Jessica: Hey, everyone! Welcome back to the Going Scared podcast. This is Jessica Honegger, your host and founder of Noonday Collection. Going Scared covers all things social impact, entrepreneurship, and courage. Today’s episode is a special episode because it’s a live recording at South by Southwest. My friend Jen Hatmaker and I sit down and have a conversation about the book that I wrote called Imperfect Courage. It thought this was a great time to air the episode because—I don’t know about you—my kids are out of school for the summer, and my reading stack has begun. I love, love, love reading during the summer. I would love it if you would make Imperfect Courage part of your book read, or lakeside read, or pool read.
I recently polled a lot of you guys on Instagram and asked how many of you haven’t read it yet, and about 50% of you said you hadn’t. So, I’m actually doing a giveaway if you would like to just get Imperfect Courage for free, head on over to my Instagram account, and comment, follow the little instructions, and I would absolutely love to send you a book.
This conversation with Jen is such a great primer for this whole idea of going scared. What does it mean to go scared? What kind of courage is required to start and then to stay? That’s the conversation that we had at SXSW here in Austin. Now bear with the audio—we were live and there were some issues, but it’s a great conversation, and I can’t wait for you to give it a listen. And I hope that your summer is off to a great start.
Jessica: Thanks so much for coming to this session. And it said book reading, and I thought, "Gosh, I did an audio recording of the book. Like you can listen to that." And what more fun to do than invite one of my really good friends who is an incredible author. I have a podcast, Going Scared, it gets about 15,000 downloads. Hers gets about 100,000 downloads a week. So, I’m like, "I’m gonna have Jen come," and she’s gonna interview me and we can keep it really fun for you. So, thanks for this conversation. We’ll have questions, and answers at the end, and hopefully we’ll get to everything you wanna get to, and we’ll chat, Jen. Thank you so much for coming Jen. Is it not working? OK.
Jen: Just give them a little highlight from your trip.
Jessica: OK. Highlight from my trip. I was going to say I brought home a parasite. That’s not a highlight. I’m OK. I’m OK. I had never been to Kathmandu. Has anybody here been to Kathmandu, Nepal? So, I was blown away by Kathmandu, and we’re working with a new partner there, and he was so in love with his town, and it was so infectious to me. And really seeing how far they’ve come in the last three years recovering from the earthquake, I was also astounded by the level of collaboration there. So, there’s a few Fair Trade Artisan groups in Kathmandu, and they all knew each other. So, whereas previously I’d been to another town in India where several of our partners are, and there wasn’t a whole lot of collaboration with our schedules or anything like that. And yet we got to Kathmandu, and they all had each other’s phone numbers and were organizing our whole schedule for us. And it really made me ponder how crisis can sometimes bring us together and how a purpose and a mission can bring us together.
So, it was just a really beautiful city and the craftsmanship there was really incredible. The bronze work, felt makers, what they’re doing to empower women, I just found it to be a very—felt makers, yeah—it was just a very warm place. The people were so generous. And then I also, I had never been to Thailand. How many of y’all have been to Thailand? OK. A lot of people. So, I’ve been to Vietnam a couple of times, but had not had the opportunity to go to Thailand yet. And we are working with a small group on the border of Burma and Thailand. And being there and really trying to understand … so there was a crisis that involved refugees really fleeing to Thailand from Burma, but it’s not really a crisis anymore. And now it really is about establishing development, repatriation, immigration rights.
And so, I think learning more about that issue and how we can create jobs for Burmese refugees, it was really cool, because at Noonday we actually employ five Burmese refugees from the same refugee camp. And so just, it was a full circle for me when I got … I actually went into the office on Friday and just ran into Hella’s, one of our refugees, arms. And I was like, "I have just been with your people," and, yeah, it was really exciting.
Jen: OK. Well, speaking of Noonday, so you are an entrepreneur. You literally bootstrapped your own company. You built it from scratch, from the ground up, founder, co-CEO. It’s the world’s largest Fair Trade jewelry brand, right?
Jen: It’s amazing Jess. You employ, or it impacts over 4,500 Artisans around the world? How many countries?
Jen: Thirteen different countries. You’re also wife to Joe, mom to three, one of whom you brought into your family via adoption. So, a lot of people can look … peak in like at your life and just go, "That’s just a lot." You know that you have a lot going on. There’s so many things. You have so many oars in the water. So, with everything that you manage and build, why did you decide to add author to your list of titles? Can you talk about why it was important to you? Why it was meaningful to you to write, Imperfect Courage? Gosh, we talked about it for ages before you wrote it.
Imperfect Courage: A Story That Had to Be Told
Jessica: We did, yes. So, Jen was a huge cheerleader of mine. She still is. But in having a friend that’s an author, I got to see behind the curtain how actually painful it is.
Jen: So terrible.
Jessica: It is.
Jen: Everyone’s like, "Do you like writing?" I’m like, "I love it except when I hate it."
Jessica: Yeah. Yeah. I love it when it’s done.
Jen: When it’s done.
Jessica: When it’s done. And I think that a book is such a powerful tool, and a book is something … I mean books have been around for centuries and it’s just a powerful tool to be able to convey a story. And Noonday Collection is a storytelling brand. And I think as much as we have so many lines of communications now with blogs and podcasts and social media, people still read books. I think actually books are coming back. I think for a while there were some studies that were being done, and they thought that the Kindle was gonna replace it. It was all gonna be digital, but they’re actually showing, no, people still buy books.
