Transcript: The Anti-Niche: Jen Hatmaker’s Approach To Creating A Highly Engaged Community

March 8, 2023

JEN HATMAKER: “I have to live integrated, and that includes my public-facing work. Obviously, to your point, I do not say everything there is to say. That is unwise. I always say there is a big difference between secrecy—which would have been bad, which is kind of marked by shame and hiding—and privacy, which is just marked by discretion. And I have discretion. So I have plenty of things behind the private veil that nobody knows. But that's the bread and butter of my life. So it never dawned on me that this wasn't going to be a thing that I was going to walk out in front of my community. Never. And we'd suffered a lot together already. You know, we had some precedents for this. I had muscle memory for going through hard things, both personally and with my community. And so I knew, I knew, that it would be a safe place to land, and I was 100 percent right.” 

INTRO: I’m Amy Porterfield, ex-corporate girl turned CEO of a multi-seven-figure business. But it wasn't all that long ago that I lacked the confidence, the budget, and the time to focus on growing my small-but-mighty business. Fast forward past many failed attempts and lessons learned, and you'll see the business I have today, one that changes lives and gives me more freedom than I ever thought possible, one that used to only exist as a daydream. I created the Online Marketing Made Easy podcast to give you simple, actionable, step-by-step strategies to help you do the same. If you're an ambitious entrepreneur, or one in the making, who's looking to create a business that makes an impact and a life you love, you're in the right place, friend. Let's get started. 

AMY PORTERFIELD: Well, hey, there, sweet friend. Welcome to an episode of Online Marketing Made Easy. As always, I am so very glad you tuned in. Listen, I know there are a ton of podcasts you could be listening to right now, and the fact that you chose mine today, I am extra grateful.  

I also am very, very grateful for my guest today. I think she is just a breath of fresh air. And this episode turned out to be a little bit different than I actually planned, and I love it that way. So sometimes I record my intros after I do the interviews so I kind of understand where the conversation went and what I want to highlight. And I just have to say, my guest, she's witty, she's funny, she's just a joy of a human being, and on top of that, she has created a highly successful business that is all about showing up better for yourself, for your family, and everyone else in your life.  

Her name is Jen Hatmaker. She's written several books, including New York Times’ bestsellers, For the Love, Of Mess and Moxie, and Fierce, Free, and Full of Fire. I mean, first of all, those titles, right? She's host of the For the Love podcast, and speaks all over the country. She even has her own book club, where she nerds out every month with a community of thousands of women who believe that stories still matter. How cool is that?  

One thing I find most impressive about Jen is that she is 100 percent Jen 100 percent of the time. What I mean by that is that she's not afraid to seek the truth, answer hard questions, or have eye-opening conversations. And in doing that, she's created a business that has multiple different layers and communities to it, which you'll hear more about in this episode. 

If you are multi passionate, if you don't love the conversation of the niches—or the niches. I have to say it right for it to rhyme—the niches are in the riches. No. No, no, no. Let me start over. I should edit this out, and I'm not going to. The riches are in the niches. If you don't like hearing that, or if you've always struggled with, like, really honing in on a very specific niche, and every time I bring it up, you kind of want to curse my name, well, Jen is going to prove me wrong in some ways. I think she's a little bit of a unicorn, but that doesn't mean you can't be as well. And so she just does it different, very different than the way I do it, but very different than most. And it works for her. And so I think after this interview, what I took away from it is that, oh, my goodness, there's so many different ways you can slice and dice being an entrepreneur and building an online business. There's so many different ways you can focus on your business and navigate through your business. And it's just, that's why I love being an entrepreneur.  

She's going to share with you why she is highly transparent, why she uses social media in the way she does, and really just, like, how she set up her business and why it works for her. Some of you are going to breathe a very big sigh of relief after you hear this episode. Plus, there's some good nuggets about her divorce after twenty-something years and how she cultivates friendships and why she thinks it's funny to call her new boyfriend a boyfriend at forty-eight years old. All of this is in the episode. Let’s get going. 

I've got a podcast recommendation for you, I mean beyond Online Marketing Made Easy. If you love this podcast, you're going to love the podcast by Scott D. Clary. It's called Success Story, and it's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network and features Q&A sessions with successful business leaders and keynote presentations and conversations on sales and marketing and business and startups and entrepreneurship, all the stuff we love, right? And you can hear episodes like “Unleashing Your True Potential: A Practical Guide to Boosting Self-worth and Wealth through Authenticity” and another episode, “How to do Content Marketing Properly.” So listen to your Success Story wherever you get your podcasts. 

Well, hey, there, Jen. Welcome to the show. 

JEN: Oh, I'm so happy to be here. Thanks for having me on. 

AMY: I am so happy you're here. We have so many mutual friends.  

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: They all love you. They speak so highly of you. And then, I've got the great opportunity to get one of your famous hugs when I was at your book signing.  

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: So now I feel like we're fast friends, and this is just going to be a chat, like two girls sitting around, drinking coffee. 

JEN: That’s it. That’s exactly what we are. That's exactly what we're doing. A handful of other people kind of listen in, but that's neither here nor there. This is just me and you. 

AMY: Just me and you. But I think that's how you run your whole business.  

JEN: It is. 

AMY: I feel as though it's always just a chat with your good girl friend.  

JEN: It really is. 

AMY: So that's why we all love you so much. But we're going to talk a little bit about your vibe and how you do that, in a second. But I think most of my audience absolutely knows who you are. But just in case a few of them don’t, give me a little sense of who you are, what you’re about, what you do in business. Like, run us through it. 

