Feeling Scared? Go Anyway. While comfort may beckon us, choosing courage will always be in route to impact.
In 2015, Inc. magazine recognized Noonday Collection as one of the fastest growing companies in America. But years earlier, Jessica Honegger stood in the pawnshop in Austin, Texas and handed over her grandmother’s jewelry to bootstrap her fledgling Noonday Collective direct selling business, which would eventually grow into the world’s most successful fair-trade accessories brand.
In Imperfect Courage, Jessica challenges us to get off the couch and simply go scared, leaving behind our comfort zones for lives of impact, meeting, and beautifully imperfect courage.
Tell us why you wrote it and define a little bit about what Imperfect Courage means to you.
I feel like fear holds so many people back, and I wanted people to understand that courage isn’t about not being afraid. That there really isn’t some moment in life where you get to a state of fearlessness and if it is, it’s probably you’re not living up to your potential. I wanted to break down the myths around fear—that if I’m afraid it means I probably shouldn’t go in that direction. I really embrace this idea that you can be afraid and you can still go anyway. That is what courage is to me. Quit making up your own excuses, or quit letting fear be the obstacle but instead, just move towards the direction of purpose.
Explain what you mean by the “bubble wrap” concept you talk about in your book.
I think that as human beings, we are wired to go towards comfort. We’re not wired to charge up the mountain. I think most of us naturally want to wrap our lives in bubble wrap and make our lives more and more comfortable, protecting ourselves from suffering or venturing outside of our comfort zones.
My encouragement is really to rip that bubble wrap off of your life. Find those places that you’re trying to protect yourself from and instead step into the uncomfortable. It can be as easy as befriending the person in the grocery checkout line, or it can mean, pulling your kids out of private school and putting them into public school.
All of these things where we are trying to construct these lives of safety and comfort are preventing us from really living into the fullness of our lives into embracing diversity and inclusivity and in purpose and impact. I think that a life of purpose is going to involve ripping the bubble wrap off your life. It just is.
Being a global company, what have you learned about the global want for opportunity?
I think that we have a bit of an entrepreneur inside us waiting to be tapped into, and that entrepreneurship is being able to create possibility from limited resources. I feel like everywhere I go I see innovation. I see this desire for people to want to create more from what they currently have. It’s something that’s innate to all human beings that we are all created with. It’s in our DNA to want to live in this realm of possibility and create the opportunity for ourselves and for our families.
“I think that a life of purpose is going to involve ripping the bubble wrap off your life.”
Our cover story a few months ago was how even executives have those doubting moments where they ask themselves “Do I have what it takes?” What advice would you have for new companies or employees new to executive leadership?
I think for me, the fears at the beginning were definitely there, especially when all of our personal finances were on the line. There was a lot of fear around—Is this going to work, and are we going to be able to build this into something that is lasting and sustainable?
When you’ve never done something on the scale of starting a business or leading an entire company, a lot of doubt can creep in where you automatically think—Well, I’ve never done this before, so I’m not qualified to do it. Instead, you have to build your own new experience and pioneer that trail.
Again, for me as an entrepreneur, it’s so much about that. The internal energy you get from moving forward is exhilarating. I have always had a bias toward action. And like most entrepreneurs, I’m not going to let fear hold me back from moving forward. The same goes for leadership. Many new executives may feel the same way I did, but it’s important to be always moving forward, and the energy that is created by taking action will help in making better decisions.
What do you hope your peers in the industry will take away from your book?
I’m thinking transparency. Well, you know one of the key stories I tell is when we made changes to our core plan. We underestimated how change would impact the community, while still staying in that place of transparency, trust and culture building. The whole book is developed around our ambassador manifesto, which is the manifesto of our sales force, which the sales force fuels direct sales companies.
“I’m not going to let fear hold me back from moving forward.”
You just cannot underestimate the power of building culture, because culture is your best retention tool. People don’t want to leave a culture that lifts them up and rewards them. When you create a culture of empowerment that isn’t just built around the carrot of compensation, but a transcendent purpose that’s addictive. People want to stay with that.
That culture is what is worth building. As an executive, we are the ones that are the culture builders. We need to think long and hard about the kind of culture that we want to build.
In your opinion, how does the direct selling industry stay relevant and competitive in the era of Amazon, e-commerce and the gig economy?
It’s being able to embrace the fact that people have several jobs these days, and they might see Noonday Collective as one piece in their income earning portfolio. That just makes me want to be more competitive as a brand. What value am I really adding? To me, it’s an opportunity just to keep creating more value for my customer.
I think the trend is to pay attention to our consumers who want experiences. They want transparency, and they want to use their purchasing power for good. Those are clear trends. You are going to need to pay attention to those trends as you move forward as a brand.
To me, it’s just an opportunity to keep upping our game, and how we’re truly offering value that Amazon doesn’t provide. People are gravitating towards personal shopping experiences and more of a curated experience. Amazon is good at making a quick and easy shopping experience, but it’s not beautiful, it’s not personalized. So, the question we need to be asking ourselves is what are those things that direct sales can elevate and offer and exploit for the benefit of the industry? That’s where we can compete.