Jenny Ming

Jenny Ming graduated from San Jose State University expecting to teach home economics to teenagers. But even in college, she was recognizing her combined passion for design and business. Her business minor, which included the requisite marketing classes, as well as her boyfriend (now husband), nudged her in the right direction and she took a job with Gap Inc.

With a focus on design, Ming helped launch Old Navy in 1984. The complementary value division for Gap was an immediate success and Ming was offered the job of President not long after its inception (1998). After much internal reflection and consideration, she eventually accepted the promotion. During her tenure she championed Old Navy into a separate brand concept, ultimately surpassing Gap in total retail sales for 2004.

Using design concepts as the hook, Ming revolutionized one particular retail market sector. Jenny Ming’s now famous PJ bottoms as a ‘separate’ idea is legendary among retail giants and sparked copy-cat merchandising from most of her major competitors. Again, the idea was spawned from seeing the world through the eyes of her child and taking that idea from vague notion to design concept to retail floor quickly. She successfully integrated a simple but radical design concept into a huge business success, and managed to distinguish the brand from the other value retail market players at the same time.

Industry insiders credit Ming’s focus on design as the single greatest cause for the success of Old Navy. Ming herself, as do most passionate leaders, credits everyone except herself. She suggests her team and their design concepts are the principle reasons Old Navy surpassed the parent company in retail sales. Successfully identifying the customer base and target marketing to that core group are also primary objectives for any retail concept. With Ming at the helm, Old Navy clearly catered to the previously untapped Gen-X retail clothing market. Other competitors seemed intent on capturing the expendable capital of those either older or younger.

Passionate leaders see an opening, exploit a break, and take a chance when others don’t even recognize the prospect.

One of her most significant achievements during her run as President was her ability to balance work and family. Jenny and her husband have 3 children and she is quoted as saying ‘having kids helps me prioritize my day’. She usually made it home each night in time for dinner with the family. Obviously, she started many a day with her children as well, as indicated by the legendary pajama concept, realized as she dropped off one of her daughters for school one day. Jenny Ming recognized this as a huge retail design opportunity that many others probably only saw as a distraction. She saw the opening, exploited a break, and took a chance when others didn’t even recognize the prospect. We salute Jenny Ming for successfully seizing that moment!

After 20 years with the company, and 10 of those as president, Jenny Ming decided to step down in the fall of 2006. Just as in the beginning, she made the decision after considerable introspection, but ultimately decided simply that the time was right. We also salute Jenny Ming for successfully seizing that moment!

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