JEN: Yeah. I think who I am now—fortunately, I think this is good news for those of us who have lived long enough—has very much evolved from where I started. There are a handful of things that stayed in play. I kind of started out in this space as a writer, so that hung on. But I was in a completely different space. And then, just as I grew as a person, like, as a human person—because I actually came up originally through a faith space for women, and that is a long, complex story. But I realized I was just out of alignment with the community on a lot of really important things. And so I have sort of evolved in a different direction.  

But I am a writer, and I'm a podcast host, and I'm a speaker, and I host big book club. I love women, and that has remained a through line. I love to serve them. I love them in my community. They are my sisters, both near and far. And so that's really, that's my North Star. Who is my community? It's not so much—they are the ones that we listen to. They are the ones that sort of drive everything that we do.  

And so, and then aside from that, I have five kids, and they're mostly launched. Like, my youngest is sixteen, she's a junior, and she just got home two days ago from doing a whole semester in Spain, and she's the last one in the house. The rest of them are, like, in various stages of successful/not successful launch. Soft launch. 

AMY: What I love is that when your kids started to leave your house, you started to talk about the fact that you don't have plates and cups and forks all over the house. 

JEN: It’s a miracle. Like, when no kids live in your house, your forks are just right where they belong. Can you imagine? Right there in the drawer, right where their home is.  

AMY: Exactly. 

JEN: Right. Like, the laundry's done, and the toilets are clean, and nobody's shoes are by the front door. And while there are parts of having the kids out of the house that are a little bit lonely and a little bit strange, some parts are great. It’s great. Love it. 

AMY: Absolutely. 

JEN: Uh-huh. 

AMY: Totally agree. I only have one, but when he went to college, I looked at my husband, I'm like, “I feel different. I feel like we're going to start dating again. I feel like you're my boyfriend again. Like, my life is different.” 

JEN: So cute.  

AMY: Yeah. 

JEN: I mean, that is so true. I have a literal boyfriend.  

AMY: You have a literal boyfriend, who I met, and I'm obsessed, for the record. How does it feel—now, you and I are around the same age—to be a little older and call someone a boyfriend?  

JEN: It's very weird. I mean, I'm forty-eight years old, for crying out loud. And so I told him—so I'm dating. His name's Tyler Merritt. And I'm like, “What do we, what do old people like us, call each other? I just can't call you my boyfriend. We're just not in middle school.” And he's like, “That's what I am. That's what you say. You just say boyfriend.” I'm like, “It's so squishy. It feels so squishy.” I'm like… so I try on different things. 

AMY: I love it. 

JEN: I'm like, “the man I'm dating,” or “my partner.” 

AMY: “My partner.” Yeah. 

JEN: Yeah, I don’t really know. I don't have it figured out yet. But regardless of his title, he is delightful, and he has been a wonderful, unexpected surprise in my life this last year, because, as you know, I was married for twenty-six years and kind of went through a really shocking and unexpected divorce right at the beginning of the pandemic. And so in my living life, I didn't expect to have a boyfriend when I was forty-eight years old.  

AMY: But you do it well, my friend.  

JEN: Thank you. 

AMY: You two are adorable. I love watching you fall in love. And that's one thing: you have allowed us to watch you fall in love. So I'm jumping around, but I'm going to get to a question around, how do you do that? How do you share your life so beautifully?  

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: But we're going to get there.  

JEN: All right. 

AMY: I want to back up for a quick second because when my listeners are tuning in, they're going to wonder, like, “Well, what is your business look like, then?” So, basically, “How do you make money?” But a more eloquent way of saying is, like, “ What do you offer your audience?”  

JEN: Hm. Mm-hmm. It's a great question. Again, my career in terms of, like, revenue streams and a strata of offerings for my community has evolved greatly— 

AMY: True. 

JEN: —and grown a lot. You know, once upon a time in the olden days, it was you write a book, it comes out a year later, and then you start over with another book. That's what I had. And I mean, I started working before, really, social media. So we just did well. It was a completely different world that we lived in.  

AMY: Yes. 

JEN: But so now I've got a team, and I'm, like, in partnership with my business developer. And again, going back to my earlier point, with the women in the community as our North Star. So that means we always have our ear to the ground. Always. We are listening to everything they say. We are paying attention to conversations that may be started over on socials but have a lot of traction, a lot of connection, a lot of engagement, just paying attention to where the average person in the community is, in her life, in her heart, in her soul, in her body, in her needs, in her pain. That's our platform.  

And from there—so I still write. I'm still an author. And even that has broadened out. Like, my last book was a cookbook. I mean— 

AMY: And it is delicious. 

JEN: It was so fun, and it was one of my favorite projects I've ever done. And that was a product of me getting older, saying, “I think I can do what I want. Like, I think I can do something that I love,” and I did.  

So I'm still an author, of course, but I also have a podcast. And so it's called For the Love, and it's five years strong. And I think we're, like, at the sixty-million-downloads spot. It has had a lot of traction in the community. And so that is—our format is where I'm a host and I have a guest on every, kind of like you and I are doing right now. And we do our podcast in series. And so we don't just get pitched. We go for our guests based on the series that we're doing, because I just never really wanted the tail to wag the dog there. I always wanted to talk about what I wanted to talk about and what I knew my community wanted to hear. We are the lead horse on the podcast. We chart out our series, which are five to eight episodes each, a year at a time, and they're thematic. And they're widely varied, but— 

AMY: That’s what I love about it. 

JEN: Yeah. Widely varied, because we’re complicated people, and we’re complex, and we can tape multitudes. So sometimes we want to talk about, you know, suffering and recovery, and sometimes we want to talk about pop culture. And so we do it all. Anyway, so I've got the podcast. 

We have the Jen Hatmaker Book Club, and so that's women, really, all around the world. We're primarily located in the United States, of course, but we've got international members, too. And that's just a joy, and that is a real delight. I love that.  

