As a leading entrepreneur, Jennie Enterprise is known as a visionary with a gifted practical imagination and relentless discipline. She has founded and grown a portfolio of successful businesses across a diverse spectrum including the Reebok Sports Club, CORE:, Institute of Skinovation and Ink Ventures.
Jennie's career as a lifestyle arbiter began as an enterprising student at Fordham Law School, where she developed the conceptual and business model for what would later become Reebok Sports Club. The Reebok Club came to fruition in 1991 and is credited as the precursor for the "lifestyle" category. As a vanguard of this important category, Jennie foresaw the trend of catering to people's desire for personalized luxury. Expanding on this insight, Jennie founded CORE:, a membership-based lifestyle company that provides curated access to unique experiences celebrating the art of ideas, delve into the essence of pressing current topics, unleash creativity, and spark innovation through inspiring combinations of people and events.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
I don’t see CORE: as being in the hospitality industry. We’re more in the business of emotional engagement and experiential architecture. CORE: is not a club, but a philosophy and a culture. We are about creating a sense of community–by bringing together people doing incredibly interesting and inspiring things–through a combination of unique spaces and curated cultural programming. We’re providing the conditions for transformation. CORE:’s real estate, art and architecture are channels for us to facilitate those types of transformational experiences. With hospitality, you think of hotels and clubs. I think of us as something more transformational than that.
What did you do before starting CORE:?
I’ve been a serial entrepreneur since I was a teen. I started my first business at 13, it was a tennis camp on Shelter Island. Even then, it wasn’t about marketing tennis lessons. It really had to do with creating a community, creating a sensibility, an ethos around enjoying the process of being good at something. Tennis just happened to be that particular platform.
Then when I was at Fordham, I won a Business School competition for a venture to entertain underage students on campus. The drinking age had just gone up from 18 to 21. I created an entertainment company that was community-based. We started our programming in a coffeehouse environment. Again, it wasn’t about booking talent, just like it wasn’t about teaching tennis at my tennis camp. It was about creating compelling spaces that had a gravitational force. I ran this for four years, and then I started Reebok Sports Club where I began honing this idea of experiential architecture. It was about bringing a sense of community through interesting spaces and curating a collection of compelling lifestyle experiences, with a focus on fitness, that optimized members’ time.
Tell us about CORE: How did you come up with the idea of CORE: and what’s your vision for it?
I’ve always gravitated towards creating membership business models where I can unleash the magic of emotional engagement. The ultimate inspiration for many of my businesses is this idea of experiential architecture–the seamlessness and connective tissue that allows for transformational experiences to occur. I created CORE: as a new way of looking at space as it relates to an experience and how it can transform the conventional idea of a community.
An ethos of innovation and experiential architecture permeate our culture. We don’t have rigid rules. We provide conditions for transformation, which means that people can conduct the business of life here. We offer top-notch amenities so that work can intersect play at any moment through a reimagined library, state-of-the-art screening room, landscaped terrace, soundproof high-tech conference room with private entrance and a calendar of cultural programming that includes more than 300 experiences a year.
To me, the most obvious next step for CORE: is expanding geographically to approximately 20-30 cosmopolitan cities internationally. If we are in the business of living at the intersection of work and play, and curating relevance and seamlessness, then it really does require us to build those stages, physically and digitally.
What strategic partnerships or marketing strategies have you implemented that have contributed to CORE:’s success?
In 2003, we assembled a team of cultural curators for art, CORE: conversations music, film, etc. We took the broadest definition of culture and partnered with global visionaries who had and continue to have relevant street credibility. They are daring thinkers. We instantly and authentically defined our brand in part through those strategic partnerships.
What industry trends are you noticing, and how do you capitalize on this?
We don’t spend a lot of time looking at what other people are doing. I’m obsessed with innovation, and if I were to define success for us, it’s to stay ahead of the transformational experience curve. I pay attention to experiential innovation such as Howard Shultz’s Roasteries. I think Richard Branson and Virgin are always doing interesting things. When Pandora first hit the market, I loved the idea of the Music Genome Project because when we think about the CORE: community, we think about our version of the Human Genome Project and how to deploy CORE: intelligence to customize our experiences. I think what Uber and Airbnb have done to create the sharing economy is brilliant. We try to feel the vibrations of true innovation and think about how it can inspires us to be even more transformational at CORE:.
Live life with passion, humility, gratitude, and a sense of humor! Realize that you earn the right to be doing what you do every day and have the privilege to engage with the people you engage with every day.
Everything is possible and curate magic.
What is your greatest success and most difficult moment as Founder/CEO of CORE:, and how did you overcome it.
