Episode 5 – From Trafficked to Transformed: Jenny McGee of the Starfish Project

A wise person once said; “There are four words that can often mean the difference between the fear of failure and the courage to try – I BELIEVE IN YOU.” Jenny McGee, of the Starfish Project, takes that message to the women she serves in East Asia who are exploited and trafficked; and empowers them to begin new lives. Daily, she goes into the brothels of the city and offers an alternative for women who have either been forced into trafficking, or felt like they had no other options. Through education, counseling, and economic solutions, the Starfish Project is transforming lives and restoring hope to exploited women. Jenny also shares what it’s like to say “‘yes,’ without knowing the rest,” in answering the call to help women in the most desperate of situations, and how she finds her resolve through strong mentors and the support of her family.


Show Intro: Hey, it’s Jessica Honneger, founder of the socially conscious fashion brand, Noonday Collection. Welcome to the Going Scared Podcast.

Jessica: Welcome back to the Going Scared Podcast. You guys are amazing. Whenever I’m having a bad day, I know exactly what I’m going to go do. I’m going to go read the reviews on iTunes for this podcast. I have to admit, you guys brought some tears to my eyes, and it just is a testament to this community of women who is lifting one another up. Thank you so much, and if you want to go leave another review, you just head on over to iTunes, click review, and that helps us appear on the iTunes radar so that more people are going to get the word out about this podcast.

So today’s episode is a really special episode because I am introducing you to someone that you may have never met. Her name is Jenny McGee. Jenny is the founder of Starfish Project, which is an organization that works with exploited and trafficked women in East Asia with the goal of empowering them to begin new lives.

Starfish Project is going into brothels, and they’re reaching out to women who are living in really horrific situations. I actually went and visited Starfish Project about three years ago and was just really moved at the commitment that the entire organization has to see vulnerable women emerge out of sexual exploitation and become the women they’re meant to be. Many of the women they have worked with have gone on to careers to become professionals in so many different areas and in so many different career opportunities.

So I am really excited to bring you her story today. Some of the things you’re going to hear about are what life looks like for a girl who is actually in a brothel and how Starfish uses the principles of marketing to go into brothels and basically market these women away.

I’m really excited because Noonday Collection is actually partnering with Starfish Project, and we have brought our first ever 10-carat, gold-plated charm collection to you. It’s a beautiful collection, so I definitely want you to go and check that out.

You’re also going to hear about how to grow an organization, find a mentor, and build something that lasts; which is something that is really important to me. I feel like we’re in this day and age where people think there’s overnight success, overnight Instagram followers, overnight revenue for your business. But really, success is primarily about not quitting, and you’re going to hear that from us today. I can’t wait for you to give it a listen.

Jessica:  Jenny, welcome to the Going Scared Podcast.

Jenny: It’s great to be here.

Jessica: So, this is so fun because I first met Jenny around three years ago when I traveled to eastern Asia. At the time, Noonday was scouting out new groups to be able to work with them. Specifically, we really wanted to work with groups that worked with vulnerable women. I was so inspired by you, and by how well your organization is being run, and by some of the issues that you guys are going after in a really empowering way.

Noonday is so excited, guys, that we are partnering with Jenny’s organization. It’s called Starfish Project. And it’s our first ever exclusive line of 10-carat, gold-plated charms: Wear Your Story, Share Her Story. We’ve been working on it for probably two years now. She’s our newest partner, and, honestly, just someone who’s really going to inspire you guys.

So, Jenny, I would love for you just to get to share a little bit more about Starfish.


Powerful Words: “I Believe In You”

Jenny: Well, Starfish has been running for about 11 years now. We’re in Asia, and we’ve really worked to help exploited and trafficked women and girls. We try to help them experience freedom, establish independence, and develop careers. So we regularly are visiting women in brothels and getting to know them, building relationships, and really trying to just offer them the chance to experience freedom. They can come into our program. We have women’s shelters for women who are in need of that. Then, we also try to just help them to gain their independence through trainings and through our counseling programs. A lot of them have deep wounds, as you can imagine, emotional hurts, and so we try to have mentoring and just help them through counseling and things like that, and then, through developing careers.

