Zibby Owens: I’m so excited to be here today with Jen Gotch who’s the founder and chief creative officer of, the multimillion-dollar lifestyle brand. She’s a mental health advocate, reluctantly as you’ll find out, and the author of the book The Upside of Being Down: How Mental Health Struggles Led to My Greatest Successes in Work and Life. She used to host the podcast “Jen Gotch is Okay, Sometimes.” She currently lives in Los Angeles.

Welcome, Jen. Thanks for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Jen Gotch: Thank you. I’m excited to be here.

Zibby: I’m very excited to have you. Can you please tell listeners what The Upside of Being Down is about? I won’t even read the subtitle because I don’t want to give it away.

Jen: I also feel like the subtitle is really a hard one to get out. When I have to say it, I’m like, let’s just call it The Upside of Being Down.

Zibby: We’ll scratch it off. Why even use it?

Jen: In my mind, it’s a self-help memoir. The intention of the book for me was to —

Zibby: — Actually, it’s a thriller.

Jen: That’s amazing. It’s a horror piece. Part of the process was a horror piece. The book itself was, I wanted to share my stories in the hopes that it would help people that are struggling with mental health issues feel less alone, also speak to entrepreneurs. I share a lot about building my brand,, and then offer up some potential solutions along the way. Really, the intention was just to build self-awareness in the reader. I feel like after twenty years of therapy, I had some wisdom that I wanted to impart and to do it in a way that — I feel like my approach is probably more lighthearted than most for a difficult subject matter but still in treating it with respect. I just wanted an accessible mental health memoir.

Zibby: Why now? Have you been thinking about this for a while?

Jen: I feel like I’ve been thinking about writing a book since I was a child. My editor actually approached me in 2015 to write the book. I just didn’t feel like it was the right time. I was very consumed with my business at the time. Through a series of emails over the years, we eventually synced up. It was maybe mid-2018. Then I felt like I was in a better place with the business to be able to take that time away and had had so many more life — you know, married, divorced. The business had changed. I feel like I gained more wisdom just in general. It just felt like the time to do it. It certainly was something I had always thought about, but I really wanted to commit to it being the right time.

Zibby: Speaking of your divorce, when I went on your website to learn more about you —

Jen: — I’m just waiting for him to see that, which he may never see.

Zibby: Oh, my gosh. On Jen’s website it says, “My ex-husband has the password to my website, so I can’t update it. I had to wipe the whole thing out and start one from scratch.” Then you went on and on, like, “We have a nice relationship, but it’s not really good enough for me to ask him for the password.”

Jen: Oh, I’ve asked.

Zibby: Did you ask?

Jen: I’ve asked several times. It was conscious uncoupling. It’s completely amicable. He lives in Australia now, so we don’t run into each other at the market. Just couldn’t seem to extract that one little bit of information. It’s been years. Finally I was like, why am I pushing for something I’m never going to receive? Let’s just do this. I can let go of the website that I really loved because I can’t get in it, and years of emails that I have no access to. It was fine. It’s pretty much very aligned with who I am as a person to share just right out of the gate.

Zibby: Yes, everything. No, it was perfect. I’m like, this is so on brand for her.

Jen: This is true.

Zibby: I did want to get on the phone with customer service. I’m like, I feel like I could figure this out for her. I feel like there’s a workaround here. I could do it.

Jen: We tried.

Zibby: You tried everything?

Jen: So many things. I feel like when you get to that point with anything in life, it’s just like, why? Why resist?

Zibby: Maybe it’s meant to be. Maybe you needed to start fresh and this is a sign from above or a sign from customer service.

Jen: Or a sign from my ex-husband.

Zibby: In case people don’t know what is…

Jen: This is my biggest challenge in life, trying to describe what is because I’m just not great at elevator pitches or short descriptions of anything, as you’ll find the more questions you ask me.

Zibby: I could take a stab at answering myself.