And when I thought about the power of someone walking by in an airport store or going to Barnes & Noble, or Costco, or wherever it might be, and being able to find and stumble upon this story, it’s just a powerful channel to be able to storytell, and really also get the news out about our brand. So that’s probably what is … I think some authors are burning heart writers. That’s what you are. You’re like, you love writing. For me, I really consider myself a storyteller, and I have this treasure trove of stories from the last nine years. I really wanted to carry those very carefully. We actually, as you know, when you write about someone in your book, you have to get their permission signed.
So, imagine what that took. You go into some of these villages where it takes a plane and a boat and a tuk tuk and a couple of different languages to really get the permission to be able to share those stories. But I really wanted to share those stories, carry those stories. And this book was a great outlet to do that.
“I really consider myself a storyteller, and I have this treasure trove of stories from the last nine years. … I really wanted to share those stories, carry those stories. And this book was a great outlet to do that.” Jessica Honegger on writing Imperfect Courage.
Jen: So Imperfect Courage, it’s part memoir, it’s part call to action to sort of help people move beyond their comfort zones and go at life scared but courageous. And so obviously the story of Noonday Collection … it’s the backbone of the book. So, for anybody in the room who’s unfamiliar with Noonday, can you talk about the vision behind the brand?
Jessica: Absolutely. How many of y’all have heard of Noonday Collection? OK. OK. So, I’ll get some good context then. So, Noonday Collection is a social enterprise, and we are creating opportunities for people around the world through fashion. We create opportunities for Artisans living in 13 different countries, and we partner with 30 different Artisan businesses. And then we create a marketplace for those goods through a network of women here in America that we call Noonday Collection Ambassadors. And these are our social entrepreneurs who are earning an income while making an impact. We actually have a husband here whose wife is a kickass Noonday Collection Ambassador. Yep. Yep. He’s here. And I think for me, the business model, it’s as old as Tupperware. And it has been honestly what has given me so much passion because it really equalizes the power structure I think. And even just having come back from all of these countries, we had so many of our partners say time and time again that normally the buyer really kind of has the power and how Noonday has really created this stakeholder model where we all are equitable stakeholders.
And one of my favorite things to do is to travel to these countries and we take our Noonday Collection Ambassadors. So, those women that are really killing it get to come with us and to hear them be able to tell the Artisans what they’ve been able to do with their income and the opportunity that being a Noonday Collection Ambassador has meant to them. Really, there’s nothing more that highlights that equality structure. And then the Artisans of course are able to share about how they’ve been able to earn a dignified income and really come out of poverty, and I think that that is such a picture of women truly empowering women, which is a huge passion of mine.
And even being in India so recently where domestic violence is a huge issue there. And one of our Artisan groups is doing self-defense classes with teens. And one of the workshop owners—her name is Sunita, I write about her in my book—she actually was a victim of domestic violence, and it was when she came out of her home because so many women are not allowed actually to leave their homes. She got a job at this local workshop and now she’s the manager and she learned her rights as a woman and began to talk with her husband. And I actually met she and her husband, they’re still married, but she’s been in a domestic abuse situation, and she’s been able to really share that with all of the women that now work for her and now their daughters.
So, I met one of the women, and she began to talk to me and she’s making some of our earrings right now. And one of the Indians who’s with me said her daughter wants to be a policewoman. And right after that is when we went to go see these defense classes. And my friend pointed out to me, said, that’s her daughter. And just the look in her eyes as she absolutely was able to feel that power that comes from being able to defend yourself, being able to feel your physical power. It was just really powerful. And so, that’s such an example of female empowerment, especially in India. And I’ve seen the same sort of female empowerment here in America with so many of our Noonday Collection Ambassadors, women who are also able to experience finding their story and finding also purpose in their work.
Defining Imperfect Courage
Jen: And of course, one thing I love about your business model—and you know I’ve talked a lot about this—is a lot of times we see people move into women’s empowerment, specifically international women’s empowerment in a sort of nonprofit scenario. So, what I love about Noonday, it is a for-profit company. And so, there’s empowerment built into it. There’s dignity built into your model, and I really, really appreciate your approach. I’ve learned a lot from you on that. Let’s talk about the title of your book for just a minute. What does Imperfect Courage mean to you, and why did you land on those words for this title?
Jessica: Yeah. I never really was able to associate with the word courage. I thought it was saved for a very special and select group of people. I mean people that deserve to be in that category like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but I actually used to diminish that word when someone like me would use it. And I would think like, "No, you can’t apply the word courage to your life. Come on, give me a break." But then I remember the first night when I opened my home for women to come and purchase goods made by the first Artisans that we partnered with—their names are Jalia and Daniel. And at the time they were homeless. They had two children that were not in school. They were really talented, they were just really poor. And all they needed was access to a marketplace.
“I never really was able to associate with the word courage. I thought it was saved for a very special and select group of people. I mean people that deserve to be in that category like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, but I actually used to diminish that word when someone like me would use it.” Jessica Honegger
And some of my friends living in Uganda said, "Would you be able to sell some of their goods?" And at the time I had said, "Oh my gosh, no, I’ve got a lot going on. I’m not gonna do that." But my husband and I decided to begin the international adoption process from Rwanda, and I needed a side hustle, and we needed some way to create more economic income for our family. And so, I said, "OK, I’m gonna open my home for women and I’m gonna sell these goods made by Jalia and Daniel and we’ll see how this goes."
