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Jessica Jackley is an entrepreneur and investor whose work focuses on making big bets on the goodness in all of us.
Jessica is best known as a co-founder of Kiva, the world’s first crowdfunding site allowing anyone to lend as little as $25 – at 0% interest – to entrepreneurs around the world. Since it launched in October 2005, Kiva has facilitated over $1.5B in loans.
She holds an MBA from Stanford GSB and teaches Social Entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business at USC.
Jessica lives in Los Angeles with her husband, bestselling author and Emmy-nominated producer Reza Aslan, and their four young children.
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[00:00:00] Stephanie: Welcome back to mommy’s on a call today. I’m excited to bring to you, Jessica Jackley. Jessica Jackley is an entrepreneur and investor whose work focuses on making big bets on the goodness of all. Currently she’s the founder of Altruists offering at home kid-friendly volunteer projects for families and a co-founder and general partner at untapped capital.
Jessica is best known as the co-founder of Kiva. First crowdfunding site, allowing anyone to lend as little as $25 at 0% interest to entrepreneurs around the world. Since it launched in October, 2005, Kiva has facilitated over 1.5 billion in loans. She holds an MBA from Stanford GSB and teaches social entrepreneurship at the Marshall school of business, which is also my Alma mater.
Jessica lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their four children. Welcome.
[00:01:43] Jessica: Thank you so much for having me. I’m very happy to be here today.
[00:01:46] Stephanie: Thank you for being here to start off. I wanted to ask what is your biggest mom win of the week?
[00:01:52] Jessica: The week. Okay. Where are we in space and time here? It’s Thursday.
So what ha. It’s a great question. I want to, I mean, there’s just so many victories, so let me, I will say this. So I do, I write quotes on the mirror everyday for my kids. Like whether it’s something inspirational or funny or spiritual, anything. And, um, we’re doing all sorts of MLK Jr. Quotes this week. And my kids, I asked them in the car if I drive them to school or I asked them after, like, what was the quote?
Did you see it? What did you think? Two questions. And they like, all three could say it. They could say the quotes. What was. The first one that I wrote on Tuesday, because there’s no school Monday of course was, if you can’t fly, then run. If you can’t run, then walk. If you can’t walk then crawl. But by all means, keep moving.
Now the other one was of course, I mean, it’s funny because to us, we’re like, yeah, we’ve heard that one before. They’re amazing. But like, but they’re all new to the kiddos. Right? The other one was, um, and they don’t lose. They don’t certainly don’t lose their, their power just because, um, we might’ve heard them.
The other one was darkness. Can’t drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out. Hate, only love can do that. And they loved them and they got them. And. That, that was my victory of the week. They like saw it while they brushed their teeth and they remembered it.
[00:03:05] Stephanie: So do you like write it on the bathroom mirror if
[00:03:08] Jessica: you, I have, like, I have whiteboard markers that I, I do little decorations, like pre-dawn and when my almost two year old waist and we’re in there brushing our teeth, I’ll, I’ll make sure I get a quote up there.
Or sometimes, sometimes I get my act together and do it the night before.
[00:03:22] Stephanie: How do you pick your quotes of the day?
[00:03:24] Jessica: I kind of go with like, what’s on team what’s in their minds. What’s sometimes I did. I did a long run of like funny ones. Cause there’s a cafe that we drive by that has a billboard in the morning.
It has a billboard with like joke ones on it. Like the early bird gets the worm, but the, what is it? But the second mouse gets the cheese and they’re like, what, what does that mean? And we had to like unpack it. So like riddle ones, they like. I also try to do, you know, a little dose of scripture, whether it’s, again, whether we like end up getting to really unpack it or not just so it’s, it’s there and it’s sort of like chewing gum for their brains to just meditate on and think on, I want those things to be.
You know, absorbed.
[00:04:03] Stephanie: That’s really cool. I feel like I’m going to have to implement something like that. I used to have like those Mary Englebright calendars that used to be like the like quote a day. And I loved reading those, but I’d never thought of translating that to like my kids.
[00:04:16] Jessica: Well, I have a pro tip if you do it in the bathroom.
Definitely like the whiteboard marker on the mirror is a good one. I did post it for awhile, I think two years ago. And then I would like write them and they’d sit on the mirror and then I kind of decorated. In quotes, it wasn’t that. Yeah. The wall, I would like move the better ones that sort of survived the steam from showers and splashes from washing faces and toothbrush flicks, you know, the ones that stayed intact, I’d got to line them up on the wall so we could look at them and post-its like, leech.
