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North Hardin grad well-suited as agency co-founder

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Wednesday's Woman: Jennifer Monarch

By Robert Villanueva

When Jennifer Monarch was a senior at North Hardin High School in Radcliff, she was voted Best Dressed.

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“I have always loved clothes,” she said.

That high school honor was a precursor of things to come.

Fittingly, Monarch co-founded Dress for Success Lexington, which opened its doors last October. Analisa Wagoner partnered with her to get the not-for-profit affliliate started.

“It’s been incredible,” said Monarch, who now is an attorney in Lexington. “I think the need is here.”

Dress for Success is an international organization whose mission, as cited on its website, is “to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.”

While living in Louisville to pursue her law degree, Monarch first became aware of the organization through its Louisville affiliate. Later, when she moved to Lexington with her husband, she discovered that city did not have an affiliate.

She decided to start one.

Early during her efforts, Monarch was having dinner with a friend and mentioned her plans. She was told by that friend another woman also was trying to get a Dress for Success affiliate started in Lexington.

Not long afterward, Monarch began working with Wagoner.

After applying to be an affiliate and receiving approval around March 2013, the duo worked for months before the doors opened Oct. 1.

“We joke around about having a baby because the affiliation took us nine months,” Wagoner said.

Monarch took on the role of board chairwoman, while Wagoner became the affiliate’s executive director. Wagoner is the only paid staff member, Monarch said.

Dress for Success Lexington provides professional clothing for residents recommended by agencies signed up as referral agencies. Clothes are provided for women going to job interviews and afterward, so they can build a professional wardrobe.

But that’s just a part of what it does, Monarch said.

Not only does the facility include a boutique, but part of the building space is devoted to a career center with a computer lab and a conference area for workshops, Monarch said. Mentoring, networking and resources are part of the effort.

Monarch said one of the biggest surprises to her was that women who go through the program appreciate the culture and environment so much they often end up volunteering there.

“It’s everything I want it to be,” Monarch said.

As far as her career, she seems to have been successful becoming what she wanted to be, too.

“For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be an attorney,” she said.

During her career, Monarch has served as a law clerk for judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. She also served as judicial intern for a judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and was a research assistant for Baylor University president and former U.S. Solicitor General Kenneth W. Starr.

Wagoner described Monarch as a dynamic, enthusiastic, ambitious and energetic woman with a sense of style.

“She’s one of those who just impresses you,” Wagoner said.

Additionally, Monarch is “easy to work with,” she said.

“It’s been just a great partnership from the get-go,” Wagoner said.

Monarch credited others with providing her the foundation for acheiving the successes she seems well-suited to.

“Growing up in Hardin County, I had very strong women in my life,” Monarch said, citing the influences of her mother, grandmother and aunt.

Co-founding a branch of Dress for Success seems to bring Monarch full circle.

“In many ways this organization is a way for me to do for other women what other women had already done for me,” she said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at 270-505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

SOME SUITABLE FACTS ABOUT JENNIFER MONARCH

  • City of birth: Augsburg, Germany
  • Favorite music: Eclectic, though her favorite song is “Hey, Jude”
  • Favorite TV shows: Game shows
  • Hobbies: Gardening, painting, billiards, running, fishing and camping
  • Fun fact: Monarch appeared on “The Price is Right” last fall when she was called to “come on down” while watching a taping of the show during a visit with her brother, who lived in Los Angeles.