking to herself about not being able to find a balance.
It was at that point the go-getter decided to leave Starwood Capital Group to launch her own Jurkowitz & Co., a consulting firm for people who have ideas but don’t know how to launch them.
“It’s about being passionate and curious about different segments and seeing something that someone else hasn’t seen,” she says, describing what she’s done throughout her career.
“Because anyone can have an idea and people have them all the time, but I’m really good at taking action. I can do it and I can see that nothing’s going to stop me.”
“I go in, do my piece and find the right people to run it. I love it. It’s intoxicating to me,” she says.
GET OUT THE ‘BLENDER’
Milkshake was the same thing, only different. Two years ago, Pamela Caffray came to Jurkowitz with the idea of launching a Daily Candy with soul, referring to the lifestyle website. Jurkowitz thought Caffray was on to something, but this time, she wanted to be part of it. As a former branding executive at Unilever, she knew it had to be visual and fun.
“You don’t want to be a tree-hugger site. It won’t last,” she remembers telling Caffray.
Milkshake – the name came from Jurkowitz’s husband, “because milkshakes are good and happy” – is sassy and lighthearted, with concise, readable content that makes it easy for you to get involved.
With two editions of daily blasts – a global edition and a kids’ edition for parents with children under age 12 – Milkshake aims to be at the forefront of change in the world by shining a light on individuals, initiatives, events, services and products that are innovative, unique and focus on “the triple bottom line (people, planet and profits).” Its mission is “to put ‘giving back’ in the context of the larger world we live in – discovering ways to shop, travel, eat, read and interact with greater purpose, with the ultimate goal of dazzling you with a find, encouraging you to initiate change and inspiring you to be part of all that’s good.”
Looking to extend the brand this past May, the company launched Milkshake Global Bazaar, a showcase event featuring18 vendors selling products, all with a “give-back.”
A second Milkshake Global Gift Bazaar will take place
Nov. 7 from 6 to 9 p.m. and Nov. 8 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Reschedule for Dec 5th from 6 to 9 p.m and Dec. 6th from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m at 16 Rockwood Lane, Greenwich.
The Goods Powered by Milkshake is a product line in the works, which will use the same model employed by TOMS shoes and eyewear – buy one, give one.
The company is also testing a Milkshake blog on three college campuses – Dartmouth College, Bucknell University and Trinity College – and one Connecticut boarding school, The Hotchkiss School. (Jurkowitz’s three daughters attend the school.)
Each school blog has an editor in place writing about what’s charitable on campus and what’s inspiring to the students, whether it’s a song or a story about students teaching English to youngsters in Panama.
“Green was such a big deal for us, but now you’re not building anymore unless it’s LEED-certified. It’s the same with these kids,” Jurkowitz says. “They do not start a company unless there’s some kind of give-back or they’re somehow educating a community or they’re employing a community in Costa Rica.”
That’s why she believes the Milkshake campus blog will resonate with students. If all goes well, the plan is to roll it out to other colleges.
“When you talk about a different road, I’ve gone through all these different roads where I’ve worked for corporations, I’ve worked for different people. But where I am in my life now, this is beyond ideal,” she says.
To learn more about Milkshake, visit getmilkshake.com.