Penny Pennington is the managing partner of Edward Jones, a Fortune 500 financial services firm headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri. She is a voracious co-creator at work, in the community she lives, and at home as a wife and a mother of two adult daughters. Her stalwart spirit flows into every aspect of her life. Penny would be the first to say, that, "if you love what you do then it's not work," which is how she lives each day from an integration perspective. She emphasizes the importance of building and nurturing relationships, enabling us to know each other better, which in turn bolsters us to do better. Penny counts relationships and their power as the real superpower – in our community, at work, and in our families.
Since moving to St. Louis in 2017 Audra has had the pleasure of dressing Penny while simultaneously building a personal friendship - further enfolding Audra into her community. As a celebrated AUDRA woman, Penny embodies optimism, ambition, commitment, strength, collaboration, resiliency, and generosity. Her respected and genuine way of life is ever-inspiring and shows up consistently to substantial effect. It's why Audra connects so naturally with Penny, and why we're featuring Penny in our Conversations with AUDRA Women series. We’re honored and humbled to share Penny’s interview with you as we focus on our respect and admiration for her.
You posted a piece about resiliency in the early weeks of COVID-19 impacting our nation - resiliency by definition as not only a noun but also a verb, due to observing the entire business community you’re a part of and lead. Where do you derive your internal strength and resiliency?
Like so many of us, I had personal experiences – planned and unplanned – that have required me to conjure up all the grit I could muster, look to others for help, and have a certain amount of optimism that "this too shall pass". My experience has taught me that when those things "pass", I am going to be stronger and better as a result. Those things like a cancer diagnosis, ups and downs of a career and family, or world events. I am a faithful and optimistic person, and I can lean on those experiences and those learnings when life and events get really trying.
Passion drives purpose and you clearly lead with passion. How did you come to identify the importance and values of passion-based work?
I have been in places over the years where the work or the purpose of what I was doing didn't get to my heart or my mind in ways that felt really important for me to be there. Author Stephen Covey talked about how critical it is to be engaged in things that connect to success and significance. I have found my calling, in helping create the conditions that can enlarge the possibilities for others. Throughout my professional life, I have learned that there are things that are worth being away from my family for. Those are the things I pursue with passion and the energy required to be successful and significant.
Penny in an AUDRA suit presenting at ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, Michigan
How are you honoring the necessary moments for yourself to rest and regenerate?
I try to manage it in two ways, kind of paradoxically – with discipline and with spontaneity. I sleep, rest, exercise and spend time with my family. I am honoring that schedule and that routine because those things keep me going. I also try to listen to my mind and my body. And if I need to unplug, recharge or refuel, I do that – in the moment – before I get stretched too thin.
You’re an independent woman, wife, mother of two adult daughters, friend, active community member, philanthropist, and business leader. Each of these parts of your life is rooted in relationships. How do your relationships shape and guide your day-to-day from work to your personal life?
It's all about relationships, right? Love, trust, learning, insight, new experiences – so much of those blessings come from the people we are in relationship with – the people who are with us often, and the people we cross paths with more sporadically. I think we are all finding the power in our relationships in this uncertain, interrupted normal of COVID-19.
Penny and her family at their St.Louis home (left). Penny with her daughter at the Louvre Museum.
Community and relationships are a pillar of the AUDRA brand and have increasingly expanded since the brand relocated to St. Louis in 2017, where you’re also a transplant. How do you emphasize the importance of local value through your commitment and engagement with St. Louis?
Where we live, our community, helps define us … and if we are very lucky, we get to help define our community. I came to St. Louis in 2006, and it is my home. The community's history, determination, opportunity for an even brighter future all resonate for me. St. Louis was recently recognized for being the "Top U.S. City to Launch Your Career" by LinkedIn. This is so important as we strengthen our region and attract top talent. I am proud to be a St. Louisan and hope that what I can contribute to the tapestry of the region can be meaningful as well.
You’ve had a longtime relationship with fashion, in fact, since childhood. How has that informed your feelings and opinion on what you wear and who you buy clothing from?
As I have matured – gotten really comfortable in my own skin over time – I've grown to relish the opportunities to express myself through what I wear. It's fun, yes. It's also a way to signal that I am excited to "be me", and to experience others doing the same. So, the brands that I admire have a similar ethos – from creators who themselves have a point of view – like AUDRA! – and are excited to cooperate with me as I express mine. Fashion is a great way to way to support local talent and our region's economy as well.
Penny with Audra wearing her designs – and another great AUDRA friend, Kristin Johnson.