CNN’s Don Lemon made a sour comment a few weeks ago when he claimed on national television that presidential candidate Nikki Haley, age 51, is “past her prime.” That’s right. According to Lemon, “a woman is considered to be in her prime in her twenties and thirties, maybe forties.”
At Gardenuity, our founders are over 50. Donna Letier, CEO and co-founder, spoke on the subject ensuring us that “women over 50 and beyond are hardly past their prime.” Letier went on to share her own experiences as her age became a prime time in her life, saying that she is a woman “who co-founded a successful company in [her] 50s and has grown it for several years now.”
We reject the idea that women over 50 are past their prime. There are countless extraordinary female leaders who are well over 50, so we are turning Lemon’s comments into lemonade: lifting up women who are leading the charge for change.
For the next few weeks, Gardenuity is lifting up women over 50 to prove to the world that they are not and will not ever be “past their prime.” Women will continue to give, inspire, and evolve in countless ways throughout their life. A great example of this evolution is Donna Letier of Gardenuity. She has gone from employee to mother to co-founder to CEO all in a few decades. Learn more about Donna and her story below.
Donna Letier: CEO and Co-Founder of Gardenuity
Tell us about your career path.
Donna Letier has worked her entire life to lead up to her current passion project of Gardenuity. Throughout her years in the workforce, she has been fortunate to be mentored and guided by extraordinary leaders, many of whom are women, and many of which were women over 50 years old. Donna explains that she didn’t think anything less than or different from the age of her employers when she was learning and working with them.
What inspired you to found Gardenuity?
The inspiration and purpose behind Gardenuity has evolved. The pillars of Gardenuity are physical health, mental health, and the health of the planet, and the goal behind Gardenuity is to bring all of those pillars together.
Donna has a special needs daughter, which means that certain things do not come easy and are not accessible to her. The goal behind Gardenuity is to make gardening and gardening experiences accessible to everyone, everywhere. Science, research, and data have shown that gardening can be a beneficiary to all three pillars mentioned above, and Gardenuity’s goal is to bring those benefits to the masses.
Gardenuity itself, is unique, as it is a team made up of people in their 20s, 30s, 40s, and 50s, many of our team members being women, and everyone works beautifully together to focus in on the mission.
Who is a woman that you look up to?
“There are so many.” Two women that came to my mind for Letier are Arianna Huffington and Julie Eggers. But, as Donna mentioned, “the list is long.”
All of the women that Donna admires and appreciates are examples of a woman who are doing great things and are not held back because they are “past their prime.”
What would you say to women who believe they are past their prime?
“Who told you that?” would be Letier’s response to women who believe they are past their prime. Donna went on to explain that a person can be whatever it is they want to be. If someone feels like they are retired physically and socially at age 50, then that is what they will become. But, if there are things that someone still wants to give, share, and teach, then it does not matter what age you are.
Women can take life experiences and make changes to do things that impact the world. For example, Maria Shriver is 67 years and still making a huge impact on Alzheimer’s. Reese Witherspoon is not “past her prime”, but is creatively bringing stories to life that are important for people to hear and embrace. Many of whom are over 50.
You learn different things at different times, and different things from different people. The biggest change from an age standpoint is the way that you listen. In your 20s, you listen to advise on how to move upwards and get ahead. In your 30s and 40s, you listen in a hurry because of all of the tasks that you have on your plate. But in your 50s, you listen with the joy of learning and cultivating more knowledge.
If you could say something to Don Lemon, what would it be?
Donna would say, “Thank you. Thank you for giving us another reason to celebrate women who are over 50. Thank you for bringing some excitement to the conversation and a reason to put women over 50 in the spotlight.”
Success and contribution have no age limit. Women are turning Lemon’s comments into Lemonade every single day before he even said them. Women are breaking stereotypes and generalizations at every age.
It can be intimidating to start into a new role later in life, but when you take the life lessons that you’ve learned throughout life and surround yourself with passionate and intelligent people – you are equipped and ready to lead and deliver change.