And I remember the day of that Trunk Show … my husband and I had been working in real estate, but the real estate market had crashed, and we were living off of our credit cards. And I thought, "Oh my gosh, I’m gonna look like a fool. Like first of all, we’re still trying to get real estate clients who’s going to wanna hire us when they come into my home and see all of these goods?" But also, I was selling my grandma’s China. I was selling my clothes out of my closet, like if it could be sold, I was selling it. And I thought, "Oh my, I should just cancel, and no one’s gonna come anyway." And I really wanted to cancel right there on the spot, and I seriously considered it, but decided, "You know what? I’m just gonna go scared. And in spite of this fear, I’m just gonna keep moving forward." And women came that night, so many women came.
And that’s really where I experienced that power of togetherness, the power of collaboration, the power of women showing up for each other. It was palpable. People wanted to show up for Jalia and Daniel. People wanted to show up for our adoption. People wanted to show up for a really good sale and really beautiful products. And it was honestly the next day that I thought this could be a business. I was one of those women that people talked about, "Hey, could you come sell for my company?" And I’d never been interested in doing it. But when I discovered a product and when I discovered a story that was really worth my time and worth my risk, I thought this could be a business idea.
So, it was actually the next day where I texted my friends living in Uganda and I said, "Things sold really, really well. Do you think I could get more of this product?" And they said, "Yeah, we’ll connect you directly with Jalia and Daniel, and why don’t you start a business?" And so Jalia and Daniel … I mean, they didn’t have a computer at the time, so they were going to internet cafes and we went and set up a Western Union account. I went and pawned gold jewelry at like these local Austin pawn shops, Noonday is based here in Austin. And that was the seed money that I used to start my first website. Noonday to this day is bootstrapped. And that was the beginning.
And so, when I look back to what I thought courage was, I realize, “No, courage is just simply being afraid and going anyway.” And I did display courage that night. And courage is something that—a life of courage is what we’re all meant to display. And, if we never are facing any fear, then we’re probably way too far inside of our own comfort zones, and really we’re meant to live life on the edge. And that’s where life of purpose is lived. And so, I think that’s where I realized courage could be a word that I could hold onto.
“When I look back to what I thought courage was, I realize, ‘No, courage is just simply being afraid and going anyway.’ And I did display courage that night. … a life of courage is what we’re all meant to display. And, if we never are facing any fear, then we’re probably way too far inside of our own comfort zones.” Jessica Honegger
And then the imperfect part, I think for me is … and I remember reading this about Martin Luther King during Selma and kind of reading behind the scenes about how scared he was. And I think oftentimes we see these heroes of social justice, and we often think that they’re fearless and that they have something that we don’t have. And I think that, you know what, we all can access that place in us that is afraid but moves forward anyway. And it doesn’t look perfect. It doesn’t mean fearlessness. A life of fearlessness is a sham. And so, I think that’s really that imperfect place. Yeah, it just kind of summarized how my journey began with Noonday was that imperfect courage.
Noonday Collection: A Bootstrapped B Corporation
Jen: So, you’ve mentioned it, you’ve referenced it, you open your book actually with the story of being in a pawn shop, selling precious jewelry. And so, from a business perspective, I mean here in the age of venture capital funding, why bootstrap? Like, why did you go that route instead of looking for investors?
Jessica: Yeah. It’s funny because I didn’t know much about venture capital funding when I started Noonday Collection. And as I began to come more into entrepreneurial spaces, I began to learn more about venture capital funding. And to be honest with you, that pawn shop story, I didn’t share it my first three years of Noonday. I really kind of played pretend a little bit, and part of me writing this book was being able to own my own authentic story and encourage other people to be able to own theirs too. Because I thought, "Well, a successful entrepreneur, she’s BC-backed, she’s able to immediately land like the nicest, coolest downtown Austin space. She’s able to hire like the best executive team right off the bat." And I didn’t really wanna share the behind the scene story, which was pawn shop and running the business out of my guest bedroom for a good year. But you know, I’m really proud that we have been able to bootstrap. It’s made us be really wise with our dollars. I think in the same way—I have three kids—so in the same way that we give our kids an allowance and we tell them very basic things like only spend what you earn, right?
Like that’s what we do. But I think sometimes when you’re BC-backed, you’re playing with big money, and it’s a big risk, and you gotta spend money to make money. Whereas we’ve been really deliberate in how we’ve built our business. Some days it’s really tempting, and I think certain industries absolutely require a large amount of effort at first, but I also think the bootstrap stories are sort of not being told as much right now. And I think those are important to be able to share. So, I also really wanted to be able to share that story in Noonday Collection in Imperfect courage.
“We’ve been really deliberate in how we’ve built our business. … The bootstrap stories are sort of not being told as much right now. And I think those are important to be able to share. So, I also really wanted to be able to share that story in Noonday Collection in Imperfect courage.” Jessica Honegger
Jen: Yeah. So, you were just the scrappy beginner, which is probably obvious that means you faced some obstacles for sure. You don’t have somebody writing your checks, you don’t have any guarantee, you don’t have a safety net. So, can you talk a little bit about some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome since the beginning?
Jessica: Yeah. So after about a year of hustling and doing the collection Trunk Shows, after several months, other women began to ask me, "Can I start a Noonday Collection business in my hometown?" Some of them were raising money for their adoptions, some of them needed additional income, but really wanted to be a part of something bigger. And so, I said, "Yeah, why don’t you put a compensation plan together and we’ll figure it out." And so very quickly, I multiplied myself overnight. Now I had within the first month 10 women hustling out there. And I realized, we’re not a fundraiser anymore. This is actually a viable company. And how do I go about scaling this? I’m definitely … I’m a marketer, I’m a creative. I’m all about growth, growth, growth, and I’m not the one who’s thinking as much about the operational side.