Jen: I actually think that’s fun to hear. What I came to realize not that long ago is outside of the things that we explain what it is, it really is a state of mind. For me specifically, I always have a hard time trying to encapsulate — it’s like trying to put a cloud in a jar. It’s so much more than what it physically is. If I was to talk about what it physically is, it’s, I would say, primarily a women’s lifestyle brand. We focus on holistic betterment, for lack of a better term, and really work to evoke joy in our community through a lot of products that we make that I’m told are joy-evoking.

Zibby: I was going to say a lifestyle brand and a movement.

Jen: I love that.

Zibby: A movement towards joy and appreciating joy.

Jen: Thank you for saying that. I feel like we’re on the same page. We’ve worked hard to get to that place. That’s what it is.

Zibby: With awesome stuff.

Jen: Thank you. I feel like it’s pretty great. There have certainly been times where I have resisted. I think a few years ago when I was really trying to open the brand up a little bit broader than just fun, I was like, can we stop making products? I felt like I wanted it to be more content and informational. They were like, “We’re a consumer products business. We can’t stop making products.” I was like, I will go to the warehouse and set the stuff on fire. They were like, “Okay, please stay put. You’re just having an emotional reaction.” They were right. We were able to include some other items in our product line that I felt like were much more directly correlated to how I was wanting us to portray ourselves in a more clear way instead of just being gobbled up by the fun.

Zibby: Do you feel like you have events and things that you’re super excited about now in that direction that you’re in?

Jen: Totally. Actually, I think the book is going to be really helpful for that, to give our community especially a better look at me and the person behind this company and start to put it all together, like, oh, I see. Fun is a huge part of it. I feel like that comes through. For me, it’s a huge part of my life, but there are all these other things too. It’s definitely clicking for people. There’s a lot that’s in the works that will help. Certainly now after the products have sort of veered into direction, we’re really focusing on events. Even, we did a warehouse sale out here last year. Just the way people show up for us and the people that come and how diverse they are but that they’re all connected through this through line of just wanting to feel accepted and happy is so energizing for us. We’re like, how can do more of that outside of a warehouse sale? which I think are the most stress-free warehouse sales that there are. I’ve been told that. Obviously, we’d like to do things not just around products.

Zibby: I saw on your website, you sell some books too, including Joyful. I had Ingrid Fetell Lee on my podcast.

Jen: Oh, you did? I love Ingrid. She’s actually done quite a few things for us. She came and did a workshop for the girls at When I saw her TED talk, one of the girls who works at, her mom sent it to her. Then she sent it to me. I’m like, oh, my gosh, she’s explaining everything that we stand for in a scientific way. We have to talk to this woman. She’s so amazing.

Zibby: I’m redoing my website now. I’m like, read all the parts of joy. Go through this matrix. Let’s include them all because it’s so important to make people — just that vibe of making people feel good.

Jen: I agree. I also think you seem like someone who embodies that. I feel like it’s interesting to see when you just do what your gut says and then be like, oh, my gosh, I’m hitting all of those points. If you haven’t read that book, you should read it.

Zibby: I mean, read yours too.

Jen: Yes. I feel like that’s a given. Please.

Zibby: It would be a great gift to give somebody, the two of them together, I have to say.

Jen: Together, yeah, I agree.

Zibby: Especially for somebody who’s a little bit sad. Next time I’m recommending books for somebody who’s sad, these are going to be my — it’s a good because it’s —

Jen: — the hard facts, and then me, the loose facts.

Zibby: Different ways to bring joy.

Jen: There are facts in there.

Zibby: You address a lot of things. I was particularly — I was interested in so much, but the entrepreneurial stuff struck a chord with me because I’m trying to build up my new business and whatever myself. You said something when you realized that you’re glamorizing success in a way that was unhealthy and that obviously you’re not the only one who does this. Everybody’s talking about how busy they are all the time. You wrote, “Being busy all the time is bullshit, dangerous bullshit. I know I said it twice, but that’s how strongly I feel about this.” Tell me about it.

