Series 02: For The Love Of Moxie | Episode 04
Business with Purpose with Jessica Honegger
In our continuing series featuring women with “moxie,” Jen visits with fellow Austinite and good friend Jessica Honegger, who built her company, Noonday Collection, as a socially responsible fashion brand to help Artisans who live in vulnerable communities all over the world. Since growing the company to its presence in over 13 countries, along with a network of 2000 Ambassadors across the U.S, Jessica gives insight into the challenges of building a business and the rewards of helping communities abroad, while empowering women to get involved with something meaningful and lasting. And y’all, have you seen their things? Who says social responsibility can’t be stylish?
Narrator: Welcome to the “For the Love Podcast” with bestselling author Jen Hatmaker. Come on in, and join us for a chat with Jen and friends about all the things we love. Now, here’s Jen.
Jen: Hey Guys, welcome to the podcast. It’s me, Jen. This is the For The Love podcast. I’m so glad to be with you again this week. We’re right in the middle of a series called “For The Love Of Moxie”. I hope you’re loving it as much as I am, because these conversations with women who are smart, and passionate, and courageous, creative, amazing have been really, really life-giving for me. I’ve taken notes, I’ve really thought long and hard after each one of these conversations are even over, about a lot of things these women have said and ways they’ve instructed us and just told their stories. It’s been just honestly phenomenal, and so much so, that we actually extended the series. We sort of had a plan for how many guests we wanted to have in this series, but it’s just been so inspiring and encouraging, that we added more and extended the life of “For The Love of Moxie” for a little bit.
Today is no exception. I can’t tell you how happy I am about my guest today. If you’ve been around me for five seconds, you know her name and you know her work because I don’t just admire her and respect her, she is a dear, dear, dear friend–one of my dearest friends. It’s Jessica Honegger. Jessica is the founder and CEO of Noonday Collection, which is an amazing enterprise that employs vulnerable men and women, honestly, all around the country, all around the world. I think they are in 13 or 14 countries at this point. Noonday supplies just this really meaningful work for the Ambassadors that are here–we’re going to talk more about that–and the Artisans abroad. Everything is handmade, everything is homemade. She built this thing out of essentially a spare bedroom in what began as a fundraiser for her own adoption for her son, Jack.
We’re going to talk about all that. She’ll tell you the story, but talk about moxie. I mean this girl has it in spades. She really does. She’s gritty, and smart, and passionate. I’m really, really proud of her. She lives here in Austin with me and has had an eye toward the world her whole life. I’m excited for you to hear a little bit about how she grew up and what really made her tick from an early age. She’s fabulous. She’s a mom to three kids; Amelie, Holden, Jack. Her husband is Joe and it’s just the dearest family. You’re going to love her today. You’re going to love hearing her story you’re going to love hearing about her company and what she’s sort of overcome. Jessica is also this very sage, wise friend. So you sometimes just have to lean into her because all of a sudden she’ll just drop a little piece of knowledge that is so outstanding that you just you’re thinking about it a week later.
Anyway, it’s my great joy to have Jessica Honegger on the podcast today and I hope that you love her. Enjoy our chat.
Jen: Jessica Hi, my good, good, good dear friend. I’m so glad to have you on.
Jessica: Hey it’s fun to be on.
Jen: I know, right?
Jessica: ‘Cause I’m used to interviewing you.
Jen: That’s actually true.
Jessica: It’s so strange.
Jen: That’s true. I’ve gotten to be a part of Noonday’s conference. I mean I think every year for three months.
Jessica: I think four. Yeah.
Jen: Yeah. And then you’re in charge and I’m answering your questions so it’s finally my turn. Hey speaking of, I’ve got to say to you right off the bat; thank you so much for being a part of my live stream launch party for Of Mess & Moxie. You and Rachel were just divine. So fun, so perfect. Thank you for being a part of that night.
Jessica: Thanks for asking me. That was really fun.
Jen: Well I’m like, who do I want to sit with that I adore, that I respect, that have all the moxie, but also tell the truth about the mess, and I mean, you’re like at the top.
So speaking of, this is funny, but a ton of my people already know and love you because I’ve only talked about Noonday, I don’t know, seventy million times into their ears?. But a lot of them were new to you. So what’s funny is, looking back at the responses to our live simulcast; what people talked about the most; that you said, that they loved you the most for, was when you said that you couldn’t stand other people’s kids.
Jessica: You know here’s the problem. You’re doing a live thing with a friend. So I’m going to overshare anyway.
Jessica: I’m an oversharer; I go off-roading and here I am off-roading, sitting next to you like–it’s all like we’re on on your front porch–but really we’re on your front porch in front of your hundreds of thousands of friends on Facebook, and you know, that one just slipped right out there.
Jen: Well, you know what, it’s funny because people loved it, because it’s how so many of us feel. But you know, we’re just not sure if we can say that out loud. So you said it out loud for us and it was divine.
For the longest time–you know Brandon and I–I’ve been in church work our entire adult lives– and I told him at one point I cannot. I’ll do anything. I will make copies for church. I will wave people in in the parking lot. I will do anything, but I cannot work in the nursery.
It makes me feel so rage-y and crazy.
Jessica: Yeah, I’m not obviously a nursery person and that’s why I recently took all three of my kids on a business trip with me to Africa.
Jen: Yeah, you did.
Jessica: I led an Ambassador and Artisan trip with Joe. No one else from my office came with me, and my three children were with me the whole time. Suddenly, the night before we left for this trip I was like, “What was I thinking? I thought this was a good idea.”