We just really try to get the women — not only making the jewelry where all the women come in and initially are making jewelry — we also try to use the business as a platform for them to learn those higher-level business skills. So, a lot of the women are involved in the accounting side of the business, or the sourcing side. We also have women doing graphic design. All of our product photography is done by girls who come through the program. We get to see them not only make jewelry but be able to do all the areas of the business, even marketing, and watch them be able to do things beyond what they ever expected that they could do.

Jessica: Yeah. I mean, to really see them as leaders. I’m sure you and your staff have been some people who probably have believed in these women for the very first time. It’s so powerful what happens when we’re believed in and that we have the power to believe in someone else and unlock their own potential.

I’d love for you — because I think you used the word brothel, and I don’t know what comes to mind, especially for those of us who have never been to Asia — so I would love for you to walk us through the life of a girl in a brothel. How does she get there? Then, tell me about a transforming experience — someone I’m sure immediately pops into your head right now — of a woman who has gone from brothel to now owning her worth as a leader and is now a high contributor to your organization.

Jenny: Well, for us it looks different in different contexts. Brothels can have different atmospheres. That can vary anywhere from one girl in a little closet like space; and often they sit in front of a glass window, and men will come and visit. Or sometimes, they’re in a massage parlor. Sometimes there are multiple women in one location. But like I said, we’re often seeing a lot of young girls there, too, that we’re visiting regularly. Twelve or thirteen-year-old girls that are working in these places.

It’s just really hard to see, and for me, it really came out of a place of building relationship with them. When I started, I had been living in Asia, and I started visiting with the women and getting to know them because I started to see a lot of girls working the streets. I was just wondering how we could do something to help. When I started hearing their stories, I was really shocked. A lot of them were coming from very poor villages in the countryside. None of them were from the city where I was at. They’d come from homes with no running water, dirt floors, and most of the time they hadn’t had any education. A lot of them were making money, and they were sending money home so their brothers could attend school.

I think that was just heartbreaking to see that in the villages, because they were girls, they had no value to their families. Their only value was to contribute so that their brothers could go to school. I think for me, that’s where Starfish was really born. They were really there for economic reasons, and so we needed economic solutions. We started our business to help meet that need.

“that was just heartbreaking to see; that in the villages, because they were girls, they had no value to their families.” – Jenny McGee

Jessica: Okay. So walk me through when a girl gets introduced to Starfish Project. What is her journey to exit that lifestyle and then grow into a leader?


Giving Women a New Start

Jenny: So, we start right away. Most of the women are living in the brothels, and so when they come out, they need a place to live. We have safe housing for the women. Some of them have children, and we try to reunite them with their children. A lot of them have children that are off in the countryside, and so maybe they see them once a year. We try to get them living together again, so we have women and children’s homes.

Then, as soon as they come into our program at the office, we try to do assessments right away and see what are their educational levels because we have some girls who can’t read and write in their language. We’ll also do medical assessments and see if they have any medical issues that need to be addressed. But then, we really develop an individualized growth plan with each girl based on her education levels, her needs, and how she’s doing emotionally. We try to really target how can we help this girl… the best way for this girl.

So, we’ll start with a literacy program if she can’t read and write in her language. We have literacy training, and then once the girl’s literacy level is high enough, we do computer training. All of our girls get certified in Microsoft programs — that’s huge for them. You can imagine girls who never had any education. A lot of our girls are around second grade. All of the sudden, they get a certificate from Microsoft. I mean, that is just huge for them. They’ll cry. We have a big graduation ceremony when they get their certificates.

Then, through that program, they really learn study skills. They learn self-esteem and confidence. Then, they really have the ability to succeed in other classroom settings. Once they’ve gone through those computer training programs, we’ll help sponsor them to study outside of Starfish. That’s where we’ve had girls study graphic design, photography, accounting, etc.. They’ll go to these training programs outside of Starfish.