Jen: I also think there was so much energy around female founders and business growth. I was certainly a part of that when that all started. There was so much about being busy. I hear it now. People are like, I know you’re very busy, or, I’m so busy. I’m like, I’m actually not that busy. I’m available.

Zibby: Watch out. You will now be swarmed.

Jen: That’s okay. I feel like I understand my relationship to busyness now in a way that the busier that I am is not indicative of how successful I am as a person. Also, what is success anyways? I feel a lot better. I think the reason why I was so emphatic about that is because for me, and I think for many people, it’s mentally and physically very unhealthy. The reality is there’s really only so much you can do on any given day or in your lifetime. The idea that if you just pack more in you’re going to get further, now that I can look back on that I think it’s a very common feeling that entrepreneurs, especially when you’re starting a company, feel. I went through that. It really took a toll on me. Again, I just feel like it’s not something that people talk about. I think that type of growth and success, and she’s here one day and there the next, it is still really being glamorized. I don’t think it’s fair for people that are starting to think, that’s what I want to attain. I’m working really hard to debunk that whole thing.

Zibby: You said in the book that you put fun in your calendar every Wednesday night from six to nine. Is that true?

Jen: It’s off the calendar now because I have a much better relationship with personal boundaries understanding that fun is an important part of your life. I told the story about when I went to the doctor. She was like, “What do you do for fun?” I was like, “What do you mean? I work.” I’m like, “Work is fun anyway, and I’m very busy.” I remember having this conversation. She sort of just looked at me like, you don’t get it. She was like, “You absolutely have to build — if you feel like you’re tethered to your schedule, you have to put fun into your schedule.” Then she went on to explain what fun was, which is so ironic because of the brand that I have. I felt like I was enjoying my life, so I didn’t realize that there were times where I just would have to let go of all of that. I had it in my calendar for many years. Now I feel like I have fun all the time. My relationship to all of that has changed so much. I would highly recommend that, especially when you are starting, or if you’re at the end. I just think you can get very, “Well, this is my schedule today.” Just putting that in sort of helps you honor it and gives it the weight that it actually deserves in life.

Zibby: Yep, even just that permission, and not just for people who are working, even for anybody who’s going through life and trying to cross things off the list all the time to know that, “Okay, yeah, maybe today’s not so fun. But Wednesday at six thirty, I’m going to be having a blast. That makes it all worth it today.”

Jen: Fun can come in many forms. I don’t think it’s like you have to go wild. Even with, I found early on that people really felt like fun is juvenile thing. I just never understood that in general, but I do think it’s something we sort of deprive ourselves unless obviously — I don’t have children, but I know that my friends that have children are getting secondhand fun because they’re taking their kids. But it’s what’s really going to be fun for you and understanding that and doing it, I just think is such an important thing to give yourself.

Zibby: Every so often when I’m debating the eight million different decisions, when I’m like, “I could do this. I could take this person here. I could do this,” every so often I’m like, what do I actually want to do? I don’t want to do any of those things. This is what I want to do. Then if I actually do that, everything is better. I’m a better mom. Everything is better.

Jen: It’s lifechanging. For different reasons, I have been really focusing on that too. What do I want? What do I want or what do I need right now? which is such a foreign concept for me. I’m usually like, what does everyone want? That feels really good to serve them. I’m actually not doing what I want. I’m kidding myself that sometimes what I want is something different. In doing that, it’s been really interesting to give that permission across the board. Absolutely, it’s not just about fun. Maybe what I want is to go to sleep right now and everyone else wants me to go out to dinner or whatever. I think it’s a really powerful thing to start to get in touch with that.

Zibby: I’m even like, you know what? I’m not sure I even like going out to dinner anymore.

Jen: Sometimes I don’t either.

Zibby: Why don’t we all just go out to lunch? Why don’t we go to breakfast? Maybe I’m just not a going out to dinner type of person.

