Subsidizing inner peace

A lingerie designer uses meditation to help herself, her business and the world.

EMAIL  |   PRINT  |   SHARE  |   RSS
google my aol my msn my yahoo! netvibes
Paste this link into your favorite RSS desktop reader
See all RSS FEEDS (close)

Bennet (in red) finds her inner peace.
Shine a light
FiftyCrows, a foundation started by entrepreneur Andy Patrick with proceeds from the sale of his company, funds emerging photojournalists. Below is a selection of images from What Matters, a recent collection FiftyCrows helped sponsor chronicling urgent issues around the world.

NEWBURYPORT, Mass. (Fortune Small Business) -- Fashion isn't an industry typically known for its commitment to selflessness (or, for that matter, sitting quietly). But for more than 20 years, Jacalyn Bennett has been building a booming lingerie business on the unlikely principles of spirituality, benevolence and meditation.

The 56-year-old designer is owner and founder of Jacalyn E.S. Bennett & Co., a $30-million-a-year firm based in Newburyport, Mass. that designs lingerie for Abercrombie & Fitch (ANF), Frederick's of Hollywood, Hanes (HBI) and Victoria's Secret, among other brands.

Growing up in New York City, Bennett was introduced to Eastern philosophies and practices by her father, a lawyer who took pro bono cases and was interested in Buddhism. But it was an offer to work in India after her graduation from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1973 that set Bennett on the path to what she calls enlightened entrepreneurship. In India, Bennett taught women how to use sewing machines, a twist on the old "teach a man to fish" concept. She would later launch training programs for mothers and their children in both India and Sri Lanka.

"A woman can support her whole family with one sewing machine," she says.

Bennett's father died shortly before her trip to India, and she found solace in meditation. "Meditation taught me that the only thing we have any control over in this life is ourselves," she says.

After returning home in 1984 to launch her design business, she incorporated the Gandhian ideals she had come to embrace. "Meditation can encourage things that are often lacking in businesses -- like peace, compassion and sanity," she says. "If I've got something that keeps me from ripping my hair out daily, I'm a better boss for it."

Since 1990 Bennett has helped fund and build a dozen not-for-profit meditation facilities in the U.S. and abroad, including the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center in Massachusetts and the Vishva Niketan International Peace and Meditation Center in Moratuwa, Sri Lanka, where she established a training program in healing meditation following the 2004 tsunami. (In April the Sri Lankan government awarded her the title of goodwill ambassador.)

In 2008 Bennett helped fund the Insight Meditation Center of Newburyport, less than a mile from her company's offices. There, more than 10,000 people a year, including many of Bennett's employees, take yoga and meditation classes and attend lectures on topics such as growing old and dealing with death.

"To truly know ourselves, we need to understand all people and realize that we're all equal," Bennett says. "I have a company; that doesn't mean I can change my employees. I can, however, give them the opportunity to go in one direction or another."  To top of page

To write a note to the editor about this article, click here.

QMy dream is to launch my own business someday. Now that it's time to choose a major, I'm debating if I should major in entrepreneurial studies or major in engineering to acquire a set of skills first. Is majoring in entrepreneurship a good choice? More
Get Answer
- Spate, Orange, Calif.
10 of the most luxurious airline amenity kits When it comes to in-flight pampering, the amenity kits offered by these 10 airlines are the ultimate in luxury More
7 startups that want to improve your mental health From a text therapy platform to apps that push you reminders to breathe, these self-care startups offer help on a daily basis or in times of need. More
5 radical technologies that will change how you get to work From Uber's flying cars to the Hyperloop, these are some of the neatest transportation concepts in the works today. More
Worry about the hackers you don't know 
Crime syndicates and government organizations pose a much greater cyber threat than renegade hacker groups like Anonymous. Play
GE CEO: Bringing jobs back to the U.S. 
Jeff Immelt says the U.S. is a cost competitive market for advanced manufacturing and that GE is bringing jobs back from Mexico. Play
Hamster wheel and wedgie-powered transit 
Red Bull Creation challenges hackers and engineers to invent new modes of transportation. Play

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer. Morningstar: © 2018 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2018. All rights reserved. Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved. Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor's Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2018 and/or its affiliates.