It was mainly because I was not really worried about the perception that my Ambassadors towards me on this trip, like I didn’t like to rain on their parade. That made me feel insecure. It’s suddenly like the night before, like literally I’m meeting everybody in Kampala, Uganda. I’m like, “What was I thinking?” But I have to say, there were probably people on that trip that didn’t like my kids. I mean you know, that didn’t like kids, because you know that’s the thing– I would have been that girl– I would have been the girl on that trip like “Oh I hope their 8-year old isn’t sitting next to me on this like four hour ride.” you know?
Jen: I’m dying laughing over that.
Jessica: Thankfully, there were enough people on that trip that loved kids and they were even a couple of people that kind of real buddy-buddy because they were introverts and it was kind of an escape from having to like you know get to know all these new people.
Jen: Totally–kids are a buffer.
Jessica: Kids are a buffer. But I was really relating to I know, a couple of those ladies that were like “oh I just earned a trip to Africa with an 8 year old! Yay!”
Jen: Oh yeah, “Just what I always wanted to do.”
Oh that makes me laugh so hard. But your kids are amazing travelers and you have raised them in a household that honors and cherishes and loves other cultures and other countries and adventure. Your kids did amazing on that trip right?
Jessica: They really did. Honestly, I was definitely blown away. We’re finally at that age where they’re are like little people. It’s funny. I didn’t know this, but halfway through the trip some Ambassadors came up to me and said, “Do you know that Amelie is doing a whole survey to every single Ambassador?” She had this full chart you know like, “Where are you from? How many kids?” One of the questions was; “Who’s your pick? Jessica or Travis?” Travis is my Co-CEO.
Jen: Are you serious right now?
Jessica: Yeah, “What’s your pick…Jessica or Travis?” I was like….
Jen: That is crazy–of course we’re all like “Jessica,” because we’re on the trip with her. Travis didn’t go with you right?
Jessica: No. No. So anyway. They did really well. Amelie actually got sick for the first time. I mean she’s just literally–like she’s 11, but she just hasn’t gotten sick much in her life. I’m in the middle of the trip, we went to this boutique hotel in the middle of the Nile River and you literally had to take a canoe to get to this island. It was surrounded by level six rapids. It was one of the most majestic, beautiful places I’d ever been. But then also like awe inspiring, and I’m so glad my boys are not with me, because they would die. So thankfully I left the boys back with our Ugandan friends.
Jen: Yes. Because boys would be like “I think I can handle these rapids; let’s see if we can swim across.”
Jessica: They literally, literally would have died.
Poor Amelie was up all night,coming out both ends, and in the middle of the night she says, “Have you ever get sick like this?”
Jen: Oh, baby girl, and you’re in the middle of a river—that’s just bananas.
Jessica: And like in the middle the night I’m like…”Okay…”; like could we take the canoe? And then, is there a clinic in this village? But thankfully I’m with 20 Ambassadors, who on top of their jobs as being Ambassadors, were a couple of nurses. One was a child life specialist who like helps you know kids in hospitals get needles poked in them. I mean, they just mothered her to pieces. So, yeah, it worked out. I mean thankfully she wasn’t just there alone with me since I don’t like other people’s children and don’t really like mine when they’re sick. I’m glad that there were like nurses there. They were like rubbing essential oils on her tummy.
Jen: Of course they were.
Jessica: I didn’t bring anything. I brought an antibiotic you know, from the travel doctor that was here. I was like pushing it down in the middle of the night. Anyway. she did really well and I think learned even from that, it was very eye opening because we actually on this trip, it’s a business trip. So these Ambassadors who have been selling and creating a marketplace for these Artisans, are now getting to meet these Artisans for the first time and it’s this mutual, beautiful exchange of artists and saying “Thank you for creating a marketplace.” Then it’s the Ambassadors getting to look into the Artisan’s eyes and saying “Thanks for creating a job for me. Here is what I’ve been able to do with my work.”
Also on this trip last summer, we had done something that we call a Flourishing World Initiative where we take a portion of our sales, because as much as we want business and entrepreneurship to cover all of the basic needs, there are still gaps in these countries. Of course one of the biggest gaps is clean water. So the team in Uganda had said, “If you could raise enough money for us to get some water filters, that would be a huge gift to our employees” and so we were actually able to get them on that trip. It’s Tiva water filters and they came, they showed exactly how to use them all. One of the most profound moments on that trip, and I tie this back to my kids because they were there,Jollia, the head of the business in Uganda looked out over this her sea of 100 employees now and said “How many of you all have running water at home?” and two people raised their hand.
Jen: Wow. Wow.
Jessica: I wanted to drive that home because I was you know you see these water filters and you’re like “oh yea, water filters, “ but there was not that context until we really painted that picture and so then, Holden, my middle child (I feel bad calling him my middle child)….
Jen: Well that’s what he that’s what he is.
Jessica: And that night he said “I really learned today how hard it is just to get one sip of water here. Clean water here and that is really powerful.
Jen: That is powerful.
Jessica: It was so good.
Jen: You’re using all this language that I know and that you know. But will you, just for people who are new to you, to who you are, new to Noonday – this is the first time they’re hearing about it. Can you talk just a little bit about the Noonday story and what do you mean when you’re saying “Ambassadors?” What are you talking about “Artisans?” What countries do you mean? What is your work? Will you sort of do a high level explanation of Noonday. Then I kind of want to dig in to the building of it. But just tell everybody a little bit about what we’re even talking about.
