The path to success is rarely a straight line and we are in a business market that is changing so quickly, industries some are working in today did not exist when their professional journey began. Therefore, flexibility and adaptability is essential. Jessica Kane, COO and President of Space Coast Magazines, LLC and CEO of SANZ skin care, is one of those rare individuals who combines foresight and fortitude, to blaze trails and ride waves many do not even see, much less catch. She launched a digital publication that, in a year, grew to over 1 million readers before most knew what a digital magazine was, and helped launch a fashion revolution that now is the new normal.
“It was … it was like awakening a sleeping giant. The world of digital networking created this incredible community of people who wanted to support and encourage each other, and I was able to provide a platform.”
– Jessica Kane
EW: Where did you grow up and what were your early influences?
JK: I was born in Oakland California and grew up in rural Oregon. It was a single parent home, and when my mother was able to gain sobriety, she worked as a truck driver. I went to work at 14 in a small grocery store and actually loved it, while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in school.
EW: School came pretty easy for you?
JK: It really did. I was one of those — read it once, take the test and ace it. At that time my aspiration was to go to West Point and become an astronaut. Though I was actually a pretty successful athlete, I couldn’t pass their physical because I couldn’t do the chin-ups.
EW: You missed West Point on account of chin-ups?
JK: I know, right? During that time my real motivation in school was I didn’t want to go home; we were semi-homeless. Our home wasn’t “dysfunctional,” it was “non-functional.” So I participated in and joined everything that was available after school and I worked.
In high school I started working at McDonalds. At that time, you had to be 18 to become a manager. They had this program called “Hamburger University,” where they taught you everything you needed to know to run a McDonalds restaurant — budgeting, inventory, employee management, food prep, everything.
I became the only 17-year-old manager in the franchise and managed the largest producing McDonalds in the county, plus the one at the Super Walmart. It was an incredible experience; that is where I got my undergrad degree, seriously.
EW: What about actual college?
JK: I was offered a full ride to the University of Oregon. But the then love of my life had a terrible automobile accident, so I didn’t go because I needed to take care of him. Because of that, I looked for work near where we lived, which turned out to be one of the largest truck stops in the country. The local Indian tribe took some of their casino proceeds and bought it and turned it into a $30 million travel center.
Amazingly, the GM saw something in me. I had taught myself computer software programs, web design and coding and just kept asking, “Can I do this,” and he kept saying “yes.” I built the systems and the processes that computerized the organization.
Within 4 years I was the Director of Operations and responsible for hundreds of employees and millions of dollars of revenue. That was my MBA.
EW: What was next?
JK: My first marriage was falling apart, and so I moved to Portland and went to work for another huge truck center. It was an incredible complex with restaurants, a hotel, a cinema and a lounge. I went to the management and told them they needed to market the place as a destination, and so began my journey into digital marketing and social media, all because I had to.
EW: How did you get into fashion
media and marketing?
JK: My life really changed one day when I walked into a plus size fashion store, it was like landing on another planet. Something awakened in me.
I didn’t know how good clothes could make you feel. I was all about hard work, outperforming, but fashion and creativity was fun.
I decided I wanted to give this to other people, especially to women, like myself, who never got to experience it. So, I used the skills I had learned and developed to launch a website and then an online magazine. I recruited a team of writers and photographers, volunteers who wanted to be a part of a movement.
The digital universe gave me a social platform that liberated me from the constraints I had in dealing with people in person. I was really nerdy and shy, up till that time. Our mission was: “To empower plus-size women through fashion.”
EW: The response was global, correct?
JK: It was … it was like awakening a sleeping giant. The world of digital networking created this incredible community of people who wanted to support and encourage each other, and I was able to provide
Now there is visibility, but back then there was nothing, and visibility was everything. The publication was called Skorch. Soon I couldn’t do it in my spare time, so I quit my job. I knew the power of leveraging digital media and network marketing effects would yield something incredible. Within a year, with no money and 72 volunteer contributors around the world, we had over a million readers and were being featured on major news networks.
EW: I know you became involved in event production, in the fashion industry, but what brought you to Florida?
JK: By now I was married and had a baby. I have always loved startups and a lady here in Florida was starting a global ecommerce platform for plus size fashion. She was an advertiser in our magazine and had a very legitimate business model. She was looking for a co-founder and Skorch was my investment in that enterprise, Society Plus. Since our funding was from Vero and she was in Satellite Beach, we came to Florida.
EW: That company became a GrowFL Top 50 Companies to Watch in Florida, correct?
JK: Yes, it did. We experienced 400 percent year over year growth and were honored in 2018. That is when I met Jeff Piersall. We had talked about the potential for the SANZ natural skin care product line and with my background in vertically integrated direct to consumer e-commerce brands, I knew this could be a hit. Like every other entrepreneur before me, I couldn’t sit still long and after I exited Society Plus I decided to accept the CEO position at SANZ.
EW: Which led to you running SANZ and eventually taking over as President & COO of Space Coast Magazines.
JK: It was an amazing fit for me and happened so naturally. I enjoy that every day I get to come to work to help so many businesses be their best, to train the next generation of innovators through our intern program and to create opportunities for our team members to build their dreams.