Jean Butler Takes the Helm of the enCourage Kids Foundation

by Jean Butler | 14 Feb 2023

Biographies and Interviews


Mary Couzin: Congratulations on your new role as President and CEO of the enCourage Kids Foundation.  What drew you to the organization?


Thank you, it’s been exciting!  The enCourage Kids Foundation (EKF) had been part of Starlight Children’s Foundation, so I knew they had an established track record of high-quality, direct service programs for children in hospitals across the country.  In addition, the enCourage KidsFoundation’s mission of providing a different kind of healing touch to children dealing with cancer and other critical illnesses struck an emotional chord with me, and made it hard for me to pass up an opportunity to help expand their business and reach more children and families coping with the trauma of illness.  



I know it’s early in your tenure, but has anything surprised you about EKF?


Yes, the fact that they are not more connected to the children’s industry surprised me.  The organization has deep roots in the real estate and financial services industries, and even in the culinary world.  However, the foundation needs closer attachments to those industries connected to children and youth.  I plan on changing that!



How do you think you’ll incorporate your toy experience into this role?


I will broaden our Board of Directors with executives from the toy and children’s entertainment industry who can lend valuable expertise and insight to advance our business objectives.  We have lofty goals, both domestically and internationally, which require additional resources and intellectual horsepower.  I know some thoroughbreds from the toy and game industry who could help us run the good race for a great cause!  We'll also develop strategic partnerships with companies who are eager to burnish their brands among consumer audiences; support an esteemed organization which does phenomenal work on behalf of children who are sick and in need; and willing to create innovative programs which are at the forefront of children’s healthcare.



What lessons did you learn in the toy industry?


I was very fortunate to work with some industry icons and world-class CEOs who imparted business and personal advice which I still try to apply.  Let me list a few:


  • You can’t save some people from themselves.
  • Make sure your only motive is to do the right thing.
  • Be yourself.  Those who don’t accept you aren’t the right fit.
  • When negotiating, make sure you leave something for the other party so they consider it a win, too.
  • The sales process really begins after the person has said no.
  • No doesn’t mean never, or it won’t happen.  It means “not yet.”


You’ve been involved in launching several businesses in the last few years- a consumer pet products company and a children’s product company- so what happens now that you have this new CEO position?


The last few years have been nothing short of amazing, and if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that there are so many business opportunities out there, so I will not abandon my commitments to these LLCs.  Instead, I will transition to advisory roles and stay involved.  And I would never give up my position as an Executive Committee member of People of Play (POP) because it has been so much fun strategizing, implementing initiatives which benefit the industry, and maximizing the potential of POP!  Plus, enCourage Kids Foundation and POP have much work to do…TOGETHER

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