And then we have a whole Me Course series, which is relatively new in the zeitgeist, in the Jen Hatmaker zeitgeist. That's a year old. 

AMY: And it's a digital course, right? 

JEN: They're essentially e-courses, and they're also themed, obviously. And I bring in an expert for each one. And so I have my body of work, which is really where those courses have come from, and also my own personal life experience. So it's a combination of the two. And then I bring in somebody who that is their specialty. That's where their credentials lie. And we've put it together in a really specific way, based on what we've heard from our community, what they need, what they want to digest, and how they want to consume it. 

AMY: Got it. Okay, so, good. So now people kind of know what your business looks like. But I want to get to the real topic of this episode, which is community. And I've heard you say that you have a community-based or community-themed business. What does that mean to you? 

JEN: Yes, exactly. It's so funny. When I think of the olden days of my work, it wasn't me just striking out to do whatever it is I wanted to do. It was born out of community. It was practiced in community. It's where I workshopped all the material in community. Those were my pilot groups in community. It was such a crowd-sourced effort, if you will. And I mean, this was, like, 2002 or so.  

AMY: Okay. 

JEN: And so there was really never one minute of my work that was not community based, ever. It was always about the women. And of course, initially it was just the women that I happened to be around. Like, the ones that lived by me, the ones that were in my life. And I'm like, “Can you come over? I will feed you, and I need to try this material out on you and see how you feel.” So that was really, that's always been what it's been. And it's still that way, even though we have a really big business at this point. And it has slivers of the pie chart that were beyond my possible imagination in 2002.  

And so there's a lot more moving parts. There’s a lot more hands and eyes on it, which can dilute your message if you're not careful. If you don't choose your team well; if you partner for the wrong reason, even just one degree of a wrong reason; if you follow that leadership and that tug long enough, you'll be fifteen degrees off your North Star. And so I know that. I've done that. And so I’m really a strategic business partners, very strategic brand partners and people in my ear, representatives as well, who are going to have the least corrosive effect on pulling me off my tracks, because sometimes the tracks that I'm on aren't necessarily always the most lucrative ones, but those are still my tracks. 

AMY: So true. Okay. So that actually leads me perfectly into my next question, which was, when I teach my students how to run businesses or create digital courses, we talk a lot about the riches are in the niches and the fact that niching down will allow you to really find your audience. That is not necessarily how you've grown your business, although you may look at it differently. So my question is, you've got all these different amazing topics that you talk about and why I gravitate toward you. So I love it, and it works for me, and I know it works for millions. So from parenting to divorce to food to relationships just in general to clothing, like, there's so many different things you could talk about. So how do you do that? Like, how do you tailor your emails or your social media, where everyone feels included even if they're maybe not interested in some of those topics? 

JEN: Yeah. It's such a good question. 

AMY: And you do it well, so there's proof that this is working for you. 

JEN: Right. It's not industry standard. You are correct.  

AMY: It isn’t. 

JEN: And any time I come out with a book, there's this inevitable moment with the publishing team, and they're always like, “We're not sure what category to put this book in and where it belongs in a bookstore.” I'm like, “I know. Like, I am so sorry, and I understand the dilemma,” because I have so many different ideas packed into one place.  

So I'd like to say, I would love to tell you, Amy, that that was entirely strategic, that I had a strategy from the onset that was business minded with a clear goal of the end. But the truth is the way that I have grown my community, and that's the business that comes with it, is by operating literally out of my actual life. That's it. 

AMY: Mm. Okay, speak more to that. What do you mean?  

JEN: I think of myself as a person, a normal member of my community. I promise you that I do. That is how I perceive myself. That is how I have always perceived myself. I feel a deep camaraderie and kinship with the women, and I just feel like I'm one of them. And so although it is on a strategy, my way of being in the world, just period, is just heart on my sleeve; what you see is what you get; whatever I'm going through that day is what I'm going to talk about. And because I like to be funny—because humor is a huge part of my work, and I have just a lot of satirical work—that's always roped in, too. So sometimes I just have, I just want to be funny, and I want to entertain my community, and that's exactly how I do it with my friends.  

AMY: Yeah. 

JEN: And so with me as the template, some days are parenting heavy. Some days used to be marriage heavy. Some days were travel heavy because I'm on a trip. Some days were sort of career heavy because I'm exhausted and overwhelmed, and I've let my boundary slip. And that's ubiquitous. It doesn't matter what your work is. Some days were friendship, girl-adult-friendship heavy.  

And so that's just how it was. That was life. That was just life. Whatever you read from me, I was doing that day. That was my day, or that was my yesterday. And so as it turns out, that's fairly relatable because that's what life looks like for virtually everybody in my community. And so while they may not come to me for one specific thing, they do come to me for all the things. 

AMY: Okay, I love that. You're totally right. And you know what's interesting? You absolutely, like—because I got to see you on stage, which made me even understand you more, you really do feel like everybody else in the audience. Like, I really do get that feeling. She comes out, and she's like, “Hi, guys. Like, how are you doing?” Like, there's not a lot of production or, like, over the top. It felt so real. 

JEN: Thank you. 

AMY: But at the same time, Jen, you're a really big deal. So when you were on stage, you were telling a story that you didn't want to tell, or you didn't want to namedrop, which I love about you. You are not a namedropper. But you had to, like, punctuate the point with who you were on the phone with— 

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: —which was Brené Brown. 

JEN: Yes. 

AMY:  So how—like, you have friends like Brené Brown. I just need to punctuate that point. How do you stay so grounded, so real? And I really mean this question. It’s not just a fluffy question. How do you stay so real and so connected to your audience and feel like one of us when you have this big life, and you're going to movie premieres, and you have really fancy friends, and you get on really big podcasts? How do you do that? 