Jessica: Absolutely. So Noonday Collection; we are a socially responsible fashion brand and we are creating opportunity for Artisans that live in vulnerable communities in around 13 different countries around the world. We create a marketplace for those Artisans here in America through a network of social entrepreneurs that we call Ambassadors. We have about 2000 Ambassadors around the country. Those are women who are business owners in their own right. They are running their own Noonday Collection companies and their communities and they’re earning an income while also creating income opportunities for our partners that are around the world. We have been able to impact over the last seven years, four thousand Artisans, which then impacts 20,000 family and community members where they are working. So we’re just in the business of creating dignified work, of honoring human worth, and making women feel really beautiful along the way.
Jen: You know how I feel and I just have a thousand things I want to say about you, and about Noonday and how much I believe in both. You’re one of the very first people that really taught me that doing really good, important, impactful work in the world does not have to be in a nonprofit setting.
There is something incredibly empowering, there’s a lot of dignity to financial empowerment and to for-profit work. In my sort of church world, virtually everything is nonprofit. That’s the brand. But it was really eye opening for me to come alongside of you in the really early days of Noonday and rethink what it looks like to empower people both locally and abroad. I love how you talk about that; how you talk about doing for-profit work. Can you just talk about that for a sec?
Jessica: Yeah. I kind of came from a similar background to you, although my whole waking up to poverty came a little bit younger. So in middle school, I was already a little bit of sort of a raging, righteous person that probably no one wanted to be around. Then throughout high school, did some mission trips and then in college got involved more at a local level. After college I went with an organization overseas to live and work among the poor. It was a Christian development organization. I lived in Bolivia and in Guatemala and I think one of the things that I really noticed on that trip was the fact that the poor who were able to rise out of poverty had this entrepreneurial spirit. Whether it was – they had their corn that was growing and they made a little extra to sell. Or whether they were weaving a wee-peel for themselves, but then they would we weave a couple of extra to sell at the market place. This idea that they could take the resources that they had and multiply that and use their power to create more power for themselves and their community, that is really when I saw change happen. There were other projects, like I remember walking through the Bolivian Andes, when I literally was living out in the middle of nowhere, and I would come across latrines that had become storage units and or they would just crumple down and it’s because an NGO come in and a non-governmental organization come in and assessed “This community needs latrines”. They built them and they left. Well guess what? That wasn’t a need that the community saw as a need. I really began to be able to change my perspective on need and become more of a learner during that time. My days definitely in high school and college were sort of like, well, I know the solution; here’s what it is. I think that’s what I love about entrepreneurship is that it really does treat people as image bearers of God, with ability, with worth, and with innovation, and with great ideas, and get to multiply that. So that’s been my greatest joy at Noonday has been able to create entrepreneur opportunities for Artisans, and then also for Ambassadors here in America, because there’s just something that happens in being able to walk through your fears by starting a business.
Jen: So true. You know, this is now; that has reframed the way that I think about community development, the way that I think about any sort of international partnership or intervention. That toggled a switch for me that we’ve now seen played out over and over and over on the ground in communities that are fragile; economically, physically in whatever way. That sort of financial empowerment that honors their skills, their smarts, their resourcefulness. I haven’t seen anything else work to that degree; nothing. It’s an amazing model on which to base your company.
Let’s go back to the very beginning. The very, very beginning of Noonday, because I mean obviously, this whole series, this podcast series is “For the Love of Moxie,” I’m thinking “who are the women that I know that just have insane moxie? Who just has that pluck–that is able to just develop something literally out of grit. That’s how I think about you that’s how I think about Noonday especially. I want you to tell everybody about you the earliest beginnings; like the very very fancy beginnings of Noonday, obviously, and where it came from, and how it started.
Jessica: Well, after getting my design degree at Parsons, and moving on to get my MBA at Harvard, and then getting a $50000 investment from my parents, I was able to launch Noonday—you know the story.
Jen: Stop it.
Jessica: Not true. None of that’s true. I majored in Latin American studies and went on to do development work, and definitely didn’t have two pennies to rub together when I started Noonday Collection. I had a history of being exposed to poverty and sort of wanting to be part of the solution to the injustices that are in the world. Knowing that I came from a real place of privilege, and how could I use that privilege to create privilege for other people and opportunity for other people?
It wasn’t until I was really cornered, and I mean I literally felt like God cornered me, that I actually kind of used that grit that was in me to do something about it in a way that matched my gifts and my personality.
My friends were living in Uganda and they were trying to create entrepreneurial opportunities for people there. One of those businesses they tried to get going was this Artisan business because they partnered with this young couple, they said “Gosh, they are bright, they’re smart–they’re just extremely poor, but they’re really talented and so can you create a marketplace for them?” At that time, Joe and I had been flipping houses—Joanna and Chip Gaines style before they were there. There was Joe and me.
Jen: That’s right. Joe and Jess—that could have been you!
Jessica: So you know, then the market crashed and we realized you know this period of seven no doc loans is not gonna last. So we began to live off our credit cards, because there was no way for us to sell the houses that we currently owned. Right around that time we had decided to internationally adopt, which as you know, costs a lot of money.
Jen: Perfect timing, when you’re like sitting on a bunch of houses that won’t sell.
Jessica: Yeah exactly. So here we are knowing we want to grow our family we had to bio kids. I really didn’t want to get pregnant again. There was kind of some amazing circumstances that led us to know that it was Rwanda, and we needed to pay for it. So my friends right around that time are the ones that said “Why don’t you create a marketplace for our friends? We’ve already bought all of their stuff and it’s just sitting in a storage unit. Can you dust it off, sell it and you can use that money to fund your adoption? But what we’d really love is for you to sell it and then reinvest and buy from them again.”
