As anyone who has started a new business (or made any drastic life change) can understand, somewhere along the line you may find yourself in a spot that solidifies everything you have gone through to get to this point, and everything you have accomplished along the way. In other words, a full circle moment. For me, last night was it.
Many people have asked me when I got the idea to leave my firm and start All Places. When that has happened, I’ve been able to respond with a high degree of specificity. July 18, 2019. That night I hosted a dinner for a group of women fund managers. The dinner had been two years in the making. That’s how long it took me to build up the courage to invite these women to dinner. It was kind of like asking someone on a date, except I was asking 20 women, all of who were ridiculously accomplished, and many of whom I didn’t know particularly well (or at all).
While I’d already started focusing my legal practice on working with women GPs, I still had major doubts about my place in that community. There were so many big legal names in the industry and my firm at the time was not one of them (and neither was I). But after months of planning (and tons of encouragement from my business coach–hey Karen Kahn!—and my marketing manager at the firm—what’s up, Jeanette Ponce!), I pulled the trigger and sent out the invitations. Much to my surprise 16 women showed up.
The evening was magical. Everyone was warm and fun and excited to be there, and they were excited to be there with me! I couldn’t believe it. At one point in the evening we went around the table so each person could put forth an “ask” to the group. When it got to one particularly intimidating woman who was managing more money than anyone else at the table (maybe more than everyone else combined), she looked right at me, pointed her finger, and said, “You know what you can do for us, Jessie? You can start your own firm. Because I want to work with a woman-owned firm and I can’t find one.”
That totally freaked me out. I had just met this woman and now she was wagging her finger at me and telling me to do something I’d never had any intention of doing. Like many people, I started working at a big firm after law school because I was a risk averse person. Making a good salary was incredibly meaningful to me. So the idea of leaving my position as an equity partner in a major firm was not high on my list. As the evening went on, and after we all got up from our seats to mingle over dessert, more women echoed her sentiment. They all had this ridiculous impression that I was an entrepreneur like them, which I definitely was not.
But the seed was planted and after a series of events that made it seem like the universe was telling me to just do it (shout out to law firms for being so unwelcoming to women), and a conversation with my husband about whether this was crazy, I decided to go for it. I started envisioning what a law firm would look like if I could create it from scratch. Who would I want my clients to be? How would I compensate employees? What would I want it to look like and feel like? I could go on about that process for ages, but let’s get back to the tagline that dragged you into this post to begin with.
On October 5, 2020, I launched All Places. Then last week I got a call asking me if I would have any interest in taking part in a private dinner in NYC with a senior White House official to discuss female entrepreneurship and asset management. I nearly puked. Huh? Wha? Me? All Places? Little old All Places? Seriously? Seriously. After taking a few deep breaths and retrieving the ability to speak, I of course said yes. That dinner was last night.
Next month I promise to tell you all about it. For now, I’m still a bit stunned by the fact that it happened, that this is the company I built, that the other remarkable women who were there are my peers/clients/friends and that this is my life. I’m also exhausted because all I wanted to do when I got home was replay the entire evening. In less than two years, this is what I (with so much help) have built. Full circle. Now I’m going to go pass out.