JEN: I can tell you the truth. All of those things that you just mentioned, while they're true, I promise you, they always feel like an outlier experience to me. Always. 

AMY: Really. 

JEN: It never feels like my real life. Never. I never think, “This is what I do. I'm fancy,” or “I've got fancy people.” Or every time that is happening, you will find me online going, “Here I am again at something weird, and I don't know what to wear, and my dress came from Amazon. It was thirty-eight dollars.” That’s the truth. 

AMY: And it’s true, you do that. 

JEN: That is not a put on. I'm not doing a shtick. Like, that isn’t my strategic way to be relatable. That is my literal self. And so that does not feel like my real life. The brunt of my real life is just right here where I live; with my best friends that I've had forever, decades; the same house; the same everything. Like, most of my life just feels ordinary. I don't know how else to say it except that that is very true to me, and everything else just feels weird. It feels weird. It feels like, even I am on the phone with Brené, going, Why? Why am I talking to Brené Brown? Why? How is this happening?  

And so I regularly have—my team regularly reminds me that my perception of my life is strangely skewed in that I'm not careful about anything. I don't care about safety. I'm not weird. I'm always just saying whatever I'm saying. And they're like, “Maybe that one could be a hold back.” I’m like, “Oh, well.”  

So I think this is maybe just who I am. I think maybe just who I am is an everyday person that, strangely, a lot of people know. 

AMY: Absolutely.  

Okay. So kind of in that vein, you get online, and you share it all. I mean, sure, there's some things you keep private we don't know about, but we feel like we really know your life. And so you're taking us behind the scenes. You're sharing about your kids. You're sharing about your mistakes, your life, and all that. And then, you unexpectedly get a divorce. Were you ready—like, were you like, “Okay, I'm going to have to share this too?” Like, what went through your head when you were so open with us and then something so devastating and private happened? How do you navigate that? 

JEN: I remember the early days of this question you just asked me, having this brand-new territory in front of me that was so hard. And of course, keep in mind, I'd spent fifteen years with marriage and family being a pretty core piece of my work. So there's that, too, this sense of fraudulence, of course. And having lost a marriage that so many people know. They know us. They know our family. They know our—they knew us as a couple. And largely because that's how I do, you know, just a sharer of my actual life. And so I remember thinking early on, I worried a little bit that this was just going to be a credibility hit.  

But I also knew pretty instantly, there’s no way—I cannot live disintegrated. And so for me, if that was all the way tucked back to be diminished or even unspoken, and then I had to do this kind of fake thing out front that either appeared to preserve the status quo or diminished what an absolute crisis we were in, I mean, our family was at the bottom of the ocean. Like, this wasn't a little wobble. I mean, it was implosion. You know, this was a grenade in our life. And so I literally do not have the capacity to pretend like that's not happening. I don't. I cannot be out here and talk about signing up for back to school. Can't do it.  

So there is a part of me that I have to live integrated, and that includes my public-facing work. Obviously, to your point, I do not say everything there is to say. That is unwise. I always say there is a big difference between secrecy—which would have been bad, which is kind of marked by shame and hiding—and privacy, which is just marked by discretion.  

AMY: Ooh, that’s good. 

JEN: And I had discretion.  

AMY: Yes. 

JEN: So I have plenty of things behind the private veil that nobody knows. But that's the bread and butter of my life. So it never dawned on me that this wasn't going to be a thing that I was going to walk out in front of my community. Never. And we'd suffered a lot together already. You know, we had some precedents for this. I had muscle memory for going through hard things, both personally and with my community. And so I knew, I knew, that it would be a safe place to land, and I was 100 percent right. 

AMY: Ooh. I mean, watching you navigate that was really beautiful.  

JEN: Thank you. 

AMY: And it really was. And, you know, this feels like a callous, ridiculous question, but I can't help but ask it, so I have to because we're on a business podcast. We did a whole episode about divorce and entrepreneurship. And I'm curious, how did you navigate your business through that time? Like, if that were happening to me, there had to be days you didn't want to get out of bed. There had to be times you didn't want to get on video, and you sure as heck don't want to talk about it sometimes.   

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: But here you are running a business— 

JEN: That’s right. 

AMY: —and making money and employing people. How did you do that?  

JEN: Yeah, it's a great question. Well, to be fair, it was the very beginning of the pandemic, so everything was topsy-turvey.  

AMY: Oh.  

JEN: Like, all of our business streams were, like—live events used to be a huge piece of my work— 

AMY: Okay. 

JEN: —as a teacher and as a speaker. 

AMY: Yes. 

JEN: And of course, those were instantly, overnight evaporated. And so it was our whole team was already in pivot mode, just like yours. 

AMY: Okay. Interesting, yeah. 

JEN: We were already—I lost my marriage in July, and in March was the beginning of the pandemic. So we were all ready. And I had a book come out in April, so we had had this fast-track business space, where we were like, “Plan B. What do we innovate? How do we,” —because we were going to have a tour, of course, the whole book PR campaign, plus a book tour. That was all over before it started. And so some of it we were queued up.  

But when it first happened in July, I sent maybe a single-sentence email to my team at large, and I just said, “I'm out. I don't… nothing. I'm completely out. Whatever is on today, whatever’s… I'm completely out.” I didn't even really, I barely told them what was—just enough so they knew this is real. I told them just enough. Probably for three months, I don't know what they did. They handled it all. I didn't do anything. 

AMY: Wow. 

JEN: I didn't do a podcast. I didn't do an interview. I didn't—I wasn't on socials. I was out. And that team, they pivoted so quick. The good news in our world for business is that I had created so much content for so long that they were pulling from archives and piecing together and putting together new packages with all sorts of—to be honest with you, Amy, I'm not sure. I'm not sure. They didn't let it touch me. They handled it all.  