They can really use those skills within Starfish, too. They can practically use those skills in the work environment, so when they’re ready to leave Starfish, they have a portfolio. They have real skills that they practiced and used, and we can recommend them to other companies.

Our goal isn’t really to have them work at Starfish forever. We really want to train them up, see them come to a healthy, stable place, and then have real skills that they can take to the outside world.

“Our goal isn’t really to have them work at Starfish forever. We really want to train them up, see them come to a healthy, stable place, and then have real skills that they can take to the outside world.” – Jenny McGee

Jessica: Starfish is just a means to an end in a lot of ways.

Jenny: Yeah.

Jessica: That’s cool.

Jenny: A lot of them say it’s the first family they’ve ever really known. Even the girls who’ve left will come back and visit regularly. We have social media groups that we chat on, and girls will still stay connected for a long time because that’s their family.

Jessica: Wow. Okay, so when I visited you three years ago, I remember we were commiserating; both founders, both hustling hard, both passionate about seeing change come to vulnerable people, and both moms. I think we were both like, “How do we do this?” So tell us a little bit about your family life and what has been your journey to own your job, your role as a founder of this organization, and also your role as wife and mom?


“More Is Caught and Not Taught”

Jenny: Well, it’s been interesting. I have three kids. They were all born in Asia, and I love being a mom. One of my kids also has special needs, so that also adds its challenges with living overseas and trying to find the right support services. That’s also really had its blessings too, and just seeing my kids grow up in another culture where their friends are from all over the world. There’s just a lot of exciting things about growing up overseas. I think, like all moms, it’s that challenge of how do you balance your career and your family, and I’ve had many wrestlings over the years with that. I think I’ve just seen that I’m a much better mom when I’m also pouring myself into my career and these women that we’re helping.

Now my kids are getting older. They’re 12, 9, and 8. So they’re really starting to understand Starfish and what we do, and they’re excited about it. I spoke last year somewhere, and it was the first time my nine-year old had really heard me share from my heart about Starfish. Afterwards, he came up to me, and he was crying, and he said, "Mom, I had no idea you were helping so many people." That was really touching for me to see him also get a vision for it. Now, he’ll come in sometimes and help the girls box stuff up, and he loves to help out there. A lot of those women are aunties to my children, and they know them well. They play with their children.

Jessica: That’s awesome. I’ve heard that phrase: “So much more is caught and not taught.” I think we don’t understand how much our kids are catching just by watching us and just by having a model of someone who is just actively working and being intentional about making an impact. I think when our kids are young — my kids also are 8, 9, and 11, so super close in age. I think I’m starting to see that as well. I think my narrative used to be, “I’m ruining their lives because I’m not around as much as most other moms that I’m around are able to be there.” You know? You’ve traveled from Asia to America to be with us this week. I had a narrative for so long that I was screwing them up. Now, that they’re getting older, I’m like, “No, actually, they’re catching some things from this. Maybe this is benefiting them.”

Jenny: It’s true. It’s true. I find they’re incredibly flexible and quite independent. There’s a lot of advantages, I think, they have as well.

Jessica: Yes. Okay, so let’s talk a little bit more too about growing an organization because you started out with, I feel like, a bleeding heart, right?

Jenny: Yes. I had no business experience.

Jessica: A bleeding heart… no business experience. So, how have you bridged that gap to go from “bleeding heart” to now running a thriving organization?


The Importance of Mentors

Jenny: It’s kind of funny. I was a literature major in school. My entire experience in business was that I worked in a factory to pay for college; which has actually come in very handy, though, because I learned a lot about a production line, and how that all works — which I never thought I would use. But it’s been incredibly helpful.

I think, for me, it’s really been surrounding myself with people who know more and just trying to learn as much as I can from people who have different skills in different areas and having mentors in different things. I have a business mentor. I have a spiritual mentor. I have a parenting mentor. Having different people I can look to and say, "This is an area I want to grow more and be more like this person." But also knowing that one person doesn’t have all the skills, and finding different people who are good at different areas that I need to grow in.

