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ICYMI: Crain's 2021 Most Influential Women

By Crain's Detroit

From the governor's office to the halls of Congress, from the board rooms of Fortune 500 companies to corner offices at Michigan’s biggest businesses, on front lines and production lines and on the ground in their communities, these 100 women reach across generations to draw inspiration from those who came before and lift up tomorrow's leaders as they climb.

Every five years since 1997, Crain's has named a list of Michigan’s most influential women in business, public policy, entrepreneurship, nonprofits and higher education who have used their power to make measurable differences in their field, their companies, their communities and the region and state.

Nominations came from these women's peers, from past honorees, from our readers, and from Crain's reporters and editors. The final list was selected by top newsroom leadership based on the significance of their contributions and specific stories of real influence and impact.

Jennifer Guarino | Co-founder, President and CEO, ISAIC - Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center

Career trajectory: Jennifer Guarino was born in Oakland, Calif., and went on to earn a fine arts degree in fashion illustration from the University of Oklahoma. She illustrated for designers and worked a multitude of other jobs.

In 2003, she became co-owner and CEO of J.W. Hulme Co., a more than 100-year-old leather goods manufacturer in St. Paul, Minn. "That's when I started to realize that there were generations of skills that had atrophied and a gap in how we valued the people who make the products," she said.

Nearly 10 years later, Shinola founder Tom Kartsotis recruited her to help open Shinola's Detroit design studio. After three years, she became vice president of manufacturing.

"There, I learned there was more opportunity to attract more fashion to Detroit and more opportunity for Detroiters to be trained in this industry," Guarino said.

That led her to founding ISAIC, which she developed with the assistance of industry peers Carhartt, Detroit Denim, the Council of Fashion Designers and others. The nonprofit focuses on training and innovation through apprenticeship programs and other resources and opportunities. It launched in April 2020, just as the pandemic was taking off.

Power metrics: Guarino, 59, manages a staff of 35 and, so far, has run four cohorts of the ISAIC certificate course. ISAIC also licenses its curriculum in five different states. She hopes to train 50 people next year.

Biggest win: "Creating new factory environments and treating people differently. What we're doing is human-centric. I'm bringing industry sensibility to social missions."

Surprising fact about yourself: "The easiest way to make me laugh and smile is to show me primate videos. Jane Goodall is my hero."

Something recently learned: "We were faced with a choice of whether to mothball the launch (of ISAIC, because of the pandemic) or use our expertise and help. We had machines. We had people. We had a facility. So, we partnered with the Detroit Medical Center to design a gown. We cut the parts, kit them and distributed the kits.

"What we've done here is the result of many years in the making. I donated my time to elevating the industry here. I showed up. And when we opened in the midst of the pandemic, the community came together to make the gowns. Every day, we received gowns that were made locally from the kits, and we sold them to the Detroit Medical Center and the city of Detroit."

Advice to women in the industry: Dispose of the word "competition." Look for commonalities. Be curious about other people.

This article was published in Crain's Detroit November 8, 2021. ISAIC is a SPESA member.

SPESA members are encouraged to email news and releases to or to be featured under Member Spotlights.


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