AMY: What an amazing testament to what you created, though.  

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: Oh, my gosh. Those listening that do not have a team yet, I want you to really pay attention to this moment, that as you grow your team, life will happen. 

JEN: That’s right. 

AMY: Grow a team that will literally, for three months, take care of the business when you have no idea what's happening because you are devastated and you cannot deal with it.  

JEN: That's right. Life happens to all of us. And I honestly cannot even fathom what I would have done without the team, and the right team. I mentioned that earlier. They're just, we are in lockstep on what we do, why we do it, and who we do it for.  

AMY: Yeah. 

JEN: And so I did not have to waste one second worrying that they were going to steer us off course without my hand at the helm, because we have been in partnership for so long and so accurately in our ecosystem. And so and they did. And there was just enough that they had to also pull from and piece together. And they used some of my partners. 

And that's another good thing. I am absolutely the girl who partners with my colleagues. No woman is my competitor. Absolutely not. That is not my deal. It never has been. And so I have all these friends that do work that's very ancillary to what I do. And they came in. They came in. They popped into my spaces. They did guest spots. They added some of their new material to some of the stuff my team had pulled from my stuff I had already created. And so all these deposits that we had put in the bank for a decade came to bear when we needed to draw, when we needed to draw on them. And there is an advantage to doing a beautiful business and to doing it right and to being a collaborator, because when you need it, people will be incredibly generous to you and for you because they will return to you what you've given to them. That was in my complete experience. 

AMY: Wow. I love that you showed that. I think I had chills the entire time, knowing that you were taken care of in a time that you needed it most and knowing that you've done the work to deserve or to really reap the benefits of having other people come to you. So that is really cool. 

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While you were talking about that, I was thinking about all your girl friends. So there's a theme in the entrepreneurial world with women, that we talk a lot about struggling with women-adult friendships. And I was just at a retreat with a bunch of women and men, and it was also a topic with the women. And we work really hard on having those friendships. Like, we really want them. And I look at you, and I'm like, “This is a woman who she's figured it out. There is no doubt in my mind.” You own a Vespa? It was a Vespa, right? 

JEN: That’s right. 

AMY: With all your girl friends. First of all, tell us what the heck that was. All I saw was a picture of a bunch of girls— 

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: —on Vespas that I think a husband bought or something. 

JEN: Yeah, that’s right. 

AMY: Start there, and then— 

JEN: It’s absurd. 

AMY: —let’s get into how you’ve formed these friendships. I need all the advice, so go ahead. 

JEN: Yeah. It's totally absurd. Well, I mentioned I've had the same friends forever. 

AMY: Yeah. 

JEN: So they jokingly call me, and they knew me way before there was a “dot com.” So there's nothing—those are anchors in my life. I mean that in the truest sense of the word. I don't have a vision for my life without my girl friends. I really cannot. So we live—my very best friends, we live in the same neighborhood. Two of us live on one street; two of us live on a street .02 miles behind us.  

AMY: Incredible. 

JEN: And a couple of years ago, one of the husbands, in a grand gesture, bought us matching Vespas. And so—they're so dumb. We live in a little— I live just south of Austin, in a little town called Buda. It's just a suburb of Austin. But we're—it’s so dumb. Our names are on it. Like, we have our names on it with flames. And they're identical. So, like, we're around our little town. Everybody knows us. We also have a golf cart that we're always on together. 

AMY: Oh, fun. 

JEN: And so whether we’re on our golf cart or on our Vespas, it's just like this little mom gang of Buda. It's so stupid. But we spend so much time together. It's not complicated. Like, that was the secret. It is time, and we give it, and we make it. And— 

AMY: We give it, and we make it.  

JEN: It's just that. 

AMY: That’s big. 

JEN: We're all busy. Everyone's busy— 

AMY: Yeah. 

JEN: —I know. I know. Women tell me all the time, “I'm so busy.” I'm like, “Everyone's busy.” Like, we fit our friendship in wherever it fits, which means a lot of times—like, one of our friends still has little kids. So she puts her kids to bed, and we go to her house at night. And so we're just there in our yoga pants. It's not fancy. We travel a lot together, but— 

AMY: But you don't love—like, you have this big business. I'm assuming they're not all entrepreneurial women, right?  

JEN: No. 

AMY: So how do you relate? Like, I'm sure you think about your business a lot, and you're in that world, and you go to these things, and Brené Brown calls you, and then, you're sitting on your girl friend's couch. How do you still have things in common after your life has changed so much?  

JEN: Yeah. It kind of goes back to what I said earlier, because the majority of my real life feels like the same one that I’ve always known. 

AMY: Yes. 

JEN: The majority of my real life feels like a marriage that we lost, and we all lost it. Like, that was a friend crisis. It feels like a new boyfriend. Oh, my gosh. There's a million hours of conversation right there. 

AMY: I bet. I wish I could be a fly on the wall.  

JEN: Oh, my gosh. We all have kids. It feels like parenting. We all go to the same church. It feels like church stuff. We live in the same neighborhood. It's neighborhood stuff. We read. It's all the real-life stuff. I am so lucky, too, because I have a handful of friend groups that are all precious to me. Absolutely precious. And one of my dearest group of friends is more in my career space.  

AMY: Okay. 

JEN: And we live all over the United States and Canada, and we're authors, and we're similar in the scope of our work, more or less. And we are on Voxer together, and we are every day, pretty much every day of the world. And then we spend at least a week together every single year. We just had it. We just had it. They came to Austin this year. And so that is where, that's the home for a lot of business talk. That's where I've learned more than I can ever tell you about business, about financials, about models, about marketing. And we're all authors. So I mean, we've spilled so much ink together on publishing and PR and contracts. And so I have a place for the deep business talk to go, and we geek out on it, probably like you do. When you're in a room with your business friends, and you're just like, you know, “What’s your marketing package?” you know. 

