If there were an award for biggest supporter of Propelle, Jess Strong would get it. She has been an ardent supporter of ours from the beginning, finding her way to Networking Happy Hours, workshops, and events.
And honestly, we love her for that.
But the real reason we love Jess is because she is ridiculously passionate about what she does, has the guts to go after her dreams and the business acumen to make it sustainable for her and her family.
We hope you enjoy getting to know Jess better. And we hope that her journey inspires you to take a leap of your own.
Introduce yourself as if you were speaking from the cockpit.
Welcome on board! I’m relatively new to being in charge here, because fear held me back from launching a business that would allow me to pursue my passion while also giving me flexibility to be around my family more.
When I was younger, I was afraid to fly on planes (there were several times when I was so full of anxiety that I threw up before boarding)—until I realized that the pleasure I would get once I landed at my vacation destination was greater than the dread of crashing. In a similar vein, I knew I had to get over my fear of what-ifs related to launching my business—What if no one hires me? What if I screw up? What if I fail?—in order to achieve the life I truly wanted.
Now, I find tremendous satisfaction helping non-profits succeed by taking care of their "would-be-nice-to-have" special projects so they can focus on their "must-have" programs. My particular expertise is in increasing revenue through grant-writing, special event planning, training and conference planning, and creating social enterprise models. I am also passionate about promoting mental health wellness through trainings and speaking engagements.
When did you earn your wings?
After nine months of planning, saving money, filling journals with ideas and working with a business coach, I launched my business in June 2012.
If you could name a nail polish color after yourself of your business, what would it be?
Tangerine Tango. Orange is definitely my “power color,” which I wear when I’m feeling nervous (like before a big presentation) or need to get my creativity flowing.
Not all flights are smooth. Tell us about how you handle turbulence in your business and life.
I am naturally a Pollyanna kind of person, full of puppies and sprinkles and sunshine, always trying to find the silver lining. But there are certainly stressors in juggling a marriage, two little ones, running a business, trying to find time to fit in hobbies, friends, sleep…
One trick I use is to imagine the absolute worst thing that could happen in whatever situation is stressing me out. And then I figure the probability of that horrible event actually happening. When I was scared about finances before quitting my secure, well-paying desk job last spring, I thought the absolute worst thing would be to have no income, lose our house and end up living in my tiny Honda Fit.
But when I really broke that down, the chance of absolutely no one hiring me? Pretty slim. The chance that we’d actually have to live in our car? Zero—someone will take us in, right?! That made the decision much easier.
Who is the wind beneath your wings?
Without a doubt, my husband, Robert. We’ve known each together a loooong time — we met on the first day of middle school. It’s sappy, but he is the most amazing person in my life. He has been so supportive of me chasing my dreams, from being a stay-at-home dad (twice!) to always taking care of dinner. He’s a total keeper.
What's your advice to other women as they navigate the business world?
Have good, supportive people all around you. Find people that can be mentors because they’ve been where you are and can offer advice when you have questions or feel stuck. And find people that are in your same situation now that you can bounce ideas off of and who will cheer you on. Don’t waste time with those that aren’t going to support you, because there are so many people that will give you love and encouragement whenever you need it.
One of my latest favorite quotes is “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious” (from Albert Einstein). I love this, and think it fits me perfectly. Stay passionately curious about your business and success will follow.