An Entrepreneurial Calling

Confession . . . Hello, my name is Jane Allen, and I am an entrepreneur.

For years, I did not realize that being an entrepreneur is a part of my DNA.  I thought of myself as a teacher and a lawyer but what has become increasingly clear to me is that I’m a born entrepreneur!

As I child, I loved the book “Andrew Henry’s Meadow,” a story of a boy who is always inventing things to solve peoples’ problems. I loved this book because I so identified with Henry!

As a teenager, when I could not find the “right dress” for a dance, I would sketch out a design that I loved and knew would work with my slightly chubby frame. However, I knew nothing about taking a design and making it a reality – instead I vividly remember walking into a store a couple of years after my prom and seeing one of the dresses I sketched on sale – it was beautiful – red underlay, white lace over, tight waist with just the right flare . . . but I digress.

The Challenge of Solving a Problem 

When teaching, I loved to work with the “challenging” children. I remember one boy that none of the other teachers wanted in their classrooms. . . I wanted him, and my goal was for him to learn to read during his second grade year. I enlisted the help of my fabulous students, and together we worked with this “challenging child.” One day he came bounding into our room announcing, “Miss Hanner, I can read,” and he proceeded to read a small book to our class. We were all in tears. 

When I clerked for my federal judge, Edward H. Johnstone, he would say, “I’m not sure about you in the traditional practice Jane . . . you ask “why” quite often. At the time, I felt it was an insult, but as I got older I realized that he intended it as a compliment!

When practicing law, I loved working with clients to solve their problems; that was the aspect of lawyering that I most enjoyed. And while I liked practicing law, I did wonder about the traditional structure of private practice.  I started questioning why the legal profession was losing so many great lawyers (mostly women) when life intervened. These lawyers, many with excellent credentials, were opting out of the practice of law when faced with the time consuming and important demands of children, ill parents, and spouses’ jobs.  Too often, there simply was no time to stay active in law practice and be attentive to life outside the office. Thus, Counsel On Call was born. 

The Moment it Clicks

Several years ago, at the invitation of David Belasco, who directs the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at The University of Southern California, I attended a presentation by Michael Dubin, a co-founder of the Dollar Shave Club. Dubin put it quite simply, “An entrepreneur is really just a problem solver.” Hard to believe, but that was my “aha” moment. 

So what was the problem Hanner Clarke was launched to solve? The quest for a luxurious handbag that is professional and feminine, has braids that fit and stay on your shoulder, that is light weight so it does not hurt your shoulder, and that allows you to put it on with only one arm and keep your hands free.  As you may know, Rebecca and I searched for this bag for more than ten years, and finally we decided this is a “problem” that the market place simply had not solved. So we decided to solve it. 

If there were such a support group, I would go and admit, Hello my name is Jane Allen, and I am a serial entrepreneur!

Jane for Hanner Clarke


Photo by David Mudd Photography.