I don’t look at anything as the most difficult or the least difficult, or the happiest or the saddest. I tend to use this metaphor quite a lot, but I feel grateful that we get to play in the Super Bowl every day. When you get to do what you love every day, you’re essentially playing in that metaphorical Super Bowl every day. Your uniform might get dirty, you might get injured now and then, but at the end of each of those moments, you have to realize that this is what you’re lucky enough to do, and you have earned the right to confront those challenges. To me, adversity is a gift. Challenges are puzzles–interesting and exciting opportunities to think creatively.
What is your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
If you want your idea to succeed, you need to be obsessively focused and committed to a well-defined and clearly articulated compelling vision. But the underlying idea is less important than the execution. People sometimes become paralyzed by the magnitude of the execution required. You have to figure out ways to incrementally execute. Be porous to ideas in order to evolve. And couple velocity with reflection.
Describe the ideal experience if you’re a member at CORE:.
The CORE: experience is a highly curated, customized one. A great experience for one member will be different from another member and may be quite different throughout the course of any given day for that same member. But they all share the magic at the intersection of the dynamic layers of our service platforms. For example, they could be holding a board meeting in our screening room with inspired food and beverage followed by a lunch meeting in our soundproof AV/IT conference room. They could be getting a great workout in our gym with Zoomtion fitness trainers, followed by innovative skincare at dangene, The Institute of Skinovation. They could be meeting their spouse, partner, friend, or business associate to discover the unique sensibility and relevance of our Cultural Programming, produced by our team of curators. All of this is happening in architecturally interesting spaces infused with art and culture, supported by extraordinary food and beverage by our internationally recognized Master Chef. For our members, we strive to ensure that every CORE: experience features emotional engagement, seamlessness, experiential relevance, and transformation.
How important is architecture/design to the success of CORE:?
Extremely. Design is part of our brand DNA. These stages are a platform for discovery. My goal early on was that every time people come to CORE:, in the physical environment, they are discovering something new, something interesting. Having an environment that is stimulating and interesting is a reflection of who our members are and the values that we embody.
One last food and drink on earth, what would you choose?
Jay’s ice tea. Our bartender won’t reveal the recipe, but I believe it’s a blend of white peach and blueberry iced tea. My family is from Sicily, so my last meal would have to be real Italian–pizza or pasta alla Norma.
What literature is on your bed stand?
We live with art architecture and design books throughout the apartment. There is also one particular room we call the Situation Room that is a curated library of books all signed by the author and most were given to me by people whom I think are extraordinary. One of the books that I’m reading now is The Innovators by Walter Isaacson. He’s a friend and one of our partners.
Your role model- business and personal?
I’m somewhat of a social anthropologist, so I think it’s an amalgam of traits within many individuals. It’s a collection of people in history, people that I meet every day, people that I read about every day, people that I’m lucky enough to interact with at CORE:.
In addition to CORE: and dangene, The Institute of Skinovation, the skincare business I own with my wife and business partner Dangene, my passions include all things Italian: speaking and learning Italian, eating Italian food and drinking Italian wine.
We love our home, so we love NYC. To me there’s this gravitational pull to NYC. We love Shelter Island, where we spend a lot of time. We love Terramina, Italy. If I only spent time in those places, I would be very happy.
CORE: members are global thinkers who have significantly altered business, culture, and society. They share a common sensibility and a passion to change the world around them. CORE: exemplifies Jennie’s expertise in curating communities and experiences, programming traditional and new media, developing luxury service environments, rapidly driving new business ideas from concept to execution, building strong brand identities, and establishing infrastructure platforms on which to develop high-growth ventures.
Jennie also hosted and executive-produced a successful TV series in a strategic partnership with Plum TV (distributed in Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Hamptons, Aspen, Vail, Telluride, Sun Valley and Miami Beach). The engaging series brought together transformative guests of divergent perspectives and disciplines.
Shortly thereafter, Jennie partnered with skin care innovator Dangene to re-imagine an emerging market in the skin care industry with the launch of The Institute of Skinovation. Newly relocated to CORE:, Skinovation represents a profound paradigm shift by combining next wave technology with a totally customized head-to-toe program.
Most recently, Jennie co-founded Ink Ventures with Hall of Fame football player Curtis Martin. Ink Ventures is a multi-faceted holding company headquartered in NYC that creates and owns several distinctive brands and products that bring innovative and customized solutions to clients in the insurance, sports and marketing industries.
Jennie graduated from Fordham University, continued her studies at the London School of Economics, and earned a law degree from Fordham University. She lives in Manhattan.