I have a public-facing mission statement and an internal one. By reviewing them continuously, revising them continuously, and evaluating whether I’m living up to them continuously, I’m able to ensure that my work remains true to my organization’s goals.

 

Erin K. Jackson is the founder and president of Inspire Santé, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting awareness of pelvic pain disorders. Through the organization’s efforts, she empowers women to advocate for their own identities, bodies, and health.
Jackson is an experienced and engaging speaker who merges her personal pelvic pain battle with inspiring policy solutions for women’s health, pain, and the patient’s healthcare experience. She suffered from excruciating pelvic pain for nearly 10 years, but through sheer force of will, she survived, graduated first in her law school class, and now fights to ensure that other women have a clearer road to recovery.

Jackson has spoken at events across the country to break down taboos, advocate for patients’ voices, and empower women. Her past engagements include the San Diego Pain Summit and the American Physical Therapy Association’s annual conference, and she has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Prevention Magazine. Jackson is also the managing partner of a boutique healthcare law firm in Chicago, where she collaborates with providers to improve the patient-centeredness of their practices.

Where did the idea for Inspire Santé come from?

I suffered from pelvic pain for almost all of my twenties, and I was passed around from healthcare provider to provider. Nobody knew what to do with me, what was wrong, or how they could help. It was terrifying. My pain worsened and my health degraded over the years, and I ultimately ended up in a wheelchair and unable to tolerate wearing pants or underwear. After moving across the country in search of better medical care, I finally found an incredible provider — she’s a pelvic floor physical therapist — who helped me make a full recovery. I went from being wheelchair-bound to walking around the block in about a month. It took about 18 months for me to make an entirely full rehab, but it was life-altering. By the end of those 18 months, I was rock-climbing, practicing hot yoga, wearing pants, and having sex — all without pain. Once I recovered, I resolved that I would be the resource for other women suffering through that confusion and fear. So, that’s how Inspire Santé was born. It literally means to “inspire health,” which is my mission.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I carry around a small notebook where I jot down any ideas I have while running around town. I feel like it captures my thoughts more organically than if I made a note in my phone. In my office, I have a white board mounted above my desk and I do the same thing — constantly writing down random notes. Then, at least once a week, I have a brainstorming session where I organize all of my ideas into plans. How will I make them a reality? What budgetary, time, or other constraints impact their feasibility? Do they serve the mission of my organization? They then get folded into the substance of our work, the white board gets erased, and the entire cycle begins again.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Women are increasingly comfortable talking about their pelvic health! In the past week, I’ve spoken with a reporter who suffers from pelvic pain, a women’s health tech startup CEO who got into that space because she suffered from such terrible periods, and a class of physical therapy students about the awesomeness of pelvic floor physical therapists. These are conversations that weren’t happening a few years ago — or, if they were, everybody was blushing and nervous. Now, it’s becoming more and more normalized, which is one of Inspire Santé’s biggest goals: get women talking about pelvic health.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Does “drinking a lot of coffee” count? If not, my other biggest habit is keeping a really rigid calendar. I schedule my workouts, my social time, and my work tasks. I have a very detailed system for naming my different tasks on my calendar, and it makes it easy to scan the day’s schedule and immediately know what awaits me. For this reason, I decline all third-party calendar invitations and don’t allow apps to write things on my calendar either. Otherwise, it’d be full of events created by colleagues with titles like “Call with Erin” — which doesn’t provide me with the information I need most when quickly glancing at my schedule. Instead, I’d write “Call w/ Jane Doe RE: profile in Cosmo {SKYPE}.” That way, I know the who, what, where, and when of the engagement. The airlines often put my reservations on my calendar too, and it was a mess before I implemented the policy of deleting them all!

What advice would you give your younger self?

