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Jessica Honegger; When Courage Simply Means Going Scared

Courage is a word that I used to identify with “fearless” people. Heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, or firefighters who bravely put their lives on the line. I assumed they had something that I didn’t have. But along this wild and twisting journey, what I’ve learned is that courage is something that is available to me, to you and to us all. I’ve come to recognize that courage isn’t about being fearless—it’s about feeling your fears and simply going scared

 

My “going scared” moments, as I call them, began to occur more and more often when I decided that life outside my comfort zone held the key to what I was really made to do. One month a few years ago, I was standing at the edge of that comfort zone, peering into the unknown but exhilarating realm of possibility. My husband Joe and I had decided to grow our family through international adoption, but the 2008 market crash had devastated our small real-estate business and left us desperate to raise the funds we needed to bring our son Jack home from Rwanda.

 

Courage has a way of cornering us, and that’s what Jack’s adoption did for me. That little boy with his big brown eyes filled me with a determination that I had never known before. Joe and I would bring our son home, and no market crash was going to stop us. Whatever courage I possessed, imperfect though it was, would have to do. It was then that I remembered my conversation I had a few months prior and an offer to start a business—an offer that I had laughed away. 

 

Joe and I had traveled to visit Uganda to begin researching the adoption process, and while there a friend of mine had told me about Jalia and Daniel, a local couple who were also rallying their courage for the sake of their family. They were talented jewelry-makers, but had no marketplace where they could sell their products—and they were struggling to care for their two kids. Would I be interested, my friend wondered, in selling Jalia and Daniel’s handmade styles in my community to help fundraise for my adoption?

 

At the time, I had blown off the offer. My plate was full. You know the kind of plate I am talking about? The two kids under five, already running a side hustle kind of plate. Starting a new gig— one that involved selling jewelry— was not even a consideration. Sure, I had always loved digging through my grandma’s jewelry box, but starting an entire business with artisans counting on me made the stakes feel just so high.

 

But now, a few months later, here I was with the conversation echoing in my heart. I knew it was time to focus less on the cost and more on the gain. So that’s how I found myself standing in my living room surrounded by boxes of paper bead jewelry (along with my grandma’s china and anything else sell-able I could get my hands on), with a beating heart and every voice at the middle school lunch table in my head telling me that this was a dumb idea, I decided I would risk. I would risk no one showing up and I would risk looking desperate. I would risk failure and this actually being a dumb idea, and I would stand there in the messy middle of a vulnerable and uncertain outcome. I would do it anyway. 

 

Courage felt out of reach that night—but ultimately, it was love for a little boy half a world away that catalyzed me to push through my fears and go scared. And am I ever glad I did. Because you know what happened? Women showed up for me that night. They came, and they marveled over the handmade products, and they rallied around our family. As it turned out, my friends and neighbors loved the story and style of Jalia and Daniel’s products, and soon I was taking additional orders for items that had already sold out. At the end of the night, I stood in that same living room feeling grateful. “Maybe,” I found myself thinking, “this isn’t a fundraiser. Maybe this is a business.”

 

Fast-forward to today, and Noonday Collection is the world’s largest fair trade accessories brand. We create dignified work not just for Jalia and Daniel, but for 4,500 other Artisans in 13 countries across the globe. Over 2,000 women are growing their own Noonday businesses as Ambassadors who hold Trunk Shows in their own communities—just like I did in my living room 10 years ago. And that little boy with the big brown eyes? Today Jack is home, and kicking a soccer ball like it’s nobody’s business. 

 

I often think about that night that I unknowingly held the first Noonday Collection Trunk Show, and how close I came to missing out on this incredible journey. If I had waited around until I felt completely prepared, or completely confident, or completely courageous, I never would have gone at all. I’ve come to realize that it’s not in finding fearlessness that we soar—it’s in standing up, taking a deep breath, and simply going scared.

 

 

Jessica Honegger
Founder And Co-CEO, Noonday Collection

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