Jen: That’s the whole thing with self-awareness. The more you can get in touch with yourself and understand, it sets you up for a different life, in my opinion. I have just seen so much connected to that. I think if you don’t have that, it’s hard to even identify what you really want or need.

Zibby: So tell me about your mental health advocacy.

Jen: It’s funny. I feel like I’m certainly getting more accustomed to that title, mental health advocate.

Zibby: It sounds good, though.

Jen: Yeah. I’m very contrarian as a person, so I’m just like, that sounds like I’m in a group of people doing the same thing. My brain does something very strange with something that’s awesome. I think I had to come to terms with that. Also, it was all very inadvertent. I’m not necessarily a goal person to be like, I want to do this or become this. Everything has been semi-accidental, falling up. I think because it was such an informal thing for me, it was just me doing what came naturally to me, I had a hard time identifying with that. Now obviously, I’ve written a book about it. I had a podcast about. I certainly use my platforms to speak about it. I feel like it’s going from something that I was sort of rejecting to really being able to not only embrace it, but feeling responsible in the best way possible to continue because I feel like — I don’t know if gift is the right word, but I have the luxury of not feeling any shame or stigma around it for myself. It makes it really easy for me to share things that, as it turns out, are very scary for other people to talk about. I didn’t realize that. I honestly did not have a good sense of mental illness, mental health, and how it relates actually to society and people on an individual level. I was so just in my thing and have always had the luxury of really feeling safe with it.

Zibby: Is it the kind of thing where you just would go up to whoever you’re talking to and share your — like, this is my medicine and this is what —

Jen: — Yes, proudly.

Zibby: Now all of a sudden, you’re a mental health advocate and you don’t know how you got here? That’s what happened?

Jen: Yeah, you’ve just met me. That’s exactly how I operate.

Zibby: Awesome. I loved this one scene with your mom, not to keep jumping around here. When you were growing up, you had this quote, you had this very difficult fighting type relationship, and you go, “Fighting was our cardio, and neither of us really liked to exercise,” which is one of my favorite things. You didn’t want to be fighting, but yet you got so much out of it. Your grandparents actually, which is heartbreaking, had this terrible suffering in the Holocaust which informed their parenting, of course, of your mother and then her parenting of you. I just wanted to have you dive into that for a second.

Jen: What does that mean for me? I’m still trying to find the bottom of that story. When I was writing the book, I’m like, oh, I figured it all out. Now I’m like, oh wait, there’s more. I can go deeper. Obviously having an experience like that — my grandfather had a wife and children that were gone, and so didn’t meet my grandmother until after they had been liberated. Certainly, his relationship as a parent was distant. He was a wonderful man and as a grandparent was amazing, but my mom always said he obviously was not going to connect in a way that maybe someone who had not suffered that trauma — also, given the time, there was no access to any information. My grandma was just not an emotional person and was very hard and critical. It’s not like it didn’t seem like she didn’t love my mom or us, but just the tone of their relationship was not easy.

A lot of that was mirrored, sort of a slightly different mirror into my relationship with my mom. It’s not necessarily about loving or not loving, but just like, this is how I was related to from my parent. I think that’s a really hard thing to unwind from. Honestly, part of the contributing factors to me not having children was I don’t know that I’m — not continue that legacy. I just don’t want to. I’d rather spend my life trying to figure some of that out. It didn’t feel like the right thing. I’ll just say my mom made me not want to have children. That’s hard. We’re all affected by our parents, whether they’re descendants of people that have suffered major trauma or their parents had a great life. There’s still inadvertent damage that can be done. That’s also a big theme of the book. I had great parents. They certainly were not trying to hurt me in maybe the way that I was hurt, but I was still hurt. I don’t feel resentment, but it’s still something that needs to be dealt with.

Zibby: How do they feel about the book?