AMY: Exactly. 

JEN: It's so boring for anybody else. 

AMY: So right. But it’s, like, so fun. 

JEN: So fun. 

AMY: Okay, so that's good to know. So you have these little subsets of friendships that are different. The one, of course, that you cherish the most, I think, would be that your neighborhood, the fact that they live so close and your own golf carts and Vespas. I can't.  

JEN: Yes. Too much. 

AMY: It's the funniest to me. I love it. It's so good.  

So what advice would you give to a woman listening right now, that she feels lonely, and she feels like maybe she hasn't stepped up to the plate. Maybe she hasn't fostered those relationships— 

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: —like she wants. And she looks around, she thinks—I hear from women all the time—“I don't have a lot of friends.” What would you say to her?  

JEN: Yeah. Me, too. Me, too. 

AMY: You hear that, too? 

JEN: Oh, all the time. And for a lot of different reasons, women are lonely, sometimes in transition, specifically. Either they've moved or their life is in transition. They're empty nesters all of a sudden. Or they went from no kids to having one. They went from single to married. There's just a lot of reasons you can find yourself lonely.  

But what I always say—and I just, I have found this to be mostly true, understanding that in every life there is a set of circumstances that is just, like, beyond my understanding or—but in general, I think this feeling of loneliness is pervasive. A lot of our data suggests that right now, too, that loneliness is practically an epidemic in America. And there's a lot of mental-health professionals saying we should actually take this seriously at the legislative level because loneliness has such a corrosive effect on our health, on our longevity. And so this is a real thing.  

But what that tells us is you're not the only one that's lonely. Like, this has had—a lot of people around you, no matter how they look, whether they're lying on social media or they're propping it up in person. We all have that skill set pretty much to do that. Most people are craving connection. And so be the initiator. It's just that simple. It's really not complicated. It isn't.  

Like, I can tell when I'm in a room—you probably, too, can, Amy—like, with a new person, and we would click. You know, I can just tell. I don't have a lot of information to go on. I don’t have a lot of data to pull from. But I can tell I like you. I think you're funny. Kind of like the way you are. That's enough to go on. Like, a gut instinct on someone to just say, “Hey, I don't know if this sounds weird, and I'm not trying to be weird, but I, like, think you're funny, and I like you. And is there just any way you'd ever want to have lunch or coffee?” I've done that before, and I've had it done to me. And every time it's like, “Yeah, okay.” I've literally made friends like that. And so it feels really, really elusive. But actually, connection is so—the human spirit is hungry for it. And so, yeah, you may go through a couple of hit and misses. You know, those few catch-and-release friends. 

AMY: Yeah. 

JEN: But even just one meaningful relationship, that is all we need. According to the data, and I am a person who follows the data, that one profound friendship is enough to literally turn around an entire outlook. And so go first. Go first. 

AMY: Okay. Go first. I love that tip. And I love that, just like when I teach email, you don't need hundreds of thousands of email subscribers to be successful; you don't need tons and tons of friends to turn that perspective around— 

JEN: That’s right. 

AMY: —and feel less lonely. 

JEN: That's right.  

AMY: I like that a lot. And that got me thinking. You, also, as many friends as you have, and as good as you are at cultivating them, you also have taken trips alone. And so can we talk about—I don't know if you've done it a lot, but I know I've seen one. You were alone in, like, Vermont or Connecticut, or where were you? 

JEN: Maine. 

AMY: Maine. I knew it was somewhere like that. So talk to me about that, because I have never taken a solo trip. 

JEN: Yeah. So after my divorce—so let me go back one hair. This is an impossible sentence I'm about to say, but I got married when I was nineteen. And I know. I don't even know what to say, Amy. 

AMY: Stop it. 

JEN: I can't help you process it. So obnoxious. I got married when I was nineteen. So when I tell you that I literally did not spend one day of adulthood single—I wasn't even an adult. I was a teenager, and I got married—and so I never had spent—I had no idea who I was. I was married. I had my first kid when I was twenty-three. I gave all my young adulthood of discovery to marriage and family.  

And so when all of a sudden I'm forty-six years old, I'm divorced, I was so disoriented, and there were so many things I had to learn. I had to learn so much about money and finances and investments and retirement and running a whole property by myself. And I took over our nonprofit. And I mean, it was just a gauntlet of learning.  

And what I learned, what I figured out is I can do this. I'm smart. It doesn't matter how overwhelming it felt at the beginning, we can learn anything. And so it was such, like, this sense of self-empowerment and, really, pride, if I could just use that old-fashioned word, in the way that I rebuilt my life responsibly and with so much diligence and with so much care and foresight. And I'm like, “I'm good at this.” All along, I’d always do kind of a little shruggy-shrug thing, like, “I don't know how much money I make. I don’t know what our electric bill is.” And turns out I'm actually really good with money, and I should have been in charge of it all along.  

AMY: You really should have, because you're the type that will call the electric people or whatever and say, “You charged me fifty cents too much.” Like, you're on it now.  