So I opened my home one night–I went in and dusted off all of their beautiful accessories that they had made. I also sold all of my clothes. I feel like I still walk around Austin sometimes and see people wearing my clothes. I invited women into my home and I was so afraid no one was going to show up for me. I think you know when you’re doing anything when you’re asking people to come join you, there’s that level of vulnerability in them moment of like “Oh my gosh, no one’s going to show up.”
Those women showed up for me and I found that women show up for one another and that they have shown up for me ever since. You are one of the earliest women to show up for me in a really big way and it’s just a beautiful thing and it’s contagious.
You know the more we keep showing up for one another, the more we create this culture of championing one another. That courage– I mean I look back and I think, for me, it took so much courage to open my home and invite people. Of course now I think, now I do that all the time I’m always asking people to open homes now. But after that one night I realized, OK this isn’t just going to be a fundraiser for Jack. This could really be a business. There’s a hole in the market. There’s this whole old age old concept of direct sales–Mary Kay, Avon–but there wasn’t any company that was selling a product that was really creating an impact. In the whole fair trade market, there weren’t really a whole lot of really fashion forward, cute things that you would want to buy. So there was this intersection of need in the marketplace that Noonday was able to fill. I started off you know Joni and Daniel and dusting off their items, and now they employ 100 people in Uganda in addition to contracting with 300 others out in the rural communities. It’s definitely exploded into something I never could have imagined. I look back to those beginning days and you know I went and pawned my old heirloom jewelry at a pawn shop in order to find my first web site. I even remember I was asking everyone to open their homes to host for me, and I went outside of Austin. I began to travel all over Texas, and I literally would ask people to open their homes and then, of course, I couldn’t afford a hotel, so, “Can you open your home and can I sleep on your couch?”
Jen: I just love this part of your story. In a second we’re going to talk about what Noonday looks like today, and how explosively its grown, and how amazing its impact is. But what would you say to people who are listening today, and they are back where you were then? They’ve got the seed of an idea; they’ve got a fire in their belly for something. They’re a creative. They have a little dream that is kind of keeping them up at night. It’s something they want to bring forth, or they just got just that little bare bones of an idea, but just absolutely no sense of how it’s going to work, if it’s going to work. What would you have told yourself if you could go back and talk to Jessica then? What would you say? What have you learned or what was the most important thing in that season; where it’s so fragile, and you had absolutely no guarantees any of that was going to work. None. Like maybe this thing’s going to burn out in six months, maybe I’m just going to run through all this product and it’s going to be gone. I don’t know, I would love to hear your advice for people who are at step one not at Step 10 like you are.
Jessica: You know that’s a great question. In so many ways I’m glad I didn’t know as much as I do now. I think even in the last seven years there’s just so much more access to how to do this, and how to build your Instagram following, and blah, blah, blah; where I think people in that beginning stage can get stuck on like, “OK I’ve got to figure–get all my ducks in a row before I go,” and I say, just jump in head first. Jump first and look where you’re jumping later.
Don’t get hung up on perfectionism. I mean when I launched Noonday, I didn’t even know it was Noonday then when I actually went in and got my business name, my tax number and all of that within the same month–that original trunk show–I didn’t have business cards. I did have a beautiful logo, yet it was really; I’ve got to go in and test this idea in the market place—it’s like a hustle. So you’ve got to hussle, literally, you have to say yes to everything. There is a level of commitment that you absolutely make and you’ve got to believe. You have to believe one hundred percent in the success of the outcome of your idea because so many people are going to be looking at—you know “Small potatoes” or “Oh gosh, that’s already been done,” you’re going to get a lot of opposition. You’re going to see a lot of obstacles, but you have got to look at your obstacles and just see them as walls to climb over.
I would say also, go together. Whether that means a business partner, whether that means getting a group of people together that can help support you, forming a little group. I just saw, as I said, you know you can’t see a wall. You’ve got to climb over it. But I think we need those women that are at the top of the wall throwing the ropes down saying “Here, climb up.” The thing is I think people look at us Jen, and they will compare our ending to their beginning. We had to build this. I mean we have been intentional with one another for years now, and showing up for one another, and championing the cause of leadership, and championing justice. So I just want women to feel empowered, that they don’t need to wait for this to happen to them. You can go and create a space where you’re going to feel empowered by other people and believe—you’ve got to believe.
Jen: Girl, you know I’m standing on my chair waving my hanky. You’re speaking my language. It’s so true. I mean even as you’re talking, I’m thinking back to those gritty early days for me too that were absurd. I mean truly–like you sleeping on people’s couches peddling stuff out of your trunk–I had the same version, but in writing. There was nobody saying this is smart use of your time. I had all these babies everywhere and nobody was saying “would you please write a book and we’d like to do something amazing with it like put it on a bunch of shelves.” Nobody was doing that.
You know there’s a certain brand of moxie that you’ve just got to hang on to with both hands in the early stages of anything important, anything, where the vision, the drive the love of it, has to be enough and it can be enough. Then at that point, you just put your head down and you work–you work so hard.
I love everything you just said–just if you have just a couple of cheerleaders in your back pocket, that’s enough.
