Modern Original People – Jen & Matt Martinelli

Who hasn’t been told to follow their dreams at least once or twice in their lives, yet how many of us have had the courage to do just that? Jen and Matt Martinelli worked up the courage to take that advice, and now they’re living the dream. The couple, who has been married for 10 years, had it all: great jobs (Jen at Millennium Systems International, Matt at a public relations firm in Manhattan), a house in New Jersey, two beautiful children and lots of friends. So why was Jen so restless?

“I met people who thought of me as successful and accomplished, but I felt unfulfilled,” she says. “I just wasn’t in complete alignment with who I wanted to be.” Then she and Matt had an interesting conversation with stylist and activist Mark Bustos, who told them, “I didn’t get this far just to get this far.” That was their ah-ha moment.

“What he said really resonated with us,” says Matt. “I know lots of people who became presidents or CEOs of companies and stopped dreaming, stopped searching for their greatness. Jen and I didn’t want that to happen to us.”

So Jen created a wish list that included the top three things she wanted out of life:  more time with her children, more financial freedom, and more flexibility. We’ve all been told that every journey begins with a single step, and Jen’s journey began when she took a class with motivational speaker, coach and author Bonnie Bonadeo.

“I thought I was going to learn how to become a better public speaker, how to stand, how to open and close a presentation, but instead I learned about how getting to the core of my soul would help me connect with an audience,” says Jen. “Bonnie taught me that I had belief systems from childhood that were keeping me from completely transforming my future.”

Bonadeo challenged her students to remember three life-defining moments that happened before they were 13 years old. For Jen, that was easy:

  1. My parents were 17 when my mom got pregnant with me. After I was born, my father left us, so basically I was abandoned. My grandmother, who barely spoke English, stepped in to help my mom raise me. My grandparents were immigrants from Portugal, and we were very poor.
  2. I’d go to family functions with all my cousins, who would ditch me as soon as they could. I just assumed that I must be annoying, which is why they didn’t want to play with me
  3. Because of those first two things, I became this crazy perfectionist.

“Suddenly I realized that I was carrying around these old beliefs that simply weren’t true, and I had to transform them into power statements,” she says. “So I am annoyingbecame I am in tune with everyone else’s feelings and behaviors. My belief that I was never good enough, which led to my perfectionism, became I’m the person who shows up and always delivers the best version of myself. Once you have this awareness, everything becomes different.”

Once Jen’s consciousness was raised, she sought out other sources of empowerment and found one in life coach Jen Groover. “She’s big on emotional intelligence,” says Jen, who went on a “mind detox” and began doing her homework, giving up her Netflix habit after her children were in bed to watch motivational videos Groober recommended. “My mindset became my priority.” Initially, that meant staying away from negative people. “I pictured negative energy like black smoke filling my brain, and I decided to shift that energy, which is fairly easy to do. So I challenged myself to smile at 12 people before noon every day, and I was so much happier when I did that. I swear that within four days, I felt like a new person.”

She made other changes as well. “Every day I’d ask if what I was doing was pushing me forward to my goal,” she says. Maybe it was wasting time scrolling through Facebook. Maybe it was binge-watching Netflix. “If the answer was no, I’d make subtle shifts in my behavior. Until you get to a point of self-awareness, you won’t make any progress.”

After two weeks of working with Groover, Jen says she “shot out of bed” and told her husband, “We have to become entrepreneurs.” What that would look like was still unclear, but she knew she was on the right path. Both she and Matt started imagining a future in which they would be doing something close to their soul’s purpose. One day she was talking to a friend about how great the beauty industry is, yet how toxic relationships can be in salons without the right mix of employees, and she had a second ah-ha moment. “I told Matt that we should build a recruitment platform to give beauty professionals a place to highlight their experience, collaborate with like-minded professionals and learn about the benefits of emotional intelligence.”

They called their business Canvas Recruit—canvases, like digital resumes, are based on custom filters and business requirements—but getting it off the ground presented its own set of challenges. First was how to finance such an enterprise. “We had two kids and a mortgage,” says Matt, who was hesitant about quitting his job. As for Jen, she had learned to let go of her need to control every situation and trusted that the universe would provide a solution, and it did.

Matt picks up the story. “So my birthday is October 17, and when I began seeing 1017 everywhere, I took it as a sign. I’d seen such a transformation in Jen that I became open to the possibilities out there. So one night Jen told me to go to the store because the kids wanted strawberries, and I dragged myself to Whole Foods. I’m in the checkout line when I see this bag of potato chips. I really wanted those chips, but I kept telling myself that I didn’t need those chips, that I had been eating a low-carb diet and working out, but then another voice told me that I deserved those chips, so I put them on the belt. When the bill was totaled up, I owed $10.17. That was my sign. I felt like my energy was vibrating very positively, and I went home and told Jen that I was quitting my job.”

Two days later he did, but within an hour of leaving the office, Matt had second thoughts. Then the universe gave him another sign. “I went down into the subway when this homeless man approached me,” he says. “He looked right into my face and said, ‘I was blind but now I can see,’ and I knew I had made the right decision.”

To get their business up and running in record time, Jen and Matt decided to rent their house in New Jersey and take their children clear across the country to live with Jen’s mom in Agoura Hills outside of Los Angeles. “We came out here with our clothes and that was it,” says Jen. “All four of us sleep in the same bedroom, but we’ve never been happier.”

Aside from helping salon owners make better hiring decisions and beauty pros make promising career moves, Canvas Recruit has become a way for Jen to educate others about personal enlightenment. “I’m blogging about my journey on the website so people can learn about the benefits of emotional intelligence,” she says. “I just want people to understand how critical a shift in mindset can be.”

To read Jen’s blog and learn about emotional intelligence, visit and click Blog on the top of the page.