Jean Jolliffe Yancey

For more than 50 years, Jean Yancey was an entrepreneurial mentor and an accomplished speaker, touting the message: “Go out and make a difference.” As an East High School student in 1929, Yancey and her best friend, Jane Smith, persuaded the president of the Denver Dry Goods department store to allow them to present the nation’s first fashion show for teenage girls. Yancey studied drama and theatre at the University of Denver for two years before she moved to New York City where she met her husband. After the couple’s 1937 marriage, Yancey worked retail and coordinated a trade show. While her husband served in the military during World War II, Yancey continued working retail in various locales.

The couple settled in Denver in 1962, where Yancey managed the Denver Dry Goods’ bridal department. In 1964, she launched her first entrepreneurial venture, The Bridal Loft in Cherry Creek North, which she ran for 10 years. Yancey started the Goldstone Fashion Merchandising School in 1970, and Jean Yancey Associates (JYA) in 1973. JYA was a consulting practice, which specialized in women’s business issues. It provided training, consulting and education for entrepreneurs.

Yancey became an accomplished speaker. She dispensed advice with a blend of practical wisdom and modern-day optimism with a focus on the bottom line. In salary negotiations, she advised clients to be aggressive but prepared with at least five things to back a promotion request. From the Rocky Mountain News: Yancey was known in Colorado business circles as a mentor and confidante to female entrepreneurs. She was frequently recognized for her commitment to women’s causes during her nearly 30-year consulting career. Yancey was the first honorary member of the National Association of Women Business Owners. In 1982 she received the National Advocate for Women in Small Business Award from President Ronald Reagan.

In a 1994 interview with the Rocky Mountain News, she advised aspiring female entrepreneurs to always do their research and “listen to their intuition. Intuition is not a New Age tool or mystic thing,” Yancey said. “Our intuition is the result of every encounter, experience, what we’ve done and seen, even the books we’ve read. It’s something to depend on. And it’s a universal gift.”