And so, I thought I would love to be able to hire someone who could really help with the operational side of the business. And I just began meeting with different people, just kinda to get advice. And one of the people that I met with, his name is Travis, and I met him several years ago in Mozambique when I was visiting there. And he was actually there running a microfinance loan institution and had come back to get his MBA in the states and had worked in finance, and we actually kid swapped, and he would babysit my kids, I would babysit theirs. And I was over at their house one night babysitting their kids, and I saw a stack of Excel spreadsheets on the dining table. And I thought, "I need someone who really gets their pivot tables, like I need whatever that is."
And so, I got together with him, and really just thinking I was gonna pick his brain. And unbeknownst to me, he had been saving up because he eventually wanted to be able to run a social enterprise. And so, after about a month of meeting, he said to me, "Hey, would you consider becoming business partners with me? And I’ve got enough in the bank to be able to go salary free for the next couple years." He had a wife and three kids in similar age to mine. And that was when things got real for me, because it’s one thing to sell grandma’s jewelry or to risk maybe no one showing up at my house for a party I’m throwing. But it’s another thing when someone says, "I’m gonna live off my life savings account because of this vision and this mission." And I think that when we don’t believe in ourselves, we’re able to really borrow belief from other people. And I think his belief in the vision is what kind of catalyzed me to really treat it really, truly like a business that I was gonna be committed to for the long haul and to really take the long view.
“I think that when we don’t believe in ourselves, we’re able to really borrow belief from other people. And I think his belief in the vision is what kind of catalyzed me to really treat it really, truly like a business that I was gonna be committed to for the long haul and to really take the long view.” Jessica Honegger on partnering with Travis Wilson, Noonday Collection Co-CEO.
So, I say obstacle because we are 50/50 partners. Everyone told us that’s crazy, like, you should never be 50/50 partners. But I think that also shows how committed I have been to radical collaboration. And so many of the cultures that I’ve worked in and lived in, even starting in my early 20s when I lived in Guatemala and Bolivia have really taught me what collaboration is. And I thought what can be more collaborative than really partnering with someone where we are both equal decision makers in the business. And so, that has involved a second marriage in my life, like who wants a second marriage? Not me, I love my husband, but it’s a lot of work. And so, we’ve really had to work through a lot and really have to build a lot of trust because of that. So, in some ways that has been an obstacle, but also right on the flip side, like all obstacles, it’s been our biggest strength as well.
Scaling has been really challenging for us because all of our goods are handmade. We actually made Inc.‘s 49th Fastest Growing Company in the Nation in 2015, which is something I’m really proud of. But if you can imagine that we’re working with Jalia and Daniel who do not have a business background, they’re artists who make beautiful things, and suddenly they’re having to figure out profit and loss statements, and they’re figuring out how to really create a production chain that supports efficiency and cost correctly, and all of these things. And then to not create a supply problem where our customers are unhappy, and they’re ordering product but we’re not able to deliver. So that was an obstacle that we had to overcome in our first few years. And I think that again is something that one of the things I’m most proud of is in so many ways one of our platforms that Noonday Collection is a part of the Fair Trade Federation. We come alongside these businesses and we really help them to scale. So, in a lot of ways we are helping to create sustainable businesses and cultures that have often been left out of the marketplace.
“Noonday Collection is a part of the Fair Trade Federation. We come alongside these businesses and we really help them to scale. So, in a lot of ways we are helping to create sustainable businesses and cultures that have often been left out of the marketplace.” Jessica Honegger
And so, but a big obstacle is working in these communities. I think just being in Nepal and hearing about how many businesses pulled out after the earthquake. And even previous to the earthquake, there was a political crisis and things like electricity were not reliable. And so many businesses pulled out right before the earthquake and then the earthquake happened. And it’s still a country that is really needing our support and really needing our business. I think about Haiti. It’s in a crisis right now and we were supposed to go there next month and take a lot of our social entrepreneurs, our Ambassadors there. And we actually it was the first time we’ve had to totally cancel a trip based off of a political crisis.
And I think about, gosh, it is hard to do business in a lot of these places where we’re doing business, which is why they remain disenfranchised. And so, an obstacle is we’re purposely working in countries that can be traditionally hard to do business in. And then even within those countries, our partners, our business partners, target vulnerable communities. So, they’re also wanting to work with vulnerable people. And so again, the obstacles, though, are also what make us so unique and distinct. And I think that’s often in life those very things that are your own unique challenges or your own unique obstacles are really what’s part of your own unique and distinct story. But yeah, a lot of obstacles.
“It is hard to do business in a lot of these places where we’re doing business, which is why they remain disenfranchised. And so, an obstacle is we’re purposely working in countries that can be traditionally hard to do business in. … The obstacles, though, are also what make us so unique and distinct.” Jessica Honegger
Jen: That’s just two off the top of your head.
Jessica: Off top of my head.
Jessica: Political crisis, earthquakes, you know. Yeah.
Jen: So, let’s talk about this fact that Brené Brown who kicked off South By with a bang. Were you guys … did you guys go hear Brené? She’s such a champion.
