JP’s First In-Person Summit: Empowered Moms Are the Future

JP moms, alumni, staff, and community partners gathered in Austin, Texas, for a weekend of learning, sisterhood, and community-building.

“Talent is everywhere — opportunity is not.” 

JP Las Vegas Executive Director Maria Tucker, Ph.D., stated that truth during the closing dinner of the first-ever in-person JP Summit, the perfect sum-up of the event and the reason JP’s partnership with moms and their children is so important.  

After two years of powerful virtual summits, this real-life event in Austin, Texas, during the weekend of March 10-12 had an especially moving impact on those who participated — moms and staff alike. Themed “Empowered Moms Are the Future,” the summit convened more than 300 JP moms, alumni, kids, staff, community partners, and friends. 

The Power of the Collective 

Community is central to JP and to the lives of JP moms, and the summit’s keynote speakers reinforced that value.  

During the opening keynote of the weekend, Jennifer Morton, Ph.D., associate professor of philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, discussed relevant findings from her book Moving Up Without Losing Your Way: The Ethical Costs of Upward Mobility. Attendees nodded in recognition as she described the sacrifices that people on the margins have to make as they pursue economic mobility — namely the loss of family relationships and community.  

Strivers, as Morton describes people in this position, work to do well in school and their careers but also want to be there for their family and friends; too often, there’s tension between the two. Morton emphasized that having a community like JP is all the more critical for moms following their dreams. And even more important, we all need to work toward a society in which these sacrifices are unnecessary, and families and communities can move up together. 

The second keynote was especially compelling for JP moms and alumni: Nicole Lynn Lewis, founder of Generation Hope — a nonprofit that supports teen parents in college — was herself a teen mother whose story was directly relatable. Reading from her memoir Pregnant Girl: A Story of Teen Motherhood, College, and Creating a Better Future for Young Families, Lewis’s talk centered on the stigma and shame narratives around pregnant teens and single moms, narratives that JP moms know all too well.  

A smart teen deemed “most likely to succeed” and praised by family and teachers, Lewis was suddenly ostracized when she became pregnant during her senior year of high school. Like so many JP moms, she experienced inconsistent housing, lack of transportation, an unhealthy relationship, and little income as she worked to complete high school on time — which she did thanks to two educators who supported and encouraged her. And again, like so many community-minded JP moms, she has translated her experiences into a vehicle that can help other young parents avoid the struggles she faced and have better opportunities. 

The cheers, the laughter, and the sisterhood present in that space were undeniable.  

Very Real In-Person Connection  

With more than 200 JP moms and alumni together from all over the United States — including a graduate from 2000 — the summit was very much like a family reunion, and the love was palpable.  

“One of the things I’m most looking forward to this weekend is spending time with my old neighbors and women that went through the program with me and that I’ve known for 15 years,” said 2012 St. Paul alum Mary Claire on the first day. “Our kids grew up together, so just reconnecting is really exciting.” 

2003 Minneapolis grad Portia felt the same way on the last day. “To be able to connect and still have that familiarity and that camaraderie, that sisterhood, even 20 years later … is just really special,” she reflected. 

That camaraderie carried into attendees’ learning together, too. During story coach Hanna Campbell’s breakout session on storytelling, participants laughed and supported each other as they shared their personal narratives and the significance of owning them. Moms related to one another as they discussed their financial goals and priorities in JP Morgan Chase’s session on financial health.  

And during the session on mental health, facilitated by Expectful co-founder and CEO Nathalie Walton, participants laughed, sighed, commiserated with, and affirmed one another’s journeys with mindfulness and overall mental health as mothers and as women. 

Spark Tank: Investing in JP Moms 

At JP, we have always known that JP moms’ expertise and problem-solving skills can be — and have been — scaled to meet the needs of their communities. And over the course of 25 years, JP moms have made real impact.  

We took the opportunity of our in-person summit to lean into that value even more with Spark Tank, a first-of-its-kind pitch competition to elevate JP moms and alumni by driving funding to their existing business ventures or new business ideas.  

Forty-five mompreneurs met with volunteer coaches — summit presenters, community partners, and other friends of JP — who helped them refine their pitches and present their ideas as effectively as possible. In the process, these women learned from their coaches as well as one another, once again strengthening the JP sisterhood.  

“It’s so amazing participating in the Spark Tank and meeting fellow mompreneurs and networking and empowering all of us on our ideas. I’m grateful.” 

Amirah, JP Minneapolis mom

Six finalists presented their pitches to the entire convening during a closing awards dinner, and the audience got the opportunity to vote on their favorites. We could not be prouder of all 45 participants and each finalist, and we happily present our winners. 

First Place: Infiniti Johnson, Founder of Miss TiTi’s Play Group 

Infiniti Johnson, a JP Brooklyn mom, describes her business as “24-hour, play-based learning for the working mom. Our goal is to keep the children safe, fed, clean, and happy while mom can work literally any hour of the day.” She felt heard and affirmed by the Spark Tank process and looks forward to the next stage of her endeavor. “I am still in amazement that I won,” she shared. “There were so many great women who also inspired me that I was just taken away. I am super excited to be given the chance to really get my business off the ground.” 

Second Place and JP Inspirational Mompreneur Award: Alexa Paris Saint-Fort, Founder of Manman Saj 

Alexa Paris Saint-Fort, a JP Boston alum and inaugural JP Alumni Fellow, is passionate about maternal health and is excited to move forward with her mobile doula service, which will come with “some Haitian essence,” she explains. Her idea for Manman Saj came to her in 2019, and it’s been a struggle to start the business on top of parenting and everything else, but Spark Tank gave her an extra boost of encouragement. “To be receiving an investment for this idea from JP is not only a BLESSING,” she asserted, “but also a testament that JP truly wants to see moms thrive.” 

Third Place: Erika Rosa, Founder of Fresh Start Juice Bar 

Erika Rosa, a JP Austin alum and 2022 JP Alumni Fellow, describes her business as “a healthy lifestyle spot that gives people a second chance at a fresh start.” Specifically, she looks forward to providing the opportunity for formerly incarcerated people to gain meaningful employment and promote their overall health. “Winning third place was a complete surprise,” she recalls, “but it reinforced my confidence in myself. This experience helped me to realize that I do have good ideas and that if I want to make them a reality, I have to put them out there and share with others who can help.”  

A friend in the wider JP community, Jamala S. McFadden, was so moved by Spark Tank that she decided to offer a generous gift to each of the remaining finalists: JP Rochester-SE MN moms Winter Holm and Acacia Ward and JP Minneapolis alum Anita Fischer.

Speaking about her Spark Tank experience, Acacia Ward stated, “I have found so many moms and sisters that are just inspirational. … We can all work together and collaborate and do this thing.” 

To close the evening, JP President and CEO Chastity Lord acknowledged everything moms had to navigate to attend this first in-person summit — from childcare to the logistics of cross-country travel. “What I want you to know is that you leaned into the power of possibility,” she affirmed. “You lead into the power of the improbable. You leaned into the power of you.” 

And after 25 years of JP’s sisterhood, community-building, and collective power, we believe the best is yet to come. 

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