Ranked by The Guardian as one of ten digital strategists to watch, Jinal Shah is the VP of Marketing at Feather, a furniture company with a mission to transform humanity’s relationship with material goods for a healthier, happier planet. Jinal is an advisory board member at CFDA, Elaine Gold Launchpad and is a fellow at NEST. She has previously held senior roles at S’well, Newell Brands, and J. Walter Thompson. We had the pleasure of speaking with Jinal about her journey, current position at Feather, her successful career, and achievements.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in India and immigrated to the US for my undergraduate studies. I majored in journalism, built a solid foundation in the agency world for a decade, and a few years ago transitioned into e-commerce. Currently, I lead marketing/ revenue at Feather, a Series B start-up in New York that is reimagining furniture rental for modern consumers.
What does your position at Feather entail, and what do you love about your job?
My role, at its heart, is helping build new behaviors. About 19 billion pounds of furniture ends up in landfills every year (that is the same amount of plastic that ends up in oceans every year). Renting furniture is a far better alternative to fast furniture. This is what my team and I are doing.
The challenge to building new consumer behavior and the complexity of a circular business is what I love the most about this job. And the people I work with. They are all smarter than me, and I learn from them everyday.
What has your journey been like to get to where you are today?
Focus, a few hard pivots, and the generosity of my friends, colleagues, and mentors.
I thrive on feedback and have been privileged to work with some amazing people who have taken an active interest in making me better. I’ve had my fair share of ups (recognition for my work; opportunity to be a part of President Obama’s Creative board and be at the same table as his CTO; amazing colleagues who have become lifelong friends) and downs (nepotism, narcissist bosses, a layoff!). Every single one of these has helped me grow into a better leader.
What made you transition into running e-commerce businesses?
I want to be in the C-Suite and to get there I need to learn new skill sets. E-commerce was the most organic transition as it built upon my decade-long experience in digital but was expansive enough to challenge me and help me grow.
What does sustainability mean to you, and how do you incorporate it into your work and daily life?
I seek personal and professional value alignment. Sustainability is a challenging word because I fear it is now used very loosely. At Feather, I’m championing the notion of being a responsible business, one that is working toward sustainability but acknowledges that it has a long way to go. For example, we were recently able to evaluate our carbon emissions for our domestic operations and were able to completely offset them. Our customer deliveries and our HQ operations are completely carbon-neutral now. We’ve partnered with Pachama to fund reforestation projects in areas that cultivate FSC wood that is used in many of our furniture. This is a start for us.
The thing about committing to sustainability is that the work is never done. It has to be consciously incorporated in all aspects of your life and work.
What has been the most valuable advice you have received?
I have two very valuable pieces of advice to pass on.
When I was 23, my very first mentor told me that I should be investing in the stock market. She bought me the book Learn to Earn by Peter Lynch and began discussing concepts with me during our car-pool rides. I am so glad I had someone show me that investing is not just for men or for those in finance. It is the single best thing I did in my twenties – I want every 20-something woman to take control of her personal finances.
The other piece of advice came from Marc Schiller, my favorite boss and someone who has had a profound impact on me. I was producing a 1000 person event for our agency. I was a strategist – I had no experience or interest in producing events. I was frustrated and made a case to him of why I shouldn’t be doing this project and that he should hire a producer. He said to me, “If you are uncomfortable, that means you are growing.” He promised me that this project was going to make me a better strategist. And he was spot on. He gave me the confidence to jump across job borders and say yes to uncomfortable opportunities.
As a mentor/advisor, what is the one advice you give to your mentees/students?
Invest in yourself.
What does it mean for you to be powerful?
To me, power is measured by how I can be more of service to others. I feel fulfilled in helping others identify, acknowledge, and embrace their own inherent powers.
Anything else you would like to share?
This June, I decided to donate ten hours of my time to mentor Black professionals. I have decided to continue to leave a few hours open on my calendar each month so I can continue to be of service in the best way I know how to – by offering my knowledge, experience, and time.