How Empowered Women Empower Women
Jen: She’s on the cover of your book. I want to read this quote from her. This is what Brené said. "Jessica’s perspective of global sisterhood and the power of lifting one another up in the midst of fear and scarcity is exactly what we need today. This book is both an invitation and a challenge to bravely show up for ourselves, for the people we love, and for the strangers that we will one day call family. I say ‘Amen!’” Brené is obviously a huge influence for both of us. I’m curious how you would say that the wisdom of other women has contributed to your worldview and then by extension your book.
Jessica: Yeah, I mean, at the time, when I started Noonday nine years ago, I felt very alone. I was in the, like young, young child rearing stage. My kids were all 5 and younger. I was raised in Texas by a fireball of a dad and a really sweet mom who was a homemaker. They say you can’t become what you can’t see. And I didn’t have a woman in my life who was a CEO, who was also raising three young children. And that is when, thankfully, Brené’s talk went viral. Her Ted Talk went viral, thank God, because that’s how I was introduced to her and just began to consume her work. And I think for me, I truly thought that I was not a perfectionist. I thought perfectionists were skinny and had really clean houses and had perfectly behaving children.
And she really debunks that myth. And what I realized is perfectionism is when we’re just trying to hustle after our own worthiness instead of receiving our worthiness. And I started to see how I had perfectionistic’s thinking, especially in my parenting. I truly had binary thinking in so many areas of my life where I thought that I couldn’t be a good mom and also be a good CEO. I thought those were mutually exclusive from one another. I thought that I couldn’t be a really amazing entrepreneur and also be bootstrapped without an MBA. I thought that there were so many pieces of my story that didn’t quite meet the qualifier of what I thought I needed to be. And so, then I would begin to hide those different parts of my story.
And then when, once you begin to hide, you’re not actually connecting with others, your story isn’t connecting with others and you’re not living authentically. And Brené really, she doesn’t let you get away with anything really. She doesn’t. And she really lives that out. And, you helped connect me to her, which I’m super grateful and she’s awesome. And yeah, I think having that support from her and that endorsement from her really did just … it reminded me of what it means to show up for other women. And I remember when I was just a few years into Noonday … no, no, what am I talking about? It was a few months, I was just a few months into Noonday Collection and there was this brand that I had purchased for my little girl or my mom had given me clothes because I could not afford their clothes, but it’s called Matilda Jane Clothing. And it was about a $25 million company at the time. So that’s like not nothing.
And for me, they were just a really a beautiful, beautiful brand. And I posted one day, my little girl was probably like 4 or 5, and I posted a picture of her in Matilda Jane Clothing. And the founder was really moved by the post and was moved by the work of Noonday. And she reached out to me. Noonday was like … I don’t even know. I mean we were still meeting in my guest bedroom. It was before Travis. It was nothing. It was nothing. And she’s like, "I wanna collaborate with you. What can I do? What can I do?" And what was crazy is a month before that, one of my friends living in Rwanda who was helping to facilitate our adoption with Jack, she said, "Jessica, I’ve met so many women in my neighborhood that just need a job. What would you think about us sending them through seamstress school?"
And we could all pitch in, send them through seamstress school, and if the market with Noonday has grown, maybe they could supply for you, but if not, at least they would have this new skill. So, we pooled our resources, the woman as well also paid as well, and they went to seamstress school. And I was thinking, "Oh my gosh, I know nothing about sewing. I know nothing about pattern making." I mean it’s one thing, jewelry, to be kind of like yeah, yellow, make it chunky. But you know, with clothes it’s like a whole another level or pattern making. And when I had committed to like seeing this through, again it was going scared. I didn’t know what the outcome was gonna be.
You know, perfectionism is when we are tying our identity to the outcome, and we tie our identity to the outcome and that paralyzes from doing anything, because we think that, "Well gosh, if I do that and it fails, I’m a failure." And then that prevents us from moving through this life. And so, this was one of those moments where I was like, "I’m just gonna go scared." And then, you know, within a few weeks I get this email reach out from the founder of Matilda Jane Clothing and she’s like, "I’ll do anything. What do you want me to do?" And I was like, "Gosh, could you fly some of your designers to Rwanda and do pattern making with these women?" "Oh yeah, absolutely. What if we did a collection together?" And we did, we did a collection together. So, these were Rwandan seamstresses graduated from sewing school. They had one of the biggest orders that any Artisan business would dream of having. And we did a co-branded collection with Matilda Jane Clothing.
And I’m just really struck when women just come alongside women and create stages for them. I don’t like the saying like, "Oh, people don’t have a voice,” but these women don’t have voices. We need to be their voice. And I’m like, "You know what? Every person ever born has a voice. But we just get to build stages and enable people to stand up and sing." And the vision and mission of Noonday Collection is to build a flourishing world. And we say that a flourishing world is a world where women are empowered, where children are cherished, where people have dignified jobs, and where we are all connected. And we’re not just about poverty alleviation. We’re about … one of our Artisans—his name is Bukenya, and he was the first in his entire family that was able to have a traditional wedding and where his wife got a wedding dress and they got to have a party, because so many people in Uganda, they are not able to afford those basic things. And, we’re building a flourishing world—it’s a world where people get to have their birthday celebrated for the first time.
