Jessica Honegger is a Texas native, wife, mother, entrepreneur and social justice warrior, and she found her passion for serving others early in life. That passion is what ultimately led her to found her successful business, Noonday Collection. We’re excited to chat with her today about her work, her motivation and how she hopes to inspire others to get out of their comfort zones to make an impact — and the world a better place. Get to our new FACE of the South!
Tell us where you grew up and how you ended up in Austin.
My roots are grounded in San Antonio, but I moved to Austin at the ripe age of 18 to study at the University of Texas (Hook ‘em, Horns!). Less than one semester in, I knew this was my place. Let me tell you: Austin is the definition of magnetic. It grips you by the horns (can you tell I’m a UT alumna?) with its art and its music, but most of all it catches fire in your soul with its open-minded and free-flowing nature. Don’t let my statement earrings fool you — I’m a Birkenstock-loving hippie at heart, and I immediately fit right in.
Describe the path that led to the founding of Noonday Collection.
Prior to launching Noonday in 2010, my husband Joe and I were parents to two and decided to grow our family through adoption. We were running a house-flipping business right when the Austin real estate bubble popped, but Joe and I had made up our minds about adopting and weren’t going to let our total lack of funds stop us. We had been matched with a bright-eyed boy name Jack in Rwanda, and we were going to bring him home.
In an attempt to help me fundraise for Jack’s adoption costs, a friend of mine who was living in Uganda connected me with a talented jewelry maker named Jalia, who was also in need of some additional income, and suggested I purchase Jalia’s handmade pieces and sell them in the U.S. With no idea where this all would lead, I found myself with boxes and boxes full of jewelry. I invited all of my girlfriends to our home and sold the pieces at what was the first-ever Noonday Collection Trunk Show. Almost nine years later, Jack is a permanent and irreplaceable part of our family, and Noonday Collection impacts over 4,500 artisans across the globe!
And how do you describe Noonday Collection?
Noonday Collection is a business that uses fashion to create meaningful opportunities around the world. We help develop Artisan Businesses in vulnerable communities through fair trade, empowering them to grow sustainably and to create dignified jobs for people who need them. At the same time, we empower thousands of women here in the U.S. to become stylists, storytellers and social entrepreneurs — we call these incredible ladies “Ambassadors!” Ambassadors partner with local hostesses to sell our collection at trunk shows in their communities, creating a growing marketplace for our Artisan Partners (and earning an income for themselves along the way).
What has been the single most important lesson you have learned since that first trunk show?
Behind every successful woman is a community that has her back, and when life gets gritty, collaboration wins. Every. Single. Time. Without committing to collaboration and choosing to trust others — my family, my coworkers and the thousands of artisans who Noonday works with — I might never have gotten Noonday off the ground or been able to bring my sweet son Jack home.
My favorite African proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” If there’s one thing I know to be true in business and in my life, it’s that I care much more about going far than I do about going fast.
If you look back on your life, your various careers and the work that you have done so far, do you see a common thread that connected all of these pieces of your life’s fabric together?
Ever since I first witnessed the realities of global poverty at age 16 when I traveled to Kenya, I’ve known that I was meant to create opportunity for others. It’s this truth that inspires my every day. Along my winding career path, even the parts that seemed random at the time, I’ve found something of value that has served me well as Noonday Collection’s Founder.
You’re big on encouraging people to get out of their comfort zone and make an impact. What is the most common obstacle you hear from others that prevents them from taking that leap?
One word: Perfectionism. It’s this fear that we all have — the fear that we lack the right resources, the right personality or the right X, Y, and Z to reach our goals and make an impact. We live in a world that needs us to get our hands dirty and help those who need it most, but our hustle for perfectionism holds us back.
How do you advise them to overcome that obstacle so that they start leading an impactful life?