Because what you’ll discover, dreamers out there listening, is that even people who love you deeply–maybe the ones who love you the most–sometimes the voices of criticism more than anyone because they don’t want to see you fail. But the truth is I talk to a lot of women with a dream in their heart, but fear is keeping them frozen from starting, or trying, or changing or shifting towards it. Honestly, the question becomes, they’ll say to me: “What if it fails?” My answer is, “What if it does? Are you going to die? Is anybody going to die if you fail?” And newsflash–you will fail all along the way, in ways either big or small. It’s really what you do with that: what you learn from that. Will you take that lesson and improve the next five steps? Building on what you’ve discovered in failure? Failure is a wonderful teacher. Oh my gosh. I mean you have probably changed a ton of things in the in the company since you started based on failure and lessons learned, right?
Jessica: Absolutely. You know I think that if we sit and try to evaluate outcomes before we’ve even begun–the biggest newsflash for me has been that I can’t control outcomes. Like you know, if I put perfect parenting in, then I can control the outcome of my children. If I put this into my business, then this is a success that will come out the other end.
I went skiing a couple of years ago with my kids and I was teaching him how to ski for the first time. I kept saying, “Hey, you’ve got to lean down–like lean into gravity”–when you ski it feels so counter-intuitive. A lot of them spent their day just trying to fall backwards. I think we can spend a lot of our lives just trying not to fall, and wanting to fall backwards instead of just leaning in and skiing down the mountain, knowing that we can’t control all the outcomes in our lives. That has been so hard for me.
I think the deeper question too, is to say what identity are you tying to that outcome? So for people that are afraid to fail, they’ve ascribed a certain meaning to failure. I think that’s a really interesting thing to explore, is what in your identity is being wrapped up in failure. What does that mean if you were to fail? Because I think when we can get clear on that, and get free to own our worthiness from a place that no one can mess with, which for me and I know for you is through Christ, then we become courageous people, we become risk-takers.
Jen: That’s so good. You’ve taught me that you and you and I have worked through that idea for years together. It’s a hard but important question to ask that when you’re confronted with your own fear– what’s under that?
Who wants to dig on that? There’s stuff. That’s the problem. There’s something under there– that is that you’re attaching that to.
So it’s so true that when you are free in that deep, core place, then you’re brave, because failure’s not going to change who you are. It’s not going to change your worth, it’s not going to change your value. It may not even change the ultimate outcome of what it is you’re working on. Failure is not always a deal breaker. It’s not always a game ender.
Jessica: Exactly, and that’s the thing. You are to get to the same outcome. You’re going to get to the bottom of the mountain. All my kids are going to get to the bottom of that mountain. Are they going to spend their day on their butts, or are they going to spend their day trying to fly down that mountain having fun. So it’s either a fear-based approach to life or a faith-based approach to life. At some point, you’ve got to let go. It’s the scariest thing. But I am so committed, as are you, that we’ve got to be in this for the long haul. This commitment to a life of collaboration and this commitment to a life of justice, and creating opportunity for other people. If we’re going to be in it for the long haul, then we have to do that vulnerable work of looking inward and understanding where these fears come from so that they don’t rule us.
Jen: That’s so good–this is why you’re such a good leader and this is so largely why Noonday has experienced such phenomenal, insane growth in such a short amount of time. I want everybody to kind of know where Noonday is right now compared to where it started. Can you just walk us through–just tick them off for me. Let’s talk about, first of all, you office here in Austin. Let’s talk about how many people just work in your gorgeous offices. Then I want you to talk about your Ambassadors that are here stateside. How many there are, and where they are, and who they are, and then tell us about the Artisans in all these other countries. I want everybody to get a sense of the scale that you’ve been able to lead in a really short amount of time truly.
Jessica: Yeah, sure. I would say you know it is it’s one thing to start something but scaling Noonday; that’s been the learning curve for me because it was just two years ago were INC Magazine named as the 30th fastest growing company in the nation.
Jen: Crazy, Jessica, crazy.
Jessica: It was in June that I actually stood on the stage where John Mackie, the founder of Whole Foods stood a few years ago, and won the Entrepreneur of the Year award from Ernst and Young. It doesn’t make any sense. You know there are so many surreal moments and because it has been a short amount of time. We’ve got 60 employees now, and we have 4000 Artisans around the world, 30 businesses that we partner with in vulnerable communities and 2000 Ambassadors, and hopefully more after you all hear about it today on the podcast. It’s a collective impact that is empowering women, it’s creating dignified work for people, it’s cherishing children; creating opportunities so that kids are not trafficked so the kids are in school and not in slave labor. We also give towards adoption through trunk shows we’re hosting on behalf of an adoptive family. Through it all, we’re connected and I think that is such a powerful word. This idea of connection; and Noonday has created a way for connection to happen on a really global scale.
Jen: Talk for a minute about becoming an Ambassador. You’ve had all kinds of women join the Ambassador program; some of them were stay-at-home moms, some of them had other careers and they shifted over entirely. Some of them added it on to what they were already doing. Can you talk about what that program looks like? How do women get started? How do they find out more about it and what do your Ambassadors tell you the impact has been on their lives?
Jessica: Yes. You know, it was actually just a couple of nights ago I was speaking at an event and I had an Ambassador come with me—Krista, who I think you host a trunk show with her a couple of years ago–and it was a moment of pride for me, because she was one of my first Ambassadors about five years ago, and she is now leading a team of 100 women. So her business is bigger than what my business was. After like two or three years of working at Noonday–she and her husband, they are church planters–they really needed additional income. She adopted a child from Uganda and she really wanted to be able to do something tangible to create opportunity for people that had limited time and really needed an income. So just to be able to see her life now, and how it’s that opportunity to be an Ambassador has met and flourished every single need that she had. She’s earning an income now, and that is actually her full time job. She’s created opportunity for Artisans in Uganda, which is where her little boy had come from. So just the idea that she’s able to prevent now, this idea of the orphan crisis, by creating opportunity for Artisans that can now keep their children because they have jobs. So that’s an example of someone whose life has totally changed and she has a teaching degree. You know she did not consider herself a sales person. She wanted to be a part of doing something bigger than herself and she needed to earn money.