“…for me, it’s really been surrounding myself with people who know more and just trying to learn as much as I can from people who have different skills in different areas and having mentors in different things.” – Jenny McGee

Then really, just seeking counsel from people and trying to build a great team. I’ve really —  especially as we’ve grown now — I see my role much more in finding great people and encouraging them and supporting them to do their job well. You don’t have to know everything yourself, but just surround yourself with a great team and spread that vision, and release them into their giftings.

Jessica: I love that. I love that. I feel like some people could listen right now, and I think two things are really helpful. First of all, there are no unicorns. Right? You just said you’ve got someone that’s helping with your spiritual growth, someone helping with your business growth; but also, I think a lot of people are waiting for someone to invest in them. Some women are like, "Well, I wish I had a mentor." How did you go about seeking that out?

Jenny: You know, it’s interesting. I’ve had quite a few mentors, and every one of them I’ve had to pursue hard. Even my business mentor now, he has never once called me and said, "Oh, let me give you some advice." If I write him and say, "Hey, I’ve got this question. I don’t know what to do. Can I talk to you?" He’ll be on the phone within 24 hours, and we live on the other side of the world.

But it takes me initiating and really pursuing those relationships. I found people are so willing to help you. I think people are busy, and I think people don’t want to push themselves on you. So I think you really need to seek them out and take the initiative.

Jessica: I think that’s so true. People want to be sought out, and I think that for some reason, as women, we are afraid to ask sometimes for help.

Jenny: Yeah, that’s true. That’s true. But I found when you throw yourself out there and step out on faith, you have no choice.

Jessica: No choice, right? That’s kind of what going scared is. It’s going. It’s saying “yes” without knowing the rest.

Jenny: It’s true.

Jessica: You’ve developed a lot of courage over the last 11 years. Probably, you look back maybe to your first year to now, it’s like your courage muscles are pretty buff at this point. What is keeping you continually stretching yourself, and challenging yourself, and growing your leadership?

Jenny: Well, I think constantly trying to learn and grow. This year I’ve taken my first business classes ever.

Jessica: Awesome.

Jenny: So, 10 years in, I thought, "Oh, I should study business." But just pushing yourself, and even running a business, and having kids, I can only take one class at a time. Just doing those little steps and continuing to grow. I think prayer, for me, is a big part; having a strong spiritual life. Then, like I said, having those people around you who can encourage you and spur you on. When you fall down, they can push you forward and speak truth into your life.

Jessica: That’s right. So, I know that probably some times are hard. I can only imagine some of the challenges over the last few years. What has kept you committed to this vision?


Joy in the Big and Little Transformations

Jenny: I think, for me, I’m really privileged in that every day I work directly with the women we’re helping. And they help me. I learn so much from them every day. One of the women who does all of our product photography; she came out of the brothels herself, and now we talk all the time about the products. I think a lot of people, maybe they work for an NGO or nonprofit, but they’re in an office somewhere, and the people they’re helping are far off somewhere else. For me, I get to see these people every day. I get to see them come in sometimes with severe PTSD, and they can’t even work with other people because they just had such severe trauma. And then watching those little steps of watching them grow and change. Even little things like seeing the girl who could barely talk to anybody, and when I walk in the office she’s like, "Hi, Jenny. How are you doing?" with a big smile on her face. Even those little things, they’re just so encouraging.

“I’m really privileged in that every day I work directly with the women we’re helping.” – Jenny McGee

Jessica: It’s transformation, like tangible transformation you’re seeing every day.

Jenny: Right. I feel so privileged to get to see it every day. I think that’s a real honor.

Jessica: It is an honor. I remember when I came to meet you a few years ago to explore a potential partnership, and I was looking around, and I’m like, “Okay, do you have enough people? Are there going to be enough people to produce our orders?” And I said, "Well, what do you do if there’s… " You said, "Well, we create marketing campaigns, and we go into brothels and we market women out." I was like, “Oh, my gosh! I’m sold. Yes, we have to do that. We have to bring more rescue to more women.” What are some of the complexities you’re dealing with because I feel like we toggle back and forth between — you described a woman in the village that’s doing this for economic reason, but then we use the word trafficking. Can you help bring some clarity to the definition of trafficking?