“I’m just really struck when women just come alongside women and create stages for them. … Every person ever born has a voice. But we just get to build stages and enable people to stand up and sing.” Jessica Honegger
I just got an email a month ago from our partner who lives in Eastern Asia in a city and they work with women who come out of brothels and they create alternative work for them. And one of those women, they’d been befriending her for several months. And finally, they built in a friendship in that brothel where our business partners said, "You know, we have a job for you." And she said, "I’m not good for anything else, but this line of work, I’m not smart enough to be able to make jewelry." This friend didn’t give up on her. She continued to go and visit her in the brothel. And eventually this woman said, "OK, I’m gonna do it." She’s become the strongest English speaker. She’s been able to learn English. And she was able to have her first birthday party of her entire life with this new job that she has. And so that really is a picture of flourishing. It’s these daily things that we don’t think about the birthday parties or being able to take our spouse out on a date or even being able to go to the hair salon.
The first time I visited Uganda, so many of the women had just short, short, short haircuts. And a year later when I went back, they had these gorgeous weaves, and it’s because they got to go to the hair salon. Like I get to go get my hair highlighted. And that’s what flourishing is. And so, that’s really what we’re about at Noonday. I don’t even remember what your question was.
Jen: It doesn’t matter, I love those stories. And you have a million of them. That’s why you have this sweet fact stories that they can all run together.
Jessica: I know. I can’t help it.
Jen: I don’t even know if I ever told you this. But last year I spoke at the Matilda Jane Convention.
Jessica: That’s right.
Jen: So, they’re all there, I mean, like thousands of Matilda Jane, whatever they’re called.
Jessica: Trunk Keepers.
Jen: Trunk Keepers. That’s it Jess. And I got in a part of my talk, I read that story…
Jessica: You did. You didn’t tell me that.
Jen: That’s right. I read that because so many of their partners had been onboarded since that had happened. They got to know the story. I mean, the room went bananas just to know…
Jessica: Also probably sold some books for me there, Jen, thanks.
Choosing AND to Overcome Perfectionism
Jen: You know I’ve got your back. You know I’m your girl. So, two more questions and then we’ll take any from the crowd. You talk, and you’ve alluded to this a couple of times already today, but how this pursuit of perfection kind of comes from this place where—and I can just speak to a woman’s experience, but I think men probably have some really some similar struggles that we kind of have to fit a look and a box that’s pretty narrow in order to be right, right? This is the right things, this is the right model, this is the right look, this is the right approach, this is the right personality, whatever it is. And you are on a pretty fierce mission to break all those boxes apart, that limit, who we actually are and who we’re even allowed to be. In fact, this is one of my favorite things you’ve done in the last year you started this little hashtag called #ChoosingAND. So, can you talk a little bit about this and what inspired this narrative that you’re kind of pushing through your channels right now?
Jessica: I think as I began to release those binary ways of thinking and embrace that I could be a good mom AND a good CEO, I could be an entrepreneur who’s bootstrapped her company AND be a really good businesswoman, I began to walk in a lot more freedom. And I think the thing is … because if you would look at my life the last nine years, it’s easy to say, well, of course you’ve like taken risk and you’ve been courageous. But it was really more my internal dialogue. And when our internal dialogues are really being motivated out of this need for perfectionism or proving ourselves, it’s such a waste of energy and it’s such an energy suck.
And so, as I began to really embrace the AND, I feel like I began to walk in a lot more freedom. And, you know, it’s crazy because the last about…I was just finishing up the book. So, it was about a year and a half ago. So, my husband, he remained in real estate. So, I said, we had a failing real estate business and he continued on to be a residential realtor, which is a complete, horrible job for him. He’s an introvert and having to be available like at nights and on the weekends. His background is in construction. He majored in construction management and he’s really a craftsman, like in his heart, he is a craftsman, old school, still carries a hanky, like he’s like an old soul.
“I began to release those binary ways of thinking and embrace that I could be a good mom AND a good CEO, I could be an entrepreneur who’s bootstrapped her company AND be a really good businesswoman. … I began to really embrace the AND, I feel like I began to walk in a lot more freedom.” Jessica Honegger
Jen: That’s so cute.
Jessica: He’s an old soul. And it was about a year and a half ago where … Noonday had been in a stable place for several years and we are not trying to live this American dream double income life. And I called him up and I said, "I think it’s time to quit."
And so, he quit, and he’s been at home with our kids. And I think about how I was raised where the man was the breadwinner and the mom was the homemaker and I had to let go of a shame story about that. But now we walk in so much freedom, and he walks in freedom too. And he’s actually picked up some part time work for a craftsman friend of ours in town who is a welder. And I mean I’ve been gone for three weeks and so Joe took care of everything. And of course, when I’m in these countries that are still completely dominated by men, they’re like, "Who’s taking care of your kids?" And I’m like, "My husband," and he’s not babysitting guys. He’s actually a co-parent.
So, he’s parenting my children. That’s what’s happening at home right now. But we were talking over the weekend and he just said, “I’m just so grateful” because he’s able to really learn this trade of … this craft of being a welder. And he wouldn’t have had that opportunity with three children and me if I weren’t really providing for our family. And so, it’s just crazy how it’s come so full circle and he’s very secure in that. And thankfully, we live in Austin, which is fairly progressive. He’s not the only man who’s going to all of the teacher conferences and such. But I think about like how he’s also embraced that AND, that he can be a good dad and a stay at home dad and he can be the dad that, you know … I mean I was having this, I-need-to-do-something-for-my-kids day the day before I was leaving on my trips, I’m like three weeks and suddenly I was like, that’s a long time. So, I was like, "I’m gonna surprise my children today. I’m gonna take them lunch at school. I’ve never done that before. I’m gonna be like the mom of the year." I like canceled some meetings at work, and I was like, "I can’t do it now." And I went through Chick-fil-A, and I was going up to my boys’ school. And I get to the front, and I’m like, "I have lunch for Jack and Holden." And the administrator says to me, "Great, what’s Jack’s teacher’s name?"