I would say that is the case for so many of our women. We have people that are, I mean, we’ve got lawyers, we’ve got teachers, we have stay-at-home moms. We have people that have other businesses, so it’s such a beautiful diverse group of women that come from various backgrounds that we’ve been able to slowly build over the years.
I would say that that lives are changed. There’s some women, and I love these stories, women that are like, “I just love the jewelry.”
Jen: Yeah, they just love fashion and beauty and there’s a place for that.
Jessica: Then they come alongside, and then suddenly they’re just living awake. They’re seeing life through a new lens. You become a more empathetic person along the way because as you connect to the needs of the world and you don’t look across the world and see strangers, you see sisters, you start living your life differently. When empathy is present apathy cannot exist. Those two things cannot coexist.
Jen: I’m glad you mentioned that – because what I want everybody to know, if they don’t’ already know this, is that the Noonday products are gorgeous. I mean we’re not talking about some janky, janky stuff that we’re just peddling. I mean, it’s absolutely stunning, cutting edge, trendy, beautifully designed, innovative stuff. I mean everybody needs to go–where do they find out– I think I’m getting ahead of myself, we’re going to get to that.
Jessica: You can go to NoondayCollection.com and click that “join” tab if you want to join us. We also do periodic calls as well, with me to answer questions. If you already know a Noonday Ambassador in your community, which hopefully you do, just reach out to them and they can tell you everything you need to know.
Jen: You’re going to love this.This is so perfect because in September we’re giving away a choice of our best-selling tote, which you got our mulberry tote, I gave that to you—the red leather bag.
Jen: It’s too much.
Jessica: It is amazing. When you join in September, you get to actually pick a tote to add to your starter collection.
Jessica: So it’s a great time to join us.
Jen: That is amazing. It’s kind of endless, the benefits and advantages to Ambassadors. You can win trips. I mean, you have traveled all around the world with your Ambassadors. In fact, I’ve been on a trip with you to Rwanda for the Style for Justice Campaign in partnership with RJM, and you had an Ambassador trip that met us out there at the same time. Just tell everybody briefly about what those trips looked like and how your ambassadors get to go on them. It’s such an amazing incentive.
Jessica: Yes. I mean it really is. We take Ambassadors; in the past we’ve taken them to Haiti, to Ecuador, to Peru, to Uganda. Then this next year we’re taking, for the first time, we’re taking people to Vietnam. You have to sell a certain amount or you do a certain amount in your team, so it’s a group effort. You get to qualify to come with us. These are such special trips because we’re partnering with people. You’re not coming to just meet people that you’re never going to see again, you really are meeting your business partners; the people that are creating beautiful work that you’re able to sell to your customers. They’re helping you build your business. So we go on those trips.
We also have our Shine conference in Austin, which Jen has spoken at every year, graciously.
Jen: I love it, I am so empowered by your people. I’m so empowered by you and your company, and your women, and your one guy.
Jessica: We have a new dude.
Jen: Your “Manbassador.”
Jessica: We have a Manbassador. Oh my goodness. He saw me speak at a conference last year and he just couldn’t help it, He’s like, I have to be a part of this.
Jen: I love it.
Jessica: He’s doing it!
Jen: I love it. I’m so here for that.
So a couple more things. One thing that I wrote about in in Mess & Moxie is an essay called “Beauty, Food, Fun and Naps” and it’s sort of like some weird tension that we hold as women or people who deeply care about justice, as we do, deeply care about the world.
We’re very connected to human suffering, and inversely human flourishing, and how can we be a part of that. We’re “eyes wide open” kind of people where we are paying attention to the world and it matters deeply to us. But we also watch Gilmore Girls, and also we like to go get sushi together, and we like to take beautiful, fun trips. So it’s this interesting tension that we hold between caring about different things; some that feel deeply painful and some that feel deeply beautiful or even frivolous. Can you talk about straddling these worlds? Because you do. Your work is really interesting. You’ve got this very sort of flourishing world over here, and then you’re connected with these communities that are sometimes in severe crisis and coming out of extreme poverty. How do you navigate this, where this desperate need is intersecting with artistry, and beauty and even fun? Do you ever struggle with “Christian guilt”– a feeling like maybe it’s wrong to enjoy what’s beautiful and fun while so much of the world is hard and scary?
Jessica: Right. You know, in my early 20s I had a man named Richard Foster, who wrote Celebration of Discipline. He’s a Quaker guy, and I went to one of his retreats at the time it was called Renovaré. I was about to move overseas, and I think there is a normal process when you’re waking up to the world’s needs. I mean I certainly went through it in high school when I went to Kenya for the first time, and came home in threw away all of my clothes and looked down on anyone that was spending money on anything other totally for the poor. I mean we go through these periods. Some people write books about them; They’re called The Mutiny of Excess.
Jen: I got rid of 80 percent of my closet.