The Culture of Trafficking

Jenny: What we see where we’re at a lot is a lot of the women are really being tricked into working in the brothels. They don’t know what they’re getting into when they arrive there. So that’s one really big component of trafficking is the idea that they’re tricked or coerced in some way into working in the shop. We also do see some women who some people would say have “chosen” it, and I struggle with that because I see these women who have no education. We have one woman who’s never been to school a day in her life. She said she came to the city being told she was going to get a job, and when she arrived, she found out she was supposed to work in a brothel. She said, "I can’t even become a waitress because I can’t write down what people are going to order." So what is she going to do? She’s 30 hours by train from her family.

I think people’s definitions can vary greatly about it, but I’ve seen — even in situations where you think people have “chosen” it — I think you only choose that because you have no other options. We also see a lot of kids who are left behind. That’s a big issue where we’re working. A lot of parents are migrating to the cities to work, and the children are left behind in these villages.

So, we have one branch where the entire branch is all these girls who have been left behind by their parents. At 12 or 13, they need to go out and figure out how to survive in the world. They’re really orphaned, and then they end up in these brothels because they’re just trying to feed themselves.

“A lot of parents are migrating to the cities to work, and the children are left behind in these villages.” – Jenny McGee

Jessica: Okay. So tell me this, have you ever been part of actually shutting down a brothel?

Jenny: We usually see… we’ve gone into a lot of areas that eventually are getting torn down or closing up. It’s a very transient community, and so there’s areas where they will be working in there for a long time, and then they get shut down. What we’re doing isn’t necessarily the rescues like you would think, of where we’re going in and grabbing people and taking them out. I think we go in and build relationships with the women. It’s not like some of them are ready to come out — even if they’re given the opportunity — just because they don’t trust you. They were tricked by their own family members to end up in this brothel. When you come in — especially some of us from overseas, since you’re from the other side of the world — and you say, "I want to help you." I mean, why would they believe you? That doesn’t even make sense.

We have one girl who’s worked with us for quite a while now, and recently she said to me, "You know, Jenny, the day I met you…” I met her in this café, and another girl had introduced me to her, and she brought her to me and so I met her. She said, "You know that day. I kind of thought you were going to traffic me again, but I had nowhere else to go, so I just decided to come with you." I thought, “How crazy.” This girl thought I was going to traffic her, and she still came because that was the best option she had.

“This girl thought I was going to traffic her, and she still came because that was the best option she had.” – Jenny McGee

Jessica: It was better than her current option.

Jenny: I think that tells you a bit about their situations and just the desperation that’s there.

Jessica: The area where you’re working in, there doesn’t seem to be a strong culture where the owner of the brothel’s like, “No, you can’t come in.” There is a sense where you’re allowed to develop these relationships with the girls?


Making the Problem Part of the Solution

Jenny: It is very interesting. We have one woman who’s come out of the brothels herself and now leads our outreach programs. She just has no fear. She’ll often just go into these situations and be like, “Don’t worry. I’m just here for a few minutes. I won’t bother you.” She goes head to head with these bosses. She’s a local person, but I think the rest of us as Westerners going in, I found there’s still this idea of politeness and not wanting to lose face for people who are from overseas.

Sometimes I think we’re allowed in just because it would be embarrassing to kick out the Americans.

Jessica: … to say no.

Jenny: We really try hard to build relationships with the bosses too. If we can build a relationship with those people, then we have a lot easier time to connect with the women.

Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. We even had one boss one time who called me and said, "You know, Jenny, this girl in here, she’s not going to survive this place. I think she’s going to die here, so can you come and get her?"

Jessica: Wow.

Jenny: That just blew my mind. I never thought that a boss would call me and ask me to help. We had worked hard to build this boss’s trust, and we were straight forward about what we were doing. I think, especially for the female bosses, a lot of them came from that lifestyle themselves, and so they can be a little bit more compassionate.