JEN: I mean, it's obnoxious. Like, just obnoxious. I watch everything like a hawk now. I mean, it's complete reversal of the abdication that I had my entire life. And so I got to the end of that first year—whoo, a whole year of firsts, which people understand, who've gone through a big loss, whether somebody has died or you've lost your marriage, everything that whole first year, the first birthday without you, the first Christmas without you, whatever, it was a lot—but I got to the end of it, and I was like, “Look at this.” And I'm like, “You know what? I'm good company. I am independent; I'm learning how to be. I might like to travel by myself.” And so I—this was 2021—just decided I'm going to travel. My youngest kid was in camp for a month, and I said, “I'm going to go to camp.” She's going to camp. She was going to a camp in Maine. And she was a little rattled. You know, when I tell you, our whole family was rocked down to our core, so she was still deeply in recovery. And I'm like, “She's going to Maine.” And I told her, kind of on a whim, I'm like, “Baby, what if while you're there, what if I go to Maine while you're there? So if you need me, I'm an hour drive.” 

AMY: Oh, perfect. 

JEN: “One hour. I can be there in an hour.” It was kind of a safety net underneath her experience. 

AMY: Yeah. 

JEN: Turns out, camp was the best thing for her. And so I called mine Me Camp.  

AMY: Yes. 

JEN: And I was in Bar Harbor, Maine, for a month. And— 

AMY: You were there for a month?  

JEN: Yeah. It was incredible. And it was the best thing I ever did. And I'm like, “I'm doing this every summer.” So last summer, I told my assistant, “Okay, I know what I need. I know what my soul needs. I need water. I don't care what kind. It could be an ocean. It could be a lake. It could be a river. I don't care. But I need some water. I need to be cold.” I'm from Texas. I'm like, “I need to wear a sweatshirt at night. That needs to be required. If I want to be hot, I'll stay home.” 

AMY: Yes. 

JEN: “I need cool weather. I want a little town.” Bar Harbor is, like, a little, precious, like, coastal town. “I want to be able to walk pretty much everywhere, or ride my bike. And I want it to be quaint. I want to know the store owners by the time I leave. That's what I want.”  

So my assistant ran the gauntlet of finding all these little, tiny towns like that. So last summer, I went to Grand Marais, Minnesota, and it's right on Lake Superior, and it's five streets, and it's been the best thing I have ever done.  

AMY: You’ve got a place now.  

JEN: Twice now. I'll do it again this summer.  

AMY: Okay. This is how much Jen shares her life, everyone. I want—you all have to follow Jenn on Instagram, especially.  

I remember you kissed a boy.  

JEN: Oh, yeah. That was a big deal. That was in Maine. That was my first first kiss since 1992. 

AMY: Oh, my goodness. 

JEN: Yeah. Yeah. Get on out of here. And it was like the old-fashioned way. Like, I met this man in the airport. Like, we were at baggage claim.  

AMY: Oh. So it was early on in the trip. 

JEN: Yeah. It was right when I first got there. We had masks on, of course. It’s 2021. And he couldn't even really see me, so that guy's a real dummy. Like, he had no idea what was under that mask. And we struck up a conversation, waiting for our bags, and then getting our rental cars. And he gives me his card, and he's like, “I'm in town for business for, like, four days. And I'm not at Bar Harbor, but I'd meet you at so and so if you want to go to dinner.” And I was, like, rolling my eyes, like “Okay, sure.”  

But I got back to my beautiful place where I was staying, which was a renovated convent. I can't even. And I was like—I call these Yes trips. Like, my whole posture is yes. Like, yes, I will make a new friend. Yes, I will sit at the bar and become comrades with whoever’s sitting around me, and those are going to be my dinner friends. Yes, I will take a tour. Yes, I will go on a little boat ride. Like, if something comes to me, I'm just going to do it. Like, that's the way I've decided to experience it. So I was like, “Wait a minute. This is a Yes trip. You literally can go on a date, Jen. People do that. People do that who are single. That's who you are. You're a single person.” So I called him, and I was like, “Do you remember me from the airport?” He was like, “Oh, my god.” And so I had my first date and my first kiss, and I was like, “I can do this. I can live. I could be a human woman in the world.” 

AMY: I would have given anything to be in the group text of your girl friends. That had to have been epic. They had to have been dying. 

JEN: Die. Not so much were they not dying. They tracked me on Find My Friends.  

AMY: Yes, they do. 

JEN: So my Megan is following me on Find My Friends for my date. And we spent, like, two hours on this rock kind of jetting out into the ocean, just sitting and talking and, well, whatever.  

AMY: Yes. 

JEN: And she's like, “I saw you for two hours there, and your little dot was right on the ocean, and I was worried that he'd drowned you, and I was going to have to call the police.” I’m like, “Megan, stop. We’re being romantic on a rock in the ocean.” She’s like, “Well, I was ready to call the authorities.”  

AMY: Oh— 

JEN: I’m like, “Oh, gosh.”  

AMY: —my gosh. That is so perfect. I love these stories because I want everyone to really understand this: I have never been in Jen's presence where we've gotten to talk or hang out. I just got to see her for one second before she went on stage. And I'm in this interview feeling as though I am talking to my very good girl friend. 

JEN: Totally. 

AMY: Like, I know about who she kissed. I know about her solo trips, I know about her kids. I know about things that I don't know about some of my other girl friends, to be quite honest. And to get back to the business side, it makes me want to do business with you. I want to get in your world. I want to see what you have to offer. Right? I’m so curious about, well, what do you got? because if this feels so good, it'd be amazing to be on one of your courses or do something with you or watch you on stage. So this is a different interview than I typically do. We talk funnels, webinars, email strategies— 

JEN: Sure. 

AMY: —but this one's important, more important than some of those, because it shows how to be in the world and how to be in your life and still invite people in from your audience that you don't even know. But you’ve done a beautiful job, my friend. 

JEN: Thank you. Such a nice thing to say.  