Jen: They really like it. My mom, I think honestly, was relieved. I didn’t have them read it while I was writing. If I felt like I was touching on something sensitive, I would just ask my mom, “What within this are you happy for me to include? What are you not comfortable with?” I don’t know that there was even anything she was like, “Don’t put it in.” I really didn’t want her to read it until it was locked in because I felt like then in reading it she might want to change things. I wanted it to be very true to my story. When she read it, she said, “I thought it was going to be toxic, but it was tonic.” I was like, put that on the back of the book.

Zibby: I was just going to say that should’ve been a blurb. That’s awesome.

Jen: I feel like she had a real sense of relief that it wasn’t me tattle telling on my mom. What is the point of that? My dad, who’s just a true champion, loved it. It took him a long time to read it. He doesn’t read. He’s a doctor, but he’s like, “I’ve never read a book cover to cover.” It was a huge deal for him. He would call me and be like, “I got through eight pages today.” Whereas my mom just devoured it in like a day.

Zibby: The audiobook.

Jen: What’s that?

Zibby: The audiobook came out.

Jen: Yeah, that’s what I said. I was like, “Dad, you can just wait.” He was like, “No, I want to know what’s in there.”

Zibby: We were just saying how great it is that you got to record it yourself.

Jen: Yeah. I set out to have it be the best audiobook ever recorded, which I will say it’s not, but it’s not the worst. I feel like I was working with some very experienced, professional people that were not going to let me fail. Like we were discussing, I felt like because of the subject matter and it’s very tonally in my voice, that, who else? From having the podcast, a lot of people actually have asked, “Are you doing the book? I want to hear you talk about it.” It’s just an interesting thing when you read a lot but you don’t read aloud. You’re not being recorded. People aren’t staring at you when you’re doing it. Then a lot of times, I would read a sentence and I’d get to the end, I’d be like, oh wait, we’ve got to back. That sentence ended in a much different way. It turned out it was a question and not a joke. It was a really interesting process. I’m very excited to be able to offer that as an option too, or in conjunction. I usually do audiobook and regular book when I’m really interested in a book because I feel like it helps. I read a lot of self-help too. I feel like it helps really solidify some of the concepts.

Zibby: What’s coming next for you? What’s on your list now?

Jen: No idea, and intentionally really have no idea. There’s certainly — I’d love to write another book. I’d love to do more public speaking and share some of these stories in real life, continue to stay ahead of as the visionary and seeing where we can go. I also just feel like I’m entering into this moment in my life where anything could happen. Nothing could happen. Some surprise left turn could be offered to me. I feel like myself and even everyone at is like, no need to really plan. I’m really trying to operate without expectations anyways. I just think it’s a healthier place to be. Who knows? I’ll have to come back and tell you because I don’t know.

Zibby: That’s sort of fun, though, right?

Jen: I love it. I feel like we normally feel like we know even though we don’t. This is the time where it’s actually very clear that I don’t know. The ability to be at a place in my life where I can just embrace that is a new feeling for me. Had we met a year ago, I would’ve been like, I don’t know and this is driving me crazy. Now I’m just like, yeah, that’s cool. There’s going to be good and bad. Who knows?

Zibby: Now you have this book coming out. You don’t even have to worry. Now you can ride the wave and enjoy it.

Jen: I hope it’s a big wave. I would love for it to be successful because I really wrote it with the intention of helping people. I know the more people that read it or share it with their friends or family — I’m excited to offer that up to the world and see the feedback and gain insight for whatever I do in the future. It’s so helpful for me to hear what resonated with people and how it reminded them of something in their life and realize how connected we all are. Our experiences feel so singular, especially with mental health issues. To know there’s so much that’s connected, I’m excited. We’ll see.

Zibby: I know I mentioned earlier I’m on the board of the Child Mind Institute, One of our main missions is destigmatizing mental illness for children. I feel like this book is right up my — I want to give it to everybody.

Jen: I’d like you to give it everyone.