Jessica: Yes. He looked me in the eyes and he said–it was super prophetic because he did not know me–and he just said, “Never scorn the rich and never glorify the poor, just walk in the Holy Spirit.” Think about Mother Teresa. Whether she was at the White House speaking at an event or whether she was wiping up after a leper who had just gotten sick. It didn’t matter. She was walking in the Holy Spirit. I just thought about how many ways I had scorned the rich. Too many to count. I come from a very privileged background; it was easy for me to lift my nose up at people that were possibly spending their money on things that I considered frivolous, which I now definitely spend money on. And then how easy is it to glorify the poor to say little catchy little things, like, ‘They’re so poor, but they’re so happy.” You know, we like to put people in boxes. I think part of this is just accepting that there are paradoxes; life is paradox. Life s not either or, life is “and.” And I started a hashtag on Instagram #ChoosingAnd because I think that when we can walk in this place of paradox, and we quit writing Sharpie and start using pencil. So we’re able to walk in both the tensions. I thought just more recently in the last couple of years, that I was too white and too privileged to march in the Martin Luther King march.
Jen: We talked about that.
Jessica: That was a Sharpie, right? Then it wasn’t until our friend Tasha invited me to come; “come, join me,” that I thought, “OK, I can be a part of this too. I can be white and privileged and I can march on behalf of Martin Luther King and on behalf of my African-American brothers and sisters in Austin.” I am faced with this paradox constantly. Four weeks ago, literally to the day, I was sitting and praying with an Artisan who had been gang raped by robbers and she had gone to the police. The police had done that thing because that is typical of police in the countries where we work–and I am praying with her, and I am championing her. The next day, I land in America and I am planning my son’s 8-year old’s birthday party and I’m figuring out how to use the jets on my new hot tub.
Jen: That’s such a good example.
Jessica: I felt it, and I feel it. Suddenly I’m running around town–I was also throwing a going away party that week–and I’m chasing around town trying to find really cute popsicles to have at this thing.
Jen: That melted.
Jessica: Yes. That melted. I think it is this idea of connection, of empathy. I think when we face poverty, we face injustice. We can have these extreme reactions being paralyzed, that we’re only one person and we will be able to do anything, or overwhelmed–we’re only one person, so why try at all. We’ve got to know that yes, we are one person and our voice matters. Our life matters. God has created us in His image with incredible power. When we begin to own that power and use that power to go out and create human flourishing for others, that is how we end injustice. That is how we bring people along with us. We’ve to be really aware of those tendencies that we have.
I heard a quote recently by Brian Stevenson that said, “we’ve got to be proximate to the problem.” It really challenged me, mainly, because our family is proximate to the problem. We live in East Austin, our kids go to school where 40 percent of the kids are on free and reduced lunch. We’ve adopted a child and in some ways that that has approximated ourselves to need and to the world. But how do I tell your listeners right now, Jen, that might be living in Vail, that don’t feel proximate? What I want to say is; you can host a Noonday Collection trunk show. OK that’s not really what I was going to say, but that is a way. But there are ways we can proximate; to make ourselves–whether it is a piece of jewelry that is handmade by someone with a human soul that didn’t just come out of Target, or whether it is inviting someone into our home that is different than us–there are ways that we have to look to be proximate so that we can always be connected to something that’s bigger than us. We don’t have to have the perfect popsicles for the going away party. If we fill our lives with the perfect popsicles and the perfect after school activities and all the perfectness, then we don’t have margin in our lives to be proximate and to meet the needs that are right in front of us.
Jen: Oh my gosh, that is incredible counsel. Wonderful advice. You live it. You live it well.
Jessica: You live it. I mean you know have helped Austin live this, Jen, and it’s just amazing that we get to be in the same city together.
Jen: It is, it really is. You’re just such a good friend. It’s weird because I both love you deeply like a sister, and I’m proud of you like a grandma. It’s just so weird that we can be so proud of one another and what we’re building and how we serve.
So listen, we’re going to wrap up here with three quick questions we’re asking everybody in this series– you just fire it off. Here’s the first one. What’s a messy moment. Just a hot mess that you’ve had in your life that you that you were able to power through and what did it teach you?
Jessica: I feel like I shared it a little bit, but definitely our messiest moment is when we were living off credit cards, and Joe comes in in the morning and he’s like “don’t go grocery shopping today, really if you need to buy anything. Use this new one that I just opened up.”
Jen: Yes. Girl we’ve been there.
Jessica: It was a hot mess and we got through, and we’re not in debt and we run a successful company.
Jen: OK. That is amazing. I remember, I told a story before, that I remember one time when Caleb was a baby. Sidney was two. Gavin was four. We’re all in the kitchen–it’s empty and there’s nothing in the refrigerator and pantry, I’ve got a baby on each hip and Brandon hands me a $20 bill and he’s like “This has to somehow feed us for a week.” I slunk down to the ground with the babies hanging off of every limb and just we all bawled our eyes out. We have been there. That is no joke, to really rise back up out of honestly, what felt like financial ruin, and debt, and expenditure, so that’s a good one. I’m glad you said that; that’s so relatable.
So you know, I mentioned at the top of this interview, you’ve got a lot of moxie, sister. So tell us just a specific moment in your life where you felt like– it’s OK to say this out loud– you embodied that quality. You embodied the quality of moxie; just sheer will. You dug in. You saw something through. You overcame it. You got to the other side.
Jessica: You know a very clear moment comes to mind, and it was smack in the middle of the adoption process, when we had literally almost every signature we needed. We were on our way to actually turning the dossier in to Rwanda, and Rwanda at that point decided to shut down all adoptions, because they were just inundated. They were inundated, and they wanted to do a good job and just saw that they weren’t going to be able to do a good job. But if you can get to Rwanda within 24 hours, we will accept your dossier. Thankfully Rwandan soil was considered the Rwandan Embassy in Washington D.C. So I had this real moment, just going, “it doesn’t seem possible at all.” I still had two signatures to get. I had to cart my little babies down to the downtown office, to the state office, and I had to go to D.C., go to Hillary Clinton’s office to get some stamps, and that crazy embassy and it was just grit, grit, right at that moment.