You can’t even imagine you’re going to end up professionally. Just enjoy the ride, and stop worrying so much. I took my academic success so seriously through college and graduate school, and I wish I’d spent a bit less time stressed out and a bit more time contemplating the type of career that would make me happy. I’ve found my professional happy place now, but I think I would’ve found it sooner if I hadn’t been so fixated on doing things that look good on a resume.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Third-party calendar invitations are the death of productivity. OK, that may be an exaggeration, but they drive me nuts, and nobody agrees with me! As for something work-related, I can’t really think of anything. I work with lots of cool women trying so hard to advance our conversations around women’s health, and even when we feel like that work is exhausting, I’ve thankfully found a group of women who agree with me that these conversations are important, normal, and not embarrassing.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Revisit my mission statement. I have a public-facing mission statement and an internal one. By reviewing them continuously, revising them continuously, and evaluating whether I’m living up to them continuously, I’m able to ensure that my work remains true to my organization’s goals. It helps me avoid falling into bad habits of performing rote tasks just because I feel like I’m “supposed to,” or funneling tons of energy into projects that aren’t really serving my mission or yielding much return for the organization. I try to repeatedly ask myself two questions: (1) Why am I doing this work? (2) Does what I’m doing now serve that purpose? I think this strategy helps keep me from falling down the millions of metaphorical rabbit holes that entrepreneurs face each day.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Ask for help. I’m an attorney by training, and I love writing and speaking. But Inspire Santé’s website gets at least 10,000 visitors each month, many of whom email me in search of guidance through their own pelvic pain journeys. Other women email me with questions about how their pain and diets are connected, about their health insurance coverage, or about their fears that they’ll never be able to exercise without pain again. I continuously ask for help from friends whose expertise aligns with these issues. I have a nutritionist, social worker, yoga instructor, and many others on my advisory board or involved behind-the-scenes. The organization wouldn’t be thriving half as much if I didn’t frequently ask for help from others.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

There’s a particular conference at which I want to speak about women’s pelvic pain, and I wasn’t accepted. It was a big disappointment, but I’ve plunged my energy into speaking at smaller conferences to gain more experience. I also recently hired a PR professional to help increase my media exposure, which will help me obtain higher-profile speaking engagements. She’s committed to getting me to this conference as a speaker, and working with a PR professional has reaffirmed by belief that we can reach our goals quicker and easier if we reach out to others for help. She’s boosted my confidence, honed my message, and improved my media savvy exponentially.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Darn – I can’t think of anything specific now that I’m being asked! I will say that some of the coolest businesses I’ve met recently are those doing innovative things in the areas of women’s health: Lia introduced flushable pregnancy tests, B-wom offers a pelvic floor trainer app, and Thinx has insanely awesome period panties. Do something that advances women’s health — that’s my suggestion!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I recently reloaded my Starbucks card for $100. I stop for an indulgent latte most mornings, and I also have frequent social or professional meetings at coffeeshops, so this both makes me happy and fuels many of my networking and business-building activities.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Calendly’s online scheduling and calendaring system. Rather than exchanging 5 emails to find the best time for a meeting or phone call, I can send people the link with my availability, and they can select the time that works best for them. I’m also the managing partner of a healthcare law firm in Chicago, and the ability to sync my calendars together and use this to manage my time has been amazingly helpful.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

It has nothing to do with my work, but since I do devote time to reading each evening and think it’s an important part of self-care, I’ll tell you the best book I’ve read recently: “The Mothers” by Brit Bennett. It’s her debut novel, and it’s phenomenal — that’s why you should read it!

What is your favorite quote?

In a speech a few years ago, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” It’s simple and perfectly sums up my approach to advocacy and negotiation.

Key learnings:

  • Rely on the help and expertise of others for things that fall outside of your wheelhouse. This will conserve your time and energy, allow you to focus on the areas where you excel, and will ultimately save you money.
  • Don’t expect a one-week, one-month, or even one-year turnaround on ideas becoming profitable. Even the best ideas frequently require lots of nurturing and work before you find that happy place where they can grow into a business that’s profitable while still being true to your original aspirations. It’s totally OK to tweak and develop ideas for awhile before settling on a business model or concrete plan.
  • If there’s a way to integrate your personal challenges or journey into the mission of your organization, it will only make your drive to achieve your goals stronger. Making your mission personal to you gives your organization a compelling story, and that will attract others’ genuine interest and enthusiastic engagement.

Connect:

www.inspiresante.org
www.jackson-legal.com
Erin_k_jackson on Twitter: @healthy_lawyer
Inspire Sante on Facebook: www.facebook.com/inspiresante
Erin_k_jackson on Instagram: @erin_k_jackson