I have these patches. Cause I had all these different colors. Like, especially with one will not come off. I’m gonna have to wallpaper the finger paint over. It’s terrible. I’ve had these like stains on the wall now. So I would say whiteboard marker. Write it down, erase it, let it go and move on. Cause the post-its were damaging.
[00:04:59] Stephanie: Good, good. Yeah. They’re small. So I feel like a quote to read on it is really small, but it also encourages reading. Like I think that’d be great. Cause my six-year-old needs to practice that so that that’s fun. Once again, the audience, a little bit of context. Let me know about your family kind of structure.
How many kids do you have? What are the roles that you and your partner play?
[00:05:20] Jessica: Sure. My husband Raza is love of my life. He’s, he’s amazing. He’s an author and a professor and like legit has eight or nine jobs. He, he has a production company. He just finished his sixth book and turned in the final edits two days ago.
So the, the mood in our home today is like, great, because. Tuesday night when he turns it in. Like we all sort of read the side of really, so he’s incredible. And we parent very, I will say like we do different things. We have different roles, but we parent in a very balanced and equal way. And I believe one of the things, one of the many gifts that we’ve been given as we started off with.
So our two oldest are identical boys, Cyrus and Jasper. And so when you kick off parenting that way, it’s not like, oh honey, can you hold the baby while I shower? Like, we were both always holding. Somebody’s both always doing something. I mean, I was tandem breastfeeding and just like topless on a couch for six months.
In general, there was always something to do. So we were always both in it and in the trenches together, which really, I believe set us on a great path of continuing to sort of equally co-parent
[00:06:28] Stephanie: by the way, you’re brave a lot of people that I know who have twins, don’t go for a third.
[00:06:35] Jessica: for. Right. So it’s like altitude training after that, everything else is like, oh, he’s is terrible.
But you, you basically say like, oh, it’s just one. It’s only one at a time. Like we can do this. And so we had ACEs three years later, so he just turned seven and then it was a very civilized amount of time. We were given five whole years to have Sariah. Who’s almost two as
[00:06:55] Stephanie: we have discussed. And
[00:06:57] Jessica: it is. Each, I feel like each time it’s new.
Again, you remember different things, different, you know, each kid is different, even genetically identical creatures are different, which is a whole mind bender, like same input, same moment in time, different outputs. And so the question of nature nurture is like, right. There is some sort of bizarre social experiment in front of you.
And I actually think it’s so it’s like something else. I don’t know if it’s epigenetics. I don’t know what it is, but I watch them. The same stuff, the same message, the same choice. And they just pick, they just not sure what they’re going to do. It is really hard to figure out and amazing and interesting.
[00:07:33] Stephanie: I was curious that like, what is nurture and then what is like genetically programmed, because even with three kids and not twins, like you see so much difference and I’m like, how are you like that? You grew up, like, it’s not birth order. It’s not this as like, Something about them for the, uh, I was going to say, uh, I had a friend who had twins and then who had went for a third and had twins again.
[00:07:56] Jessica: I mean, nervous, you know, twins are don’t even, I mean, until now running our family. And basically we knew we could do it if that’s what happened. And we just, you know, I feel like you’re always sort of opening yourself up to all possibilities that the university has to offer. And you, I don’t know, like you ended up.
You don’t get to choose. There’s a lot. You don’t get to choose. Although as it goes, it’s like I would, I couldn’t imagine anything more. Perfect.
[00:08:24] Stephanie: So are you going to go for the five?
[00:08:27] Jessica: You know, it’s so funny. I I’m so irrational about it. Like that is that would be stretching all factors. Right? All budgets, all, everything we feel complete, we feel really good.
And, um, the thing that for I’ve had health, I’ve been very fortunate to have healthy pregnancy. And yeah, it’s, it’s still like a two year cycle, right? Like you can’t wrestle. I couldn’t wrestle with the boys when I was pregnant with Sariah. I couldn’t, I couldn’t like really get in there. So you feel sort of like your, the volumes turned down on it or something like on your ability to really jump in, at least for me, the way that I, I would usually.
You are your babies, like you are owned by that baby bird for indefinitely. And so I feel honestly like the two year mark
[00:09:08] Stephanie: is a big one. Yeah. Same as we approach it. I finally feel like we can travel. We can do things. I mean, thanks to COVID, but you know, it’s like, I feel like finally we’re able to get out more like that first year are so hard and like, it’s just, and you don’t realize
[00:09:24] Jessica: it.
