Happiness doesn’t grow on trees.
Or does it?
Leesburg resident Jennifer Garman believes her creation – the Growing Gratitude Tree – can help equip people with the tools they need to live happier and healthier lives. On Nov. 6, Garman and her Growing Gratitude Tree will be featured for the first time on the Home Shopping Network.
Garman said her tree distills concepts from her professional experience in the world of IT, principles she learned in training to be a life coach and observations of her own growing family into a central conclusion: People with giving hearts, who focus on and are grateful for what they have instead of worrying about what they want, live happier and healthier lives.
“We live in an era of instant gratification, yet we are more busy, disconnected and discontent than ever,” Garman said. “The Growing Gratitude Tree connects families by taking time together to reflect on and document what we are thankful for while creating a visual reminder. Cultivating gratitude elevates happiness and teaches children an important skill for handling adversity.”
Garman said she has always been curious about health and wellness, and the foundation of her company – gratitudemission.org – represents her life’s ambition and experiences coming full circle.
“I was going to go for premed, but I switched at the last minute to computer science,” she said. “I just didn’t want to commit to that long of a trajectory in school, but I always had a deep fascination and curiosity about health.”
After college, Garman seemed to be living the dream as an engineer with Hewlett-Packard, but she said she didn’t feel completely comfortable in that gadget-driven culture.
“I saw the effects of technology being all-encompassing,” she said. “Everybody I knew at the time was all gung-ho about the more technology, the better. Everything was more and more and faster and better. It always stuck in the back of my head that maybe this is not as good as it gets.
“Then, when I got married and had kids, I saw that they wanted to be on devices all the time. I saw that there needs to be some balance.”
Garman said that shifts in her professional path eventually led her to a sales role with Abbott Laboratories. Working in the medical field sparked her lingering curiosity about health and helping others, and led her to go through training to be a life coach. She said that process drove home to her the link between gratitude and happiness.
“In all of my reading and research, gratitude kept coming up, over and over,” she said. “I started thinking about how to instill this practice in the family setting, so parents and children can both benefit. That’s how the tree came about.”
Garman said she made the first “make-shift” tree for her own home out of pieces of vinyl and plastic she found. The leaves were cut out of construction paper.
“I went online to see what I could find, but there just wasn’t anything out there,” she said.
She saw the concept working in her own home and began to think about how she could take it to the marketplace to help others.
“I had the idea in the back of my head for a while,” she said. “I decided to take the idea to the HSN American Dreams Academy, so that happened last November. After the academy course, we emailed back and forth and I presented my idea in almost a ‘Shark Tank’ type event to the HSN group. Based on that, they said they were interested in moving ahead and seeing a prototype.”
A year later, after some adjustments in materials and features and finding a manufacturer, Garman is going on HSN to pitch her product on Nov. 6. She said her husband, Kyle, and three children will be participating.
“I’m going to be on between 7 and 8 a.m.,” she said. “I’m very excited because my whole family is involved. The kids are going to be my models, demonstrating and writing things on the leaves.”
Garman said she is pleased with the way her Growing Gratitude Tree has evolved.
“You can add more leaves, and there are different themes for every month,” she said. “For example, for December the leaves are going to be ornament-shaped. In January, they will be snowflakes.
“It is designed to instill gratitude into our daily lives. I believe it’s critical to practice gratitude daily and teach our children to do so as well.”
Garman said her company has “mission” in its name because she plans to donate a portion of her proceeds back to causes that promote giving and gratitude.
“A big part of the reason for what I am doing is to give back and to make a positive change,” she said. “We are looking to find a good nonprofit partner, or I’m thinking about spinning off a nonprofit on my own. Either way, there is going to be a very large component of giving back to the community.”
For more information, visit gratitudemission.org.
Happiness doesn’t grow on trees.