Jessica Honegger needed to raise money to adopt her son from Rwanda.
She and her husband Joe were living in Texas, already parents to two children, but their shared passion for humanitarian work had taken them abroad where they visited nonprofits and learned about sustainable solutions toward poverty alleviation.
It was on one of those international trips where Honegger held a child orphaned by the HIV crisis in her arms. It was the first trip since she had become a mother herself and it was then that they decided to pursue an international adoption.
After visiting American friends living in Uganda, the Honeggers were introduced to a couple named Jalia and Daniel Matovu who created beautiful handmade goods like bags, scarves and jewelry. The sale of these items were keeping them afloat week after week, but they lacked a stable marketplace.
Honegger saw a solution to both of their problems. She would have a fundraiser to support the adoption of her son, while simultaneously generating revenue for Jalia and Daniel. What she didn’t know at the time is that people would fall in love with the goods and propel her to launch a company from that initial adoption fundraiser.
In her new book, Imperfect Courage, Honegger unpacks her story as an unlikely entrepreneur and shares how she bootstrapped the company and grew it to be the world’s most successful fair-trade fashion brand.
At its core, Noonday believes style can change the world. They believe that investing in women’s economic empowerment impacts an entire community. For that reason, they partner with Artisan Businesses to create opportunities for women who are vulnerable, empowering them to earn a sustainable income and become leaders in their communities.
On the Noonday website, there is a detailed impact section that breaks down the numbers: 31 global Artisan Business partners; 4,500 Women Artisans employed; and over 20,000 family members positively impacted indirectly. And although global impact is broken down by the specific countries where artisans are based, it’s also important to note the nearly 2,000 Ambassadors who are selling the products in the U.S.
Honegger has successfully created a global sisterhood of women who are working together to economically empower each other. The business model enabled the company to grow rapidly, earning a nod from Inc. magazine as one of the fastest-growing companies in America in 2015.
The first one to admit she doesn’t know everything, Honegger shares four of her hard-earned lessons from her book below.
Leave perfect behind and embrace risk
In a memoir that leaves her quite vulnerable, opening up about physical insecurities and acknowledging her lack of business acumen early on, Honegger reminds readers to move beyond the naysayers in your own head. If you are truly passionate about something, everything will sort itself out.
Lift each other up and celebrate the success of others
At Noonday, Honegger seems to have done what many companies strive for. In a world where, according to her, “people compare instead of collaborate, judge instead of empathize with each other, or stand by instead of fight for each other,” she has created a culture where women support other women, unconditionally. “If you look for the women who are going to show up for you, you will find them,” she said.
Connect to community, both at home and worldwide
“If my experiences with people living in poverty have taught me anything,” said Honegger, “It’s that at the end of the day, we all want the same things-to be seen, to be accepted, to be known, to be loved.” It’s far too easy to get paralyzed or overwhelmed by all that is wrong in the world. If you are reading this article, chances are very good that you are in a position to help others.
Whatever cause speaks to you, embrace it and look it in the eye, because it’s only when we really see things and allow ourselves to connect personally, that we are willing to change the world in which we live.
Make a meaningful impact on the world around you
In Ethiopia, Noonday partners with Artisan Businesses seeking to bring hope and dignified work to women emerging from vulnerable situations. Many of the women who craft jewelry pieces are HIV+ or are beginning new lives after working in prostitution on the streets of Addis Ababa. Through fair and meaningful work, these women are overcoming stigma, pulling themselves out of poverty, and rediscovering their value and worth.
Think about who made your goods when making purchases. Choose responsibly and support companies who are actually making a positive difference in the lives of others.
Join Honegger on her upcoming book tour where you can learn more about her journey and how to become a Noonday Collection Ambassador.