Janeen Koconis, Paris, France
Occupation: Writer/graphic artist; founder and president of Koco New York
Purpose: “To bring meaning to the everyday world through words and images.”

“I could have been a Montessori school teacher, or a museum curator, or an architect,” Janeen muses. “But it’s never about the thing that you do, it’s making sure that thing is a match to your core values.”

Not a believer in the aha moment, she says “there’s nothing magical about purpose. It’s a manmade process. But you don’t have to look very far to find what’s in your own heart.”

Janeen first followed hers in 1989, when she set up the design studio Koco New York. Intent on inventing, she focused on the undervalued greeting card, reimagining it into a product that “pushed poetry into the hearts of real people.” The cards, with their emphasis on emotion and meaning, sold fast, inspiring competitors and transforming the industry.

“At one point, I said to myself, gosh, it would be valuable to have an MBA. And that’s when I knew I had to get off the gerbil wheel…” She ditched the warehouse, licensed her designs, and moved to a brownstone in Harlem — which she would gut, renovate, and later sell for $3 million.

“When I’ve learned something completely, I give myself a lot of freedom to reevaluate. It’s not that the thing became purposeless, but that the purpose became fulfilled upon.”

Her latest venture: Paris, where she is creating a new children’s book series.