Jen: Oh, thank gosh. Stop it.
Jessica: I wish I could tell you I forgot. I literally was like, "I don’t know. I don’t know." I take my daughter, my daughter’s in middle school, I’ve taken her, granted the teacher is actually out on maternity leave, so it’s a substitute. Miss Andrea. I did go to the parent-teacher conference two days ago, guys. So, I’ve made up lost ground. But I think honestly that would have been such a place of shame for me in the past, and it’s not anymore. It was like, "OK, listen, I should know all of my teachers’ names." OK. So, like, that’s real. OK. So, I’ve learned since, but I mean that would have eaten me up alive. And instead it was like, "OK, yeah, like maybe you could show up a little bit more and do stuff like this a little bit more." So, I did, right when I came home, actually the day after I came home, I go home at 9:00 and the next day Joe was like, "Hey, Jack’s parent-teacher conference is today." So, I’m like, "OK, I’m going," you know. I think it’s the narratives where we attach identity to these stories that we tell ourselves. And it’s just so powerful to be able to tell ourselves a different story. And I think when we can tell ourselves a different story, we can really walk in our own power, and we’re able to really live out our purpose in the world and be the solutions to the problems that we see.
“It’s just so powerful to be able to tell ourselves a different story. And I think when we can tell ourselves a different story, we can really walk in our own power, and we’re able to really live out our purpose in the world and be the solutions to the problems that we see.” Jessica Honegger
Jen: That’s great. Let me just ask you this last question and then we’ll take any that the group has here. Obviously, entrepreneurship is sort of the bedrock of your book and this is just how you are. You’re an entrepreneur. That’s your spirit, that’s how your brain works. That’s how you think. That’s how you dream, you’re a starter. So, I wonder what advice you would give if anybody in the room is leaning toward building toward entrepreneurship towards creating, what would you suggest? What would you tell them?
Jessica: Well, you have got to be the one to believe in your idea, and you gotta be tenacious about it and to take the long view, because there is no instant success. I think those stories are so rare, but there is taking the long view. And who was it that said … Coby you said, "Start with the end in mind." And I think you really need to start with the end in mind. Be committed to your vision, be committed to your vision, and then grind it out. And it is not glorious. Entrepreneurship I think has this sort of sense right now. It’s sexy and everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, and it is a grind. It is a grind. And if you believe enough, you’ll be willing to grind.
Q&A: New Failures, New Successes, And New Stories
Jen: OK. So, before we sort of wrap the session, thanks for coming everybody. If you’ve got a question for Jess, she’d be glad to answer.
Guest: Hey guys.
Guest: I’m a huge fan of both of you, so I’m totally geeking out right now.
Jessica: Thank you.
Guest: But, so my question is actually for both of you because you both have experience with this. I’ll give it a little bit of context. So, I’m an entrepreneur, I own a pretty successful company with my husband, and we also have a PBS show and that’s doing pretty well. And we have been approached to think about doing a podcast. And I’m also a new mom. We have a 9-month-old at home, we feel called to also adopt at some point. And I’m like, I’m scared. And I really, I love podcasts. I have for over a decade at this point. And I’m just like, I have a tendency to overpack my plate and want to do all the things and grow and do the next thing. And I’m like, "OK, how much time does it really take?" And when do you know if you’re scared out of the sense of not wanting to get out of your comfort zone, but when does it border on like, this is gonna be foolish, right? When is it a good thing to feel like maybe I shouldn’t do this?
Jessica: That’s a really … it’s a really good question. So, what would be your why behind the podcast?
Guest: Because I feel like my husband and I have a particular message to share about hope and simplicity. We do money, that’s our business, but we’re not money people in the classical sense. We came to it through our own experiences. And so, we’re effective in what we do, and I know we could help more. So that’s why.
Jessica: And what would be the business outcome for the podcast that maybe your other channels aren’t accomplishing?
Guest: That’s a good question. So we were approached by a network that’s already in place and they would do all the post, but we would be in charge of that, and we would get like 70% of Ad roll, and they would take care of all the ads. I’m like, "Dang. OK." So, it would be another source of revenue for us, but also a place where I feel like we could continue to grow our following outside of our channel and things like that. So that would be the business side of it.
Jen: Do you create content anywhere else?
Guest: No. I mean we have our business and then our show is really … that’s where all of our creative energy, because it takes so much energy.
Jen: And so, does podcasting. My husband’s in here and I just looked over at him and he said, "How much time does it actually take," I stole a glance at him because it takes a lot of time.
Jessica: Right, a lot of time. Yeah.
Jen: It’s a deal. It’s a whole line item. It’s not like … I mean it is a side hustle, but it’s a big hustle. So, I would say first of all, it’s encouraging and helpful that you’re looking at a network. When you can plug and play and there’s a team in place, I don’t know if they would work at all with like content creation, but when they can optimize for you and load for you and edit for you and sound engineer for you, that’s a lot that you get to take off your plate and that’s helpful and useful. I think you would have to consider, what is your personal investment if you’re building out all of the content and then also recording it?
Guest: I think we would be. I think the content…
Jessica: It would be you and your husband, not necessarily interviews.
Guest: No, I don’t think so. I don’t think we could probably sustain that. Maybe at some point we could do that, but I don’t think so.
