Joyce Reitman was raised in a traditional home, where women were encouraged to attend college as an opportunity to meet a qualified, educated man. Clearly a bright student and vociferous reader, Joyce skipped a grade before working on a BA, Liberal Arts, English Literature from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and along the way, also did find and marry a husband, and had her first child by her sophomore year in college.
But the other side of the story was her strong entrepreneurial spirit, which was rare in a girl from that age. With sales and business as part of her DNA from the very beginning, her early recollections are of filling piggy banks, selling lemonade, and wrapping coins and candy together and selling them, a childhood form of gambling (!). And even with a husband and a child at home at the age of 18, she opted to continue her education, complete her degree and work three jobs alongside her husband, which is far beyond the plan set out for her.
Upon graduating from college, Joyce and her husband were drawn to the mystique and magnetism of Silicon Valley, where they both found jobs in the burgeoning tech field. Beginning as a secretary, Joyce progressed steadily to a financial specialist position at GE, where she supported 400 engineers with their budget forecasts, ROIs and capital equipment expenditures.
From there, she and her second husband decided to start a contract manufacturing company together. Her advice on building something from nothing is to be persistent, assume that you’ll make mistakes and learn from them, and recognize when something needs to change, then pivot quickly. She would take no option but success, and knew that to successfully work with your spouse, you must respect each other’s responsibilities and judgment. She negotiated the successful sale of company to a multi-billion dollar competitor.
From there she developed a pioneering e-commerce business model for the jewelry industry, recruited a start-up team and lead fundraising efforts that resulted in funding from a Tier One venture firm. This company was a victim of the dot com bust, and her next adventure was as CEO of the Internet division for a company with a small group of psychiatric hospitals, which was eventually sold as well. Next, she launched a new luxury brand in the consumer market, starting with special occasion apparel and learned a lot from this very different market before shutting its doors.
From there, she decided to leverage her financial acumen, her love of people, her versatile background and her huge network, and got credentialed as a financial adviser, working for a bank before joining JP Morgan. Joyce had the following advice about building your nest egg:
- Move fast and early on planning and saving money.
- Contribute to a 401K so that you receive the matching fund, and don’t take the money out, not for any excuse.
- Know what you make, know what you spend, and consciously spend. Total your checkbook and credit card expenses and your housing costs and you will come close to understand the total financial picture.
- Protect yourself from inflation by making investments. CDs will not bring the premiums to match inflation, so you must be an informed investor in the stock market and in real estate.
- Reach out to resources like eTrade and experts like those at JP Morgan for customized advice.
- It’s a volatile investment market, and the shakiness in the European financial markets is making investors nervous. We just came from a big high, and savvy investors will make measured investments in stock right now.
Please join me in thanking Joyce for taking the time to share the story of her career, and her wisdom about starting companies, working with people, and investing and making money.