Tina Jennen on mending body and healing the mind


Tina Jennen is used to solving problems. As an entrepreneur and business executive, she has learnt to arm herself with the right mindset, tools and people to find solutions to a myriad of business challenges. She is also the mother of four children – soon to be four teenagers – which has generated its own assortment of challenges.

When she narrowly survived a head-on car crash last January, Tina soon realised she was about to face the mother of all challenges, and that mending herself would require her to apply the same Mindset, Toolkit, Network paradigm.

Tina had just left Katikati for a business meeting in Tauranga on 10 January last year when 200 meters down the road a north-bound driver fell asleep at the wheel of his car and ploughed straight into her.

Despite being able to answer questions from paramedics at the scene, she remembers nothing of the accident, being cut from the wreckage or immediate aftermath. Upon waking in Tauranga Hospital and hearing her daughter crying, Tina – immediately back in mothering mode – asked how she could help! Only then did she learn of her injuries – four badly broken limbs and two crushed ankles, but mercifully no internal injuries and only mild concussion.

“Waking up and hearing that, it wasn’t good news but it’s not the first time I’ve had a situation where things haven’t gone to plan. I’ve learnt to develop a mindset of ‘ok, what are we going to do about this?’”

Analyse problem, shift direction

A week into her recovery Tina was conducting business meetings at her hospital bedside, mentoring student entrepreneurs in the rooftop garden and continuing with her work via laptop and phone as best she could. While her body was broken, her mind was as alert as ever and she knew that re-immersing herself in the business world and getting back to her family would be her fastest route to recovery.

Therein lay her first hurdle – how to get discharged from hospital so she could recover at home.

“I took my mindset, toolkit, network process and thought ok, I’ve never been in a hospital and I don’t really understand the system, but I’ve been here four weeks and I need to find a way to get out. Because I was still so broken, any logical person reading my chart would not have let me out, so I had to find a way to solve the problem. Entrepreneurs do it all the time – something happens and you have to shift direction.”

Tina figured out what she would need at home and identified the influencers in the network so she could convince the right people she could manage. Meanwhile, she had run the numbers in her head – continuing to take up a hospital bed was a waste of health system dollars, she decided. So by strategically escalating her care up the pay scale, she gathered together the right people to hear her case.

“Had I not faced so many challenges in my life, I wouldn’t have been ready to go, but having spent a long time in business environments where there’s been ambiguity and lots of fast paced change I knew I would be ok.

“It’s not that I didn’t grieve – about the type of parent I maybe couldn’t be if I wasn’t active – but I’ve never felt anger or any negative feelings. Sure there are bumps, and lots of disruptions in our family life, but there will always be bumps in the road and the only thing I was really worried about was being able to show up and be the person I wanted to be.”

And that would be dedicated mother, business visionary, start-up mentor, entrepreneur, member of several governance boards and all-round challenge magnet. Her injuries have not dented her abilities or dedication, but family adventures in the outdoors have taken a backseat for the meantime; there’s still a long way to go.

Another step to move forward

Tina was born in Minnesota and grew up in mid-west South Dakota. She has worked as a community lobbyist, stockbroker, land developer and an accountant, but in 2010, as a single parent, decided to bring her four children to Tauranga – the draw card being the region’s variety of outdoor activities, the local Welcome Bay Steiner School and the opportunity to study her MBA at the University of Waikato in Tauranga. The family quickly melded into life in the Bay and Tina started up her own business consultancy, later becoming CEO of the Plus Group in Te Puna. At the time of the accident she was working with global corporation Eurofins to manage a business acquisition.

In 2013, aged 40, she danced in the Tarnished Frocks and Divas show and two years later was one of the models. Last year she was going to audition again. Instead, September was spent recovering from further surgery to reconstruct her badly crushed ankles. At the end of January, once the surgeon confirmed the ankles were as strong as they could be (she will require more interventions in the future), she made the decision to ditch her crutches, to “slow down, learn how to walk properly and go to the next stage of the journey”.

“I’m just taking another step – literally – just like you do in life. It’s not that I don’t experience pain, and, I’ll never dance again (in a Tarnished Frocks and Divas Production), but what I choose to focus my energy on is what gives me the outcome or not. I push myself so I can grow and move forward and achieve another milestone – that mindset has helped me physically heal.”

On the emotional healing side, her family’s support has been “life altering”. She was so worried about being a “broken” mother, yet her children surprised her with their resilience and by not even seeing her that way. They knew she was going to be fine.

“In the year I’ve been at my worst, at my weakest, my daughter wrote a song for my birthday called Superwoman – she’s watched me overcome this when it could have been a different outcome. It brought them so much joy to help, and that’s been a lesson for me in learning to receive – giving and receiving; life is always a two-way street.

The next stage

In January, the day after the one year anniversary of her accident, Tina embarked on the next big phase of her life, taking up a new role as Chief Financial Officer with New Zealand Mānuka Group, based in Awakeri. The company works in partnership with Māori landowners to produce high quality Mānuka oil and honey, and build capability in the Eastern Bay and East Cape regions. Was she ready?

“You know, we’re never really ready for all the things we do. But intuitively I knew this role aligned perfectly with my desire to work with people to create transformational change. Intuition is what drives the decision; it is always what leads me.”

The accident, she says, has forced her to slow down and become more intuitive. With a quieter mind and less ‘noise’ in the background, she has been listening to her intuition more.

“This year’s been a gift, in a way, to give me this opportunity for a little bit of self-discovery.”

Cover + photoshoot Images  Charmaine Marinkovich

Hospital images were supplied

Behind the scenes photos and video Kseniia Spodyneiko

Hair  Hair to Train

Makeup  Lillybeth Makeup: A Beautiful Education

Wardrobe & Jewellery  Wendy’s Boutique