Jen: Oh my gosh. I have goosebumps. I remember this story. I mean that that’s a moment where some people would just throw in the towel–they’d say it just cannot be done. I cannot get to D.C. in 24 hours with all these signatures in hand. And now we have Jack who is such a shining star, that kid. And also he looks real grown up right now, and it’s not OK. Ditto all your kids.
OK, so listen you’ve got a lot of fun things coming up. In fact, you and I have something together. We’re both going to be speaking at the Dare to Dream luncheon here in Austin, for Austin Angels, which my very good friend Susan, who’s your new friend, launched and run on behalf of foster kids and foster families. Love love love Austin Angels. You and I are doing that together in November.
Jen: Guys, I will have all this on my web site, by the way, if you’re like scrambling for a pen. Every single link or place Jessica mentions, I’ll for sure have on my web. That is amazing.
Jessica: You can find me, I mean my favorite social place is Instagram. Jessica Honegger one n and two G’s. NoondayCollection.com. We’d love for you to host a trunk show. We’ve got some cool great giveaways in October because we are celebrating our birthday month, so come and open your house and approximate yourself to the problems in the world, and do something about it, and look really awesome doing it.
Jen: So awesome. I would have absolutely no accessories were it not for Noonday. You know this is true. I’m a walking billboard for your company at all times and all places. And the last thing that you did not mention, is that in addition to building this beautiful company and winning all these awards and accolades, you’re writing a book right now.
Jessica: Oh, gosh I did forget.
Jen: Did you remember? Did you remember that you are?
Jessica: That is my moment of forgetting which is so awesome. Yes, my manuscript is due in a week and a half. It’s so much harder than I thought, even though I saw you go through it so many times.
But you’ve been such a champion. You’ve been telling me to do this for years. You are a champion. You live everything that you say. I want your listeners to know that. I get to be with you in real life and everything that you write is what you do and what you practice. I’ve gotten to be a huge recipient of your generosity and your empowerment. So this book is going to happen–it will be released next August.
Jen: So excited for you cannot wait. You know I’ll be screaming it from the mountaintop, So everybody stay tuned. Hey Sister, thank you for making time for this today. You know I just LOVE YOU TO THE MOON AND BACK AND I’M JUST SO for you in every way; I believe in you. I believe in Noonday. I’m proud of you. I love you. All those fun and loving words.
Jessica: Thanks, Jen.
Jen: OK everybody. Anything you heard today you’ll be able to find on my web site all the links, all the everything. So go to it; it’s your one stop shop. OK. Thank you to Jessica Honegger for being on today.
Jessica: Thanks Jen.
Jen: OK, the amazing Jessica Honegger, everybody. I told you she’s just a phenomenal human being. I hope you enjoyed that, I hope you learn something. I hope that you’re walking away with something amazing from our discussion. Everything we talked about is on my web site–all the links. I’ll throw up some really cool pictures. Jessica and I have traveled the world together and done all sorts of things together.
I’ll put some bonus content up there for you too. I’m telling you, we’ve got more amazing guests in this series. So I mentioned the essay that I wrote “Beauty, Food, Fun and Naps.” If you want to hear more about that idea, press into that conversation a little bit more, all that can be found in the book that I just wrote Of Mess and Moxie, and it’s out everywhere now and it’s been so much fun. You know what else is fun? This podcast with you. I mean this has been a real surprise in my life in this season. Such a joy. So fun. Your feedback is amazing We’re listening and we’re paying attention to what you’d like to hear about, to guests you’d like to have on. We are absolutely collecting your input and it matters to us and so many of us have gathered–you guys, it’s bonkers. I mean we’re going go over the 2 million mark on downloads easily in our first couple of months and so this shared space with you is amazing for me and I love it. I love that you’re coming. I love that you’re sharing it with your friends.
Let us know how we can serve you better. Let us know what you’d love to hear. Let us know who you’d love to hear from, because anything else on this podcast you guys. This is not a really narrow lane. I’m really interested in hosting a lot of diverse voices from different spaces and different traditions and different ideologies. I think that makes us smarter, and more empathetic, and better human beings. And so you’ve got a suggestion we’re here to hear it.
Guys, I’d also love to meet you.
Fun news. I’m hitting the road this fall with my dear dear friend Nichole Nordeman, who you know and love, and we’re going on tour together. We’ve got a bunch of cities already confirmed. More on the way–it’s called The Moxie Matters Tour. We are thrilled about it. It’s a weeknight event–one night only– three hours. It’s going to be meaningful, and beautiful, and fun, and funny, and connected, and simple. We’re going to talk about the things that matter to us. We’re going to talk about real life. We’re going to talk about what it means to struggle, and to overcome, and to laugh, and have joy. We want to see you. So grab your girlfriends and come see us. If we are coming to a city near you, you can get all the details either on my web site at JenHatmaker.com under my speaking schedule or you can get more specific details at the website for the tour which is MoxieMatterstour.com. Moxiematterstour.com. We absolutely want to see you, so come out and meet us this fall.
Anyway. Thanks for joining us today. Next week’s guest is going to be fire hot so don’t miss it. And I can’t wait for you to join me next time. Have a great day everybody.
Narrator: Thanks for joining us today on the For the Love Podcast. Tune in next week, when we sit down again with Jen and friends to chat about all the things we love.
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