Jessica: Wow. That’s really incredible because you’re not demonizing the bosses, but instead you’re seeing them as part of what could be the solution and creating a space of compassion for them as well in hopes that that relationship can eventually bring transformation. That’s amazing.

Okay, let’s close with a time where your heart was beating out of your chest afraid, and you just went anyway.

Jenny: I think even just starting Starfish. I knew at the time, if you offer women a chance to start a new career and offer them a new home, that is a huge commitment you’re making to these people. You can’t one day say, “I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll go home now.” I knew I was committing big time to these people. This is at least a decade kind of calling, if not a lifetime kind of calling. I think just making that decision was huge. I labored over it and visited people and talked with people, and kept trying to find other people who would lead it that I could help out. In the end, it was just something I knew I couldn’t forget about. It was just on my heart and just felt like this thing that wouldn’t go away, and I couldn’t just forget about it. I think, for me, taking that first step was the hardest. Always that first step is the hardest.

Jessica: Because once you take that step, I say, “Courage actually corners you.” You are then fully cornered by courage, and it’s not escapable. But in some ways, it’s almost nice after that. Because you’re like, “You know what? I’ve committed, and I’m in it.

Jenny: Something’s gotta happen.

Jessica: It’s just gotta happen now.

Jenny: I’ve found that in the end, a lot of it comes down to perseverance. If something doesn’t work, you try the next thing.  I think Starfish could have failed so many times along the way, but I think we’ve just had a team that’s committed to… if that didn’t work, then we try the next thing, and try the next thing. I think that’s a big part of success is just not quitting.

Jessica: Not quitting. That’s so true. A big part of success is just staying in the game, man. Just stay in the game. Okay, well I think we’ll end with that because I think a lot of people have this perception of success, and it’s like unicorns and rainbows. But really, success is simply not quitting.

Jenny: That’s true.

Jessica: So let that inspire you today. Thank you so much, Jenny. We’re so excited about doing this journey together now.

Jenny: We’re so excited, too. Thank you.

Jessica: So now that you’re in love with Jenny, you have to go to Noonday Collection’s website and check out our Storyline Collection. When I launched this podcast just last week, I heard from a lot of listeners already, which was so fun and encouraging to hear. If you have any feedback, any guests you want to hear, drop me a DM on Instagram because I read all of my DMs, and I just love hearing your suggestions.

One of those suggestions came from a very new entrepreneur, and one thing she said was, “So many podcasts for entrepreneurs or people who want to have a social impact feature people who have made it, who have had the grit, maybe many women like Jenny, who have been at it a while, and now they’re sitting on top of a successful organization.” What she said to me is, "Could you please feature some stories of people that are just starting out and that are in the messy middle and don’t even know if they’re going to make it or not?"

So I said, "Well, why don’t you share your story?" So I wanted you to hear from Kristi Hays today who started Be Strong Story.

Here’s what she says:


The Challenge of Pursuing Something That Matters

"What I’m learning is that starting something, pursuing something that matters, is going to be fearful. Period. If you are doing it right, it’s going to be a little scary and uncertain every single day. I’m experiencing that we have to be gutsy about the things that we really care about.

“For our family, it’s spreading a message to the rest of the world. To say “world” sounds even too much, too big, too audacious. But in my heart, that’s what I dream. The message is something that came from a simple lunchbox note my husband wrote my son. The days of note writing in my kid’s lunch boxes were definitely over. The fact that they even had something of sustenance in their lunch anymore was a small miracle. So I asked my husband to do the lunches and maybe write a note since Mom has slacked off for a little bit.

"Holden, our first grader, had been struggling on the playground with a friend. He came home crying, and as we were navigating this, my husband spoke wisdom to him through a simple lunchbox note that ended up changing our family. It said, ‘Be strong, protect the weak, love everyone.’