Jen: I mean because it is, it’s gonna take you some hours and so my suggestion would be, especially as I kind of hear the scope of your life, you have a lot of things going on like a baby’s a deal.
Guest: Yeah. She is a deal.
Jen: I would consider some subtraction before you consider this addition. You just can’t add forever. I mean that’s my instinct. Like just maybe I’ll just say yes, and I’ll figure it out as we go. But sometimes if you feel like I’m pretty maxed, do yourself a favor and consider what this could take the place of if there was anything you could outsource for a season, and just give it a go. The nice thing about this, you’re not locked in forever. If you start it and you find I can’t either handle this or it’s not working like we thought it would, you’re not stuck.
Jessica: Yeah. And I think timing, timing is everything. I think sometimes when an opportunity is presented to us, we get this like feeling that this is the only time we’re ever gonna be offered this and we start having a scarcity mentality.
Jessica: And so, I would just really challenge yourself if you have any of that scarcity. This is a time where I’m thinking, if your fear is more about, "I’m spread too thin, I’m not gonna have enough." That could be your reality. And that could be just like that nudging of like, "Now’s not the right time." So just know that it’s not like this is the only time this is ever gonna come around. But if you’re able to plate manage and delegate out and it sounds like if it’s primarily other people are really supporting you then it could be worth it.
Jimena: My name is Jimena, and I would like to know, I struggle a lot with identity with success. So, it’s kind of linked. What were like the mindset changes that you did to stop that vicious circle?
Jessica: That’s good. I think we can both identify with that. There really is a surrender that has to happen. And understanding, like I mentioned earlier, when you’re tying your identity to an outcome and knowing that you can influence an outcome but you can’t control it, a million things could happen today. I mean, you could … something horrible could happen when you walk out the door. Something wonderful could happen. So, I think it’s that idea that we think we’re in so much more control than we actually are. And when you can surrender that you can influence an outcome but not control the outcome, that creates a freedom for you to go ahead and move forward even in spite of … you might still think, "Gosh, if I fail I’m a failure."
“There really is a surrender that has to happen. … You can influence an outcome but you can’t control it. … Something horrible could happen when you walk out the door. Something wonderful could happen. … And when you can surrender that you can influence an outcome but not control the outcome, that creates a freedom.” Jessica Honegger on breaking the ties between identity and success.
And so some of it too is separating that, those two things and tying those and then just looking back at your story and really like trying to understand where some of those stories started to become embedded in your life and then how can you challenge those stories, and read Brené Brown and read my book.
Jen: Yeah, just one, two.
Jessica: Yeah. One, two. What about you Jen because I know this is success…
Jen: I would also say there is one other layer to work into your mindset is at the onset know for sure you are going to fail. Rather than saying, well, if I fail this is how I’m gonna try to respond to it. You will. You’re going to more than once. That’s helpful to me. I think sometimes when we’re at the beginning of a new vision, of a new business, of a new company, of a new position, it’s sort of like this zero-sum game in our head, which says, "I’m either gonna succeed or fail." "I’m either … this is either gonna make it or it’s not." "People are either gonna think I’m smart or I’m dumb." But the truth is very few things are 0 or 100. There are 100 gradations between 0 and 100. And so, rather than saying, if I don’t hit all this is a mess, just remember that you’re not going to hit all, you’re going to hit some, everyone’s gonna hit some, and then you just keep grinding, and then you hit a little bit more some and then a little bit some. And so, I think that setting that correct expectation for yourself, it takes a little bit of the pressure off.
Jessica: And if you’re not failing, you’re not trying.
Jen: Yeah. Like, I’ve failed so much now at this point, like I should write a book. And so, it does, it does take the sting out because what you’ll learn is you can fail and no one’s gonna die. You can just keep going, get up the next day and do the next thing.
Pinky: Hi, my name’s Pinky.
Pinky: A really big fan of what all you’re about. I have a question on, do you have any plans on adding apparel to the Noonday mix?
Jessica: I get this question. Men’s, men’s, I get that question a lot. At this point I don’t, but it’s primarily a sizing issue having to track with sizing. It’s really challenging. It is a challenging space to get into. I really applaud those Fair Trade apparel brands that are going for it. But the ideas that I toy with have to do more with consumables. So, beauty and coffee are some of the things that I kind of dream about.
Jen: I told you one time to do an apron, and it was just dead in the water. We were in Rwanda together. I went with Jess on one of her Noonday trips, we were in Rwanda working with Artisans. And I’m like, "Aprons, people want cute aprons." They’re like, "This is why you don’t work in the fashion industry." I’m like, "Well, OK." Anybody else?
Jessica: Ironically, I just bought my husband home from our leather makers in India, like this amazing Suede. Oh yeah, it’s like a man’s man’s apron. Let me just tell you.
Jen: Like a butcher.
Jessica: Oh, it’s sexy. It’s good. It’s good.
Jen: Hey, thank you for being here today. Thanks for lending your expertise to the room and you have really … you have fought hard and you’ve won all your victories and all your successes, and you’ve taught me so much about commitment and about attitude. I’ve learned from you so much. And so, thank you for being here today, and you guys, if you haven’t already gotten her book, you can download it right now on Amazon. It’ll take you 20 seconds. You’ll be so glad you did. Thank you.
Jessica: I’ll be going to the book signing right after this. So, if y’all want to chat with me, you can for sure find me there. And Jen, thank you.
Jen: You’re welcome. My pleasure.