Jennifer Morgan knows how to cover the news; now she’s making news of her own. This former CNN journalist and NBC national news correspondent just launched a first-of-its-kind business in Atlanta: a women-only co-working space called Eleanor’s Place (named in honor of Jennifer’s first historical role model, Eleanor Roosevelt). After leaving journalism nearly a decade ago to become a wife and mother, Jennifer saw the need for a reliable space to work. More specifically, she saw the need for one geared toward female professionals, and for both working and stay-at-home moms who are constantly juggling their personal and working lives. Jennifer, who was born in Atlanta then moved to South Carolina at age 2, is serious about her new members-only work/social space, which just opened this summer. She’s also serious about balancing her professional goals with her philanthropic ones (she’s involved with Forward Arts Foundation, Gwinnett Children’s Shelter and many others). As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams,” apropos of Jennifer’s accomplishments. Meet StyleBlueprint’s newest FACE of the South, Jennifer Morgan!
What was the inspiration behind Eleanor’s Place?
In a nutshell, I built what I needed. As a stay-at-home mom of four kids, I found there was nowhere I could go to really get stuff done. I tried everything — the car wash, Starbucks, my car … I knew I wasn’t alone, so I designed Eleanor’s Place with other women like me in mind, providing them with a space that is beautiful, comfortable, sophisticated and has a sense of community.
How is life reporting the news different from making news with this first-of-its-kind co-working space?
First and foremost, control. When you’re in the news business, the news runs your life — in a wonderful, exciting and obviously unpredictable way, which can make for an interesting lifestyle. Running my own business has its own challenges, but it’s on me. I prioritize, I schedule and I call the shots, which is very empowering — and scary at times! But I love it. I love the ways I can be creative as well, and curate a unique and thoughtful experience for our members.
How has the #MeToo era and push for female empowerment helped to set the stage for the creation of Eleanor’s Place?
There still is much work to do, but as long as female entrepreneurs continue to take chances, put ourselves out there and support one another, we are continuing to move in the right direction. Opening an all-women’s business was a no-brainer for me. I knew what women wanted and I built it for them.
You are actively involved with local non-profit organizations and charities. Why add that level of commitment to your already busy schedule? Why is philanthropy so important to you?
I was raised to acknowledge and be thankful for the opportunities I had as a child that many do not, and that giving back is our responsibility as human beings and citizens — bottom line. When my children see me leave for an event or to volunteer, I remind them that Mom does this because I can, and we are so fortunate in our lives that it’s really the least we can do.
Before you had your own co-working space, where were the best places you accomplished work throughout the city?
I would spend hours at the old Cactus Car Wash getting my car done so I could have a quiet place to work. I’ve tried coffee houses, The Lodge Cafe at Peachtree Presbyterian Church, as well as toured several wonderful co-working spaces that Atlanta has to offer. They just weren’t for me, so I built exactly what I wanted and what I thought other women wanted and needed.
You grew up in South Carolina, then moved back East for college and a career in journalism. What are the biggest differences living down South and up North? What made you put down roots in Atlanta?
Where do I begin?! I’ve always felt a bit like a fish out of water in the South. So moving to New England for college, and the years after, felt like moving home. There may be more grace and gentle mannerisms in the South, but the raw, unedited and unfiltered honesty of New Yorkers appealed to me. I absolutely loved living and working in New York City. But two months before my wedding, my husband was living in Atlanta and I was in New York and we had to make a choice. Atlanta is a fantastic place to raise children, and I feel thankful every day for all it has to offer.
What are some of the challenges you’ve come across while being a working mother of four? What are your tricks for survival when it comes to balancing life?
As a mother, you have a full-time, 24/7 job that is rewarding, hard, lonely and amazing all at the same time. Finding the balance is an anomaly to me, but I do the best I can to spend working hours really focused on Eleanor’s Place, then I try to put it away when it’s time to be with my family. It’s hard with cell phones, etc., because we are supposed to be available constantly. But we can make the choice to prioritize family for certain chunks of our days. I put my phone away at carpool and don’t check it again until I have spent some real quality time with my kids and husband, and have really listened to them. I’m the boss, and I hope I can cultivate that same prioritizing within my company.
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Who is/has been your biggest role model and why?
My mother. As a single stay-at-home mom of two, she decided to go to law school at 40 years old, beginning a new chapter in her life that would prove to be successful and enriching, and managed to complement the values she held dear to her heart. As I turned 40, I realized that I wasn’t “done.” That I had another chapter in me and anything was possible. She taught me that you can be a mother, a wife and your own person, with your own passions and interests, and to not lose yourself or what you stand for.
During your years covering the news, what was your favorite story? Why? How do you think news coverage has evolved over the years?
Working for CNN after September 11th had a huge impact on me. Living and working in New York City, the solidarity, compassion and pride that exuded in those first few months, and telling the stories, was profound and life-changing. News coverage has changed such a great deal, I’m not sure I recognize it anymore. It used to just be about the events, the people and the stories we were telling that felt important and significant — I don’t see that as much anymore, which saddens me.
What have been the most unexpected challenges about embracing your entrepreneurial spirit and going out on your own?
Confidence. Having left an exciting and successful career to be a stay-at-home mom was a real adjustment for me. After five or six years at home, I lost my self-confidence and worth in some ways, which is sad. Because being a mother deserves the accolades and recognition of any career. But I found myself telling people, “I used to be smart,” and feeling like I wasn’t capable of doing much more. Finding that confidence in myself took time and it’s still a work in progress.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Before my husband and I were married 14 years ago, our priest gave us this advice on marriage: Be kind. Be kind. Be kind. I try to apply that to nearly everything I do — how I treat my spouse, my children, the clerk at the grocery store, my neighbor, my body, my friends and myself.
What are three things you cannot live without (excluding friends, family and faith)?
A good book, a hot bath and traveling
Thank you to Jennifer Morgan for sharing so much about her life and her inspiration behind Eleanor’s Place. We think the workspace does its namesake proud! And thanks to Catrina Maxwell and CatMax Photography for today’s lovely photos taken at Eleanor’s Place.
Meet more amazing Southern women in our FACES archives — click HERE!