Repeat after me: Perfectionism is a sham. In reality, it’s imperfect courage and the ability to be vulnerable that gives you the most strength when you go to take that first shy step out of your comfort zone. You can never perfect the outcome of your impact, but you know what you can do? You can feel scared and go anyway. Trust that you’ll be able to handle the outcome, whatever it may be. Many times, that makes all the difference.
Who has been the biggest inspiration in your life and your work?
Readers of my book, Imperfect Courage, know all about Noonday Collection’s first Artisan Business Partner: Jalia Matovu. As a native Ugandan, Jalia has faced extreme poverty and gender bias that I can only begin to imagine. Yet she still chooses to believe in herself and others in a way that has helped her community completely transform. Jalia is truly my sister across the globe, and it’s her story that I feed off of when I need inspiration the most.
When you’re not working or traveling, how do you spend your free time?
My husband Joe and I have three beautiful babies — Amelie, Holden and Jack. They’re long past their diaper days, but they’ll always be babies to me! Joe and I try to spend as much time with them as possible. Hanging by the pool or relaxing in the rocking chairs out on my parents’ South Texas ranch never fails to make me feel whole.
Describe your perfect day.
The perfect day includes a lot of time to pause my mind and intentionally connect with others. I wake up early enough to pray, read a chapter of a good book and jot some thoughts into my journal. I’ll take my daughter Amelie to school, head to my spin class and hopefully grab a hot cup of coffee in downtown Austin with a girlfriend of mine. I’ll come to work (yes, work actually is part of my perfect day!) and collaborate creatively with my Noonday team. After the day is done and things are set in motion, I’ll head home to cook dinner with my husband and chat about our days over a glass of wine. And then for the best part: cuddle time on the couch with the kids while we binge on our favorite shows — the Hallmark Channel reigns supreme in the Honegger household!
What’s the last best meal you enjoyed out?
Joe and I went to Contigo. It’s our favorite local spot in East Austin with fresh food, great drinks, and an outdoor patio that makes you never want to leave. We shared a bavette steak, a charred avocado and a whiskey neat.
What are you currently reading or listening to that is inspiring you?
A. As a busy working momma who doesn’t have much alone time to plug in my headphones, I tend to get regular inspiration from conversations I have for my weekly podcast. On the “Going Scared” podcast, I interview change-makers from around the world who inspire me to move through my fears and toward a life of impact and meaning.
As for books, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah is one of the most inspiring reads I’ve read in a while (and I’m the kind of gal who regularly brings five books in my carry-on). If you haven’t read it yet, go grab that baby off the shelf and crack it open ASAP!
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever been given, and who gave it to you?
One piece of advice that’s changed me on this crazy journey came from brilliant author and thinker Andy Crouch, who talks about the importance of having rhythms for your life and holding yourself to them. That includes not just having rhythms for working and being productive, but for rest, too. I’m a future-oriented person, so it’s hard for me to make space for rest. I am always thinking ahead to the next thing I could be doing. But by committing to a life rhythm that includes space for rest and holding myself to it, I’m able to remember better that life is not all about the hustle. And, ultimately, that rest is going to allow me to keep going for the long haul.
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
About to get real with y’all: Dry shampoo is my little not-so-secret style secret. You best believe it’s always in my bag when I head off to spin class and have NO plans to wash my hair after (no shame in my game)! Guacamole has to be on this list, too — you can take the girl out of Texas, but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl. And last but certainly not least? Sunshine. My love for the feeling of those warm rays on my skin is part of what inspired the name “Noonday.” It’s the point in time with the sun directly overhead, bringing clarity and light to every day. Plus there’s this saying in Isaiah 58:10: “If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.”
Thank you to Jessica for your tireless work for the betterment of others and for sharing your contagious positivity. Learn more about this dynamic woman on her website, jessicahonegger.com.
Want insider tips from financial experts? Read our new Q&A series, “Money Moxie,” in which Reliant Investment Management’s dynamic team of financial experts cuts through all the dizzying fiscal jargon and delivers practical answers. Approachable financial information has never been easier! Click here to read the second article in the series.