Although didn’t you feel? This is how I felt. I mean, again, all blessings, all, all gifts, all the time. The timing was very interesting because at being in the fourth trimester and just, we would have hunkered down in life would have been slow and close to home regardless. And then when it needed to be, because of COVID, I felt almost like we had a weird headstart and almost as if the rest of the world was sort of validating, like everyone was doing it, like there was zero FOMO.
There’s nothing out on. Right. So we just felt lucky.
[00:09:50] Stephanie: I completely resonate. Like for the first year, I couldn’t tell anyone that I actually was enjoying it because I felt really guilty, but I really did because we get to camp, like our friends were celebrating birthdays and doing all these things and everything got canceled and I knew I would have a newborn.
So I’m like, oh, I can’t go to that. Oh, I can’t do this. Well, why can’t fly over here? Because I’m going to have like a six week old and when everything got canceled, I mean, part of me, yeah. Ah, welcome to my new board, fourth trimester, like, and it was nice. My husband actually got to be home. He got to be there with the kids.
And it’s those little moments of time like that you don’t realize throughout the day. Like, even if it’s 15 minutes like hunting, can you just sit here so I can take a shower that you don’t realize, like how amazing it was to all be home? Like, yes, it was hard homeschooling and doing all that. And I know we were very fortunate, but it just, it was kinda nice.
[00:10:45] Jessica: Yeah. I, I feel like it was awesome. I, Sariah is so attached to her brothers and they are so attached to her.
[00:10:51] Stephanie: It was like bonding, just Sariah, like question. Now, when any of you leave the house because Zoe is like, huh? Like, daddy, where are you go? Where are you go? And it’s like, no, daddy’s not always home.
No, mommy’s not always home. Like we go place it. You know, what’s
[00:11:05] Jessica: funny. We both actually worked from home and so. We’re kind of around, but it is harder when her brothers are gone and she gets, she has some, like, it’s not issues, quiet time and some focus like one-on-one with, with an adult. But, um, yeah, we, we interrupt our days a lot to go upstairs and sneak in some hugs.
[00:11:25] Stephanie: before I jump into why you decided to start a company and everything in the middle of a pandemic and with, you know, when you baby and stuff with four children, Let’s back this up a bit. Let’s back it up. Yes. And I want to talk about like pre COVID life, starting Kiva and just the transition to, why did you leave there?
Ha. And how did, when did you have kids amongst this? Cause I know you started Coupa in 2005, you know, when did you actually exit that? And you know, the kids come into play with any of this and then, you know, how did kids change your job? Yeah,
[00:12:01] Jessica: well, I’ll fast forward through a number of years, but Kiva started more or less after college.
It was a few years out, three years out and it was this very nice, like beautifully naive sort of. What if idea based on. Just a very, like, very pure belief in the potential of other human beings and at curiosity about what would happen if we connected people in a different way, not through a donation, not through an, you know, an interest bearing investment, um, or some kind of like financial upside there.
Right. Any kind of structure that way. But if it was just a charity. Loan, no interest to the lender that would come back. Hopefully not always 98. It turns out almost 8% of the time it has. We thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if we could have all of our friends and I’m saying our, um, my co-founder Matt and I said, would it be interesting if we could ever friends and family lend $25 or more to our new friends and Uganda who I had met while I was doing an internship.
Wouldn’t that be like a fun again, kind of experiment to do. And so we had first seven entrepreneurs that I, I, I trumped around, uh, Uganda took pictures, wrote down their stories, uploaded the information to this like crazy dial up connection. And then we basically scammed our friends and family and said, Hey here, my new friends wants to go to her.
One’s a steam seamstress, one’s a farmer, et cetera. They each need 300 or 500 bucks. $3,000 at first and spam them said, we think it’ll work. What do you say? The money came in? Very, very, like not tech savvy at the time in terms of what we had set up, we just wanted to try to start. So it was like, you know, my grandma handed me a 20 and not, not like online processing, nothing like that at the time.
So basically that worked are seven entrepreneurs and they’re $3,000. It was a little mini success. Round write a little mini success story. So that led us to do another round and another and another, and formally, we sort of attempted to do it for real after that first $3,000 round of loans in October of oh five.
And it turns out that first year we facilitated about 500,000 in loans. It took five different countries. I believe Uganda being the first. Then the next year, it was 15 million, the next 40, the next a hundred. And then it’s like 1.6 or 1.7 billion today. These loans from everyday people, $25 at a time, you know, to other everyday people who need that financial boost at the moment to, to pursue their entrepreneurial projects and dreams.