Zibby: Okay. I’m like, how many people would that be? No, I’m kidding. I really do. I mean it. It would be great. We have a lunch coming up. I could give it to everybody.

Jen: I would love that.

Zibby: Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?

Jen: What a process that is. I would say as challenging as people tell you it’s going to be, it’s more challenging than that. If that doesn’t deter you, you should still write the book. I was like, that’s fine. It’ll be fine. I understand, challenging, whatever. The depths of that challenge — obviously a memoir, I think, is the deepest of the depths. It’s like you’re going into this unknown that there’s no way you could’ve known existed. It’s a very solitary place to be. Your brain will sort of do things. I think it’s like expect the unexpected, probably if I was going to say it in a sound bite, both good and bad, but certainly —

Zibby: — I liked the long version too.

Jen: Good. We’re definitely friends now because not everyone likes the long version of anything I say.

Zibby: Well, that’s what makes life interesting.

Jen: I love it. This is completely off topic, but I see you have Rachel’s book.

Zibby: I do.

Jen: She worked on my book. I don’t know if you noticed that.

Zibby: I didn’t, no.

Zibby: Rachel Bertsche wrote a book called The Kids Are in Bed. I’m about to interview her.

Jen: Oh, you are?

Zibby: Yeah. This is my interview prep pile over here that I did over this weekend.

Jen: Oh, my god, that’s amazing. When I, very far into the process, was like, I’m actually not good at certain parts of this book — I had written probably a hundred thousand words. I think it was supposed to be sixty thousand. I really just don’t have the type of brain to make sense of that. I’m told the book really flows.

Zibby: It does.

Jen: That has literally nothing to do with me. Rachel came in and really did that for me.

Zibby: No way.

Jen: Yeah. Her brain is so amazing and so different than mine. I can flow and just pour it all out and have it be funny and weird and all of that. She was able to digest all of that and actually make sense and towards the end work with Lauren, my editor, to really offer up something that is digestible in a way that’s not really my strength, especially with the written word. I’m excited for you to meet her. I thank my lucky stars that she came into my life and was really, really what got me to the finish line. I was like, I don’t know what I’m going to do. People were like, “You know you can ask for help and receive help.” I was like, that’s not my strong suit. At the end I was faced with, “If you would like to have a finished product, you are going to have to have someone come in and do some heavy lifting.”

Zibby: I think it goes back to what you said earlier about how you surround yourself with really smart people who won’t let you fail.

Jen: Yeah, or at least try not to.

Zibby: At least try not to.

Jen: Back to the entrepreneurial piece and the female founder thing, there is this sense that we’re all just going it alone and we’re these powerhouses and everything else sort of fades to black. It’s just so not the case. With a book, I didn’t even realize — when we were doing the photo shoot for the cover, my friend was like, “So who’s writing your book?” I’m like, “What do you mean who’s writing my book?” She’s like, “There’s ghostwriters that will write your book.” I’m like, “This is my dream. Why would I –” It’s just like everything else, it’s like I’m just going to show up with this written book and be like, I did it! I’m like, oh, we need to talk about the fact that no one does anything alone. When you’re in one of these things, whether it’s starting a business or writing a book or any big project, the idea that the only way you’re a true champion is if you did it alone, I actually think it’s the counter. I feel like being able to receive that and trust is one of the most powerful things you could do. I was incredibly happy to have her help.

Zibby: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming on “Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books.”

Jen: Of course. I was incredibly, incredibly honored. I think I’m still getting used to being an author. I was like, this is an official book podcast. I’ve become an author now.

Zibby: I don’t know.

Jen: Yes, we’re surrounded by hundreds of books right now.

Zibby: This is my all-time favorite genre, is memoir. My whole thing is I only do books that if I’m at a bookstore, I would actually pick up.

Jen: That’s amazing.

Zibby: This is like, oh yes, I want to do that one.

Jen: Oh, good. I’m so glad. Thanks for picking it up.

Zibby: Thanks for coming on.