40 over 40: Jan Mercer Dahms ditches the corporate life

For more than 20 years, Jan Mercer Dahms held top-level positions at organizations like Teach for America, the Girl Scouts, and Planned Parenthood. But the 47-year-old entrepreneur left all that three years ago to strike out on her own. She wouldn’t go on to start one business—she is running two of them at the same time. One, called 6-Figures, started after 35 women got together for “fancy food and cocktails” in 2013. More than 60 live events later, Dahms says she is proud to be “creating even more opportunities for accomplished women to engage in person and digitally.”

You don’t have to be connected to money or status or privilege to be successful. But you do need to believe in yourself. And yes, you will need to work harder. But the payoff will be far bigger in ways that can’t be measured by money.

Her other company is SWIG—short for Sealed With Intentional Goodness—and it launched last year to help customers “create positive, joyful, and rewarding relationships with their clients, consumers, and communities.” Throughout her career, Dahms discovered the secret to running a successful business is putting people first. “I grew up in retail apparel, and my family owned a chain of clothing stores in the Midwest,” says the WeWork Bryant Park member. “I sold Estée Lauder in college, was the business manager for a radio station, and moved to health care software, pharmaceuticals, and—oh, yeah—I worked on a Ph.D. in sociology for a couple of years.” It all led to where she is today, in a position where she can enjoy “making change happen.”

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