And I could just tell you as the sort of person leading the community that it has been, I really can't imagine another way. It's been so lovely, and I have learned so much from my community. And we don't hide from each other, because I don't hide from them. And so they let me into their lives, too. And we go through all the real stuff together. And so it's a very strange business. It's business that's based on real life and real living. And so there's enough of us out there living a real life that that's a real thing. And so it has been such a joy to evolve and grow and change my mind in front of my community and suffer and heal and recover, because they're all doing the same thing. And so it's this sense of, I'll do it in front of us, I'll do it publicly, and that gives some sort of interesting permission for the community to do it in their real lives and privately. And it just has this accrued effect of healing and of growth and development. And it’s just lovely. It's just a wonderful life. And I sometimes forget that it's business because it just feels like a bunch of friends doing life together and learning as best we can and trying as hard as we can.  

And so thank you for your really kind comments and your assessment, Amy, of what is this weird little thing that I do. An Instagram executive that we were on a call with one time as a business team just learning this stuff like you're saying, the funnels, the algorithms, the business stuff. She got on the phone, and she had done a real deep dive on my Instagram account. She's like, “So what you have, really, is an anti-aesthetic.” And we laugh about that to this day. I'm like, “Yeah, that's correct.” She's like, “You're not trying to do anything that looks uniform or very polished.” I'm like, “That's right, Sarah. I don't know that. Like, what my Instagram account is is my normal self. And so that is the truth. It's an anti-aesthetic, yes.” 

AMY: Anti-aesthetic. I think people listening right now, many of them just took a big sigh of relief because they have that or they want that and they feel so overwhelmed by making it all look good and pulled together at all times. 

Jen, tell everyone where they can learn more about you. Like, give me all the stuff. I'm going to put it all in the show notes. But first of all, everyone needs to follow you on Instagram. Is it just jenhatmaker?  

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: Okay.  

JEN: And you know, I'm the only Jen Hatmaker. I mean, how many can there be?  

AMY: Right? 

JEN: You know, what a weird name. So I'm jenhatmaker on all the socials. And then, my books are just everywhere. If you go to, everything is there. We have all kinds of stuff for women, all kinds of resources, all kinds of tools. We're taking a big trip together later this year. We're going to cruise. Like, I like to have fun.  

AMY: Wait. You're just—wait. And actually, I just heard about the cruise yesterday. Did I read that it's, like, just for fun? It's just a fun cruise. 

JEN: It's just for fun. Yeah. Like, so I travel a lot, as you know, with my friends. And my community has always just said, “This is so fun, what you do. I wish we could all do it.” And I'm like, “We can't. There's too many of us. There's too many of us. We can’t all do it.” But then we were like, “Wait. What if we could do it? Like, what if we put together a trip where the community could all come, and we're not trying to do some big thing except have a good time?” And so we have a cruise coming up in November. I think we have half the ship. It's going to be so fun. It's going to be obnoxious, like, in all the best way. And so whatever women, wherever they're at, I've got a little something them, for sure. So has everything. 

AMY: Okay. I think some of my listeners will want to be on that cruise, so they're going to check it out. And check out your podcast, For the Love, right?  

JEN: Yeah. 

AMY: Yep, For the Love. Check out all the things. You all will fall in love like I have. You will go down a journey and never come back.  

Thank you so, so very much for being here.  

JEN: I'm so thankful. Thanks for having me in your beautiful space in front of the people that you serve so well. I’m just honored to be here. And next time that you are in Austin, let me take you to dinner.  

AMY: Let's go. Will you take me on a ride on your Vespa? Can I ride? 

JEN: I will take you on a ride. I bet I will get you a Vespa from one of my friends so you can drive it yourself. It's so fun.  

AMY: Stop it. Okay.  

JEN: It’s a [unclear 55:57]. 

AMY: That is our next date.  

JEN: It’s [unclear 55:58]. 

AMY:  I love it. Thank you, my friend. Take care. 

JEN: Thanks, Amy. 

AMY: Well, there you have it. I mentioned in the intro this episode turned out a little bit different than I had planned, because I thought I was going to kind of dive deep in, like, “Let's talk about your business model,” and “Tell me more about your digital courses,” and “How do you segment your email list?” But as I started to talk to Jen, I thought, “Oh, she could share all of that, but I think what's most important is who she is and how she shows up in her business and how that is the magic.” We talk about email lists and webinars and funnels all day long here. But I don't think I talk enough about being authentically yourself and finding your own way in entrepreneurship so that it feels good. I think when Jen's head hits the pillow at nighttime, when her day is done, I think she could feel really proud about showing up 100 percent as herself.  

And my biggest takeaway was the conversation around friendships and how she said, you go first; you initiate. And I think that is so true, and I want to do more of that.  

And I was sitting in a mastermind in Napa, and Jay Shetty was there, which was such a treat. And he shared something that I just have never let go of. He said that when you are happy and confident in your home life—and I kind of translate into that in your personal life—you take bigger risks in your business. And to me, my home life, my personal life, is also my, of course, relationships and my friendships. And the more I cultivate beautiful friendships with people in my life, I do believe I show up better in my business. So Jen didn't make this correlation, but I'm going to make it, that if you have really good, true friendships—and it doesn't even have to be a lot, as she mentioned—you will show up as a better entrepreneur. I really do believe that. And so this episode was special to me. It was different. It was, quite honestly, a lot of what I needed to hear. And I hope you found value in it as well.  

And listen, I bet you have some entrepreneurial friends that haven't listened to this episode or don't know about my podcast, but maybe they would find great value in this special episode. This is an episode that's not so technical or strategic, but probably more important than all of those episodes I do. So please share it with a friend. Just grab the link. Text a few friends. If you have, like, a group text of entrepreneurial friends, text it to them. Have them take a listen.  

Thanks so much for tuning in. I love you to the moon and back. And I'll talk to you again soon. Bye for now. 

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