“Be strong, protect the weak, love everyone.” -Kristi Hayes, Be Strong Story

"It became our family mission. And now, it’s our company. Our “why” is that we encourage people to live this out. But it’s also the heartbeat of the way we do business. We employ homeless to screen print our apparel and partner with a company who employs women who are survivors of sex trafficking. Our heartbeat is to use this message to change the world. “Change the world” sounds daunting and scary, but what if we really believe we could do that? What if I believed in our message so much that every day I knew I would have to show up with courage and boldness because our mission mattered? Would I do it? Would I do the things I’m not qualified to do? The things that I have to research and spend hours on? The things that may feel like they aren’t really making a difference?

"So far, yes. We’re in the trenches and the hard startup process and messy middle because it matters that much. Things in our past experiences can be our best teachers. My past has shown me everything is figure-outable. Making mistakes is not the end of the world. Most people would give you grace for a redo and the word ‘no,’ although it honestly stings like crazy, is a ‘yes’ somewhere. Sometimes the way we displayed guts and courage in the past surprises us for what we do in the future.

“I remember almost 10 years ago, working Washington, D.C. I was newly married to a secret service agent, and we were heading to the nation’s capital. I’m not sure if I wanted to be Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blond 2 where she wears the cute stilettos and the pink suits, but I thought, ‘We’re moving to D.C. I think working on Capitol Hill and the White House could be fun,’ — not knowing one thing about how government or Congress worked. I remember receiving a job for a nonprofit I wanted to work for and remember sitting in meetings with senators and aides at a table who were making big decisions where I was supposed to help advise them.

"I literally would be googling definitions under the table of words they were using that I was supposed to know. I remember one word researching: “whitehouse.gov for kids.” For kids, y’all… on my free time. I remember asking people who were smarter than me a whole lot of questions. No one really knew I didn’t know what these big words meant. But I figured it out. I was shaking in those stilettos many times, and many times I might have done the wrong thing. Like when I didn’t recognize the new Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, and denied him access to the bathroom.

"But through the uncertainty, I came out on the other side with a job I loved. It mattered to me, and I was willing to do the scary work to figure it out. Our past — the courage we have demonstrated in a tragedy or a trying time or the persistence we have shown — all comes back to us. Little by little, the courage to put myself out there again on behalf of a vision I see for our family, my children, and our world, helps me day after day when my stomach is in knots. The courage is going to come to you, too. Show up and do it even when your hands are sweaty and your stomach tightens, even if you hear a ‘no’ or make a mistake.

"I’m going to show up every day and surround myself with friends who tell me to do it even when it’s hard and unbelievably ridiculously scary. Because for me, sharing the message of ‘be strong; protect the weak; love everyone,’ matters that much.”


Allowing Yourself to Have an Audacious Vision

I just loved her sharing this with me. And you guys, she just started this organization just a couple months ago. I’ve been wearing one of their sweatshirts around. You might have seen it on my Instastories. I also just love this idea of going back to our why and having a huge vision. I actually scribbled out the vision of Noonday Collection when it was just me, myself, and I meeting in a bathroom office, you guys.

You know what I wrote on that vision? I said I wanted Noonday Collection to be the world’s largest, fair trade, handmade, direct sales company in the world. That I wanted the artisan partners I had just begun working with in Uganda to explode and be able to run a business as a mission in their country, and that eventually I would impact thousands of women’s lives here in America.

I had no right writing this vision down. It was audacious. It was somewhat ridiculous. But it was in my heart. Now, you guys, thanks to you, it is absolutely coming to pass. Don’t be afraid to just go ahead and write out a big audacious vision today. Don’t base your vision on what you think is possible. Base your vision on what’s in your heart and go for the impossible today.

Thanks so much for tuning in, and I’ll see you on next week’s Going Scared Podcast.

Outro: Thanks so much for joining me on the Going Scared Podcast today. If you like what you heard in this episode, be sure to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and leave a review so other people will join the conversation.

If you’d like a behind-the-scenes look at my life as a CEO, a mom, and a courage catalyzer, be sure to follow along on Facebook and on Instagram [@jessicahonegger]. Until next time, lets take each other by the hand and keep Going Scared.