The entrepreneur, founder of Noonday Collection and former Austin Woman cover woman discusses her new book, her life challenges and how to go scared.
By Mary Murphy, Photos courtesy of Jessica Honegger
Austin Woman sat down with one of our favorite former cover women, Jessica Honegger, to discuss the success of her socially conscious fashion brand, Noonday Collection, how she’s overcome insecurities and life challenges, how she embraces fear and her fantastic new book, Imperfect Courage.
Austin Woman: What sparked your interest in writing your book?
Jessica Honegger: I know what it’s like to have fear staring you down your eyes and causing you to want to sit down instead of stand up. I have faced a lot of internal fears in my life and I let fear hold me back for too long. When I decided simply to stand up and go scared, that’s where I was really able to discover my purpose, and I want to invite other women into that journey by walking through their fears, by standing up and going scared.
AW: For you, what was the hardest part of writing this book?
JH: It was [culling]it down because I originally wrote about a 100,000-word manuscript. I had such a treasure trove of stories of people who have joined me in this message, of people who have said, “I am not going to let fear sideline me and instead, I’m simply going to stand up and go scared,” the people from all around the world…that I’ve been able to walk with the last several years and I wanted to include so many of their stories in this book. So, actually, [culling]down the stories, you know, which ones of those support the message, was really challenging.
AW: How would you define imperfect courage?
JH: Imperfect courage is going scared. I think that living a life of fearlessness is a sham. I don’t think there’s a way to not be experiencing fear. I think we actually need to look fear in the face and make it our friend.
AW: It seems ironic that your jewelry company started from you pawning jewelry. Did you ever think you’d end up in the jewelry business? Did you have any prior knowledge about the industry?
JH: I didn’t ever think I’d ever go into the jewelry business. It is crazy! … I grew up with my mom, my aunt and my grandma, who are huge jewelry people. So, I did have a little bit of prior experience. … And I have to say, at the time, it seemed really random because up until that time, I’d worked entirely in nonprofits. I had gotten a little bit burnt out and was thinking, “I want to go do something fun,” and I did and I am so thankful because I learned so much…about customer service and about how to connect with customers and it ended up being a really worthwhile experience.
AW: In the book intro, you state, “I almost canceled [the first Noonday Trunk Show]then and there, as fear of rejection and failure stared me in the face. But instead, I sat in my living room and gathered my courage, imperfect though it was. I decided to simply go scared.” What thoughts were running through your head as you bravely waited for guests to arrive for this jewelry-selling event?
JH: I was definitely afraid of how I was going to be perceived. My husband and I had this failing real-estate business, thanks to the recession, and you usually want to hire people who are successful and here I am inviting people into my home to buy jewelry, but also to buy any clothes and my grandma’s plates, and the whole house was literally this whole giant garage sale, like a liquidating of my assets. I was really afraid nobody was going to show up, that people weren’t going to come for some reason. I come from a big party atmosphere. I grew up in San Antonio, where there’s a big fiesta environment and it’s just about big parties, and we throw big parties. I think I can measure my worth by how many people are showing up for me and it was as if, “Oh, if only five people come, then I am only worth that,” and I really had to let that go and challenge that narrative and realize that’s not true and that every woman who shows up for me is like the Maya Angelou quote: “I come as one. I stand as 10,000,” and I am just so thankful for all the women that just showed up for me that night in my Austin home. And I find that Austin women, we show up for one another.
AW: Was there anything in particular that helped you go scared?
JH: I think, for me, it really was a greater purpose. I knew that we were going to adopt and I wasn’t going to let a financial obstacle get in my way. I was ready to shake the can like the Salvation Army people do at Christmastime. … I actually grew up with my dad, going to the mall and asking for money and doing that and I think that is that grit and nothing’s going to stop me, especially not finances for something that really mattered, really helped me go scared. I had a big “why” and I think you have to have a why and you have to believe in why you’re going to push through that fear.
AW: How did you choose the quotes at the beginning of each chapter?
JH: Some of it has been quotes that have been really meaningful to me in my life, primarily. These are some quotes that have helped me out in the long haul.
AW: You seem to show a lot of vulnerability in your book. Was that hard for you to do?
JH: Yes! I certainly feel vulnerable right now, going, “Ok, really? I shared all of that?” But at the same time, the message of my book is about being vulnerable. When were able to be vulnerable and show up fully as ourselves and that is received with empathy and understanding, there is a lot of healing and wholeness that happens, and there is so much power in someone else being able to speak the “me too” and we can’t hear the “me too” if we aren’t willing to show up and be seen. So, it was challenging, but it was also the core message of my book to show up and be seen.
AW: You reference your faith throughout your book. Has your faith played an important role in your life?
JH: I think that when it comes to social justice, I just grew up with being faith-oriented. [That] means you care about the poor, and I’m extremely grateful for the part that has played in my life. I feel like there might be certain strings of Christianity or certain churches where its separate, like its church on Sunday, but it doesn’t impact the rest of the week. I feel like I grew up really understanding that following Jesus meant caring for the least of these, and I learned this at such a young age.
AW: Do you think you were destined to go to Kenya back when you were 15, putting you on the path that would lead to the creation of Noonday?
JH: Yes, I very much was.
AW: Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
JH: What are you being paralyzed by? What’s stopping you from really going for it? For people who are already taking those steps, take the long view. There’s no such thing as overnight success. You’ve got to keep taking those steps and trust that you are on a path, and someday you’ll be able to understand. But I promise that your steps are leading you towards something. You just have to keep that long-term view.
AW: If you had to describe your book in one sentence, what would it be?
JH:Live a life of purpose by leaving comfort and going scared. I want to take you on a journey from standing up from your preverbal couch and walking out the front door, feeling the sun on your face, the wind against your hair, and looking around and seeing you have a neighborhood of women who want to partner with you and going out and creating impact and influence in your sphere.
AW: If there is one thing you want readers to take away from your book, what would I be?
JH: That you matter, that your voice matters, and to stop playing small.