[00:14:23] Stephanie: I was gonna say, did you have an entrepreneurial background at all? Like what about you inspired to even say like, It was like a project. You said, so you were, you were playing in the sandbox. You were just, yeah, let’s see what happens. And I think so many good
[00:14:36] Jessica: things happen that way. So many good things happen out of curiosity and a focus on the thing itself.
Not, you know, I I’ve done as, as again, as you and I discussed our paths have crossed through USC years back. I’d speak to a lot of students who. Have a great desire to be entrepreneurs. And when I ask them a little more about that, oftentimes, um, you know, what, what is the space that you want to play in?
Who are the people that you want to serve? What’s the sort of theory of change. There’s most exciting to you? What, anything, right. And if they come back with like, I don’t know, I just want to be an entrepreneur, I think to myself. Oh, okay. It’s like one of your pro athletes that you haven’t chosen a sport, like just pick something, be passionate about that thing.
And the rest you can kind of build around. So for me, it was. Never, I never had an intention of going to start something that would become this behemoth sort of nonprofit, unicorn. I thought I wanted to serve my new friends. I want to do this experiment with people that I know and love back home. I want to, I want to understand what happens when people are connected through this, this loan, um, Equal sort of partnership relationship that could be created by this exchange of information and capital.
That’s not a traditional, um, sort of donor beneficiary hierarchy where there’s there’s necessarily this sort of structure of, of inequality. And then it’s not a bad thing. Donations are needed, et cetera, et cetera. It’s a whole other conversation, but that was a one, it was a one-off. And so yeah, we, we were playing and then it took off.
So that was an amazing. Attempt. It was amazing. Amazing thing to be a part of. And I’m an entrepreneur. Yeah. And I realized, I mean, super selfishly, when I look at that experience, I, the thing that it gave me, it was this galvanization that I could go build stuff, build stuff that could be almost anything, right.
Like I had growing up thought business was about. Being selfish business is about gaining for oneself, sort of tricking people into giving you their money for stuff that they didn’t need. I mean, it was really negative. And I very quickly after I graduated college came to understand actually, actually there are people using business skills and entrepreneurial thinking to do amazing things, whether it’s a for-profit nonprofit or any hybrid, anything in between, you know, it’s their tax codes, not religions.
You can sort of get things done and have values and have more than one bottom line in any structure. And there’s a lot of. Baggage that comes with not the nonprofit culture or for-profit culture, but you can have businesses that are scaling and doing incredible things that are actually beautifully impactful.
And, and again, pure, right. You can also have nonprofits that are, that you would think, right. Everyone believes are just the best thing that the salt of the earth and doing good for people. And there’s a lot of amazing organizations that absolutely are doing that, but it doesn’t, it’s not a Garry. There are little non-profits that are really inefficient with their resources, for example.
So anyway, that was my first thing meant to really fast forward over about a decade. I started other ventures. I mean, several for-profits, other small projects that never did turn into anything else. And that was okay. There were interesting experiments to run. I wrote a book I started to teach at USC. I did a few EIR
[00:17:37] Stephanie: gigs.
And at what point in this journey, did you have your twins? Like where, what were you doing at the time you had your. That’s a great
[00:17:44] Jessica: question. So I had my second startup going and had raised my first round of capital. And then I raised my second round of capital and found out that I was pregnant with twins.
It’s funny. There’s actually, you can still dig it up and read, read them now. But one of my investors at the time basically wrote a blog. I hadn’t shared with the world that I was pregnant yet. I made my family knew and my colleagues knew, but that was it. And in a very public way, sort of out of me and wrote a blog post that was basically, I just invested in an entrepreneur.
Now she’s pregnant with twins and I have some doubts and I basically all and had a very civil conversation and offered his money back. He didn’t want it back. And basically we were able to like repair and move forward, but I wrote sort of responses to his piece that got published in a number of places that basically said I can’t do.
Both the job before me as a founder and CEO of his company and as a new parent to be, you know, the truth is the startup later became we, we sort of hit a wall and knew that we would either have to do a lot of pivoting. A lot of rebuilding, basically laws changed around which we had built our corporate.
The jobs act became a thing. And without going into that legal rabbit hole down that rabbit hole, basically we had built something that was about to become very, not as relevant with the jobs act coming to fruition. And so we ended up later after I’d given birth winding down the company and not raising a new round of funding, even though we had enough for our, we had offers on the table.
And I look back at that, but thing that, that was very interesting to me, as I sort of came, I CA I burst onto the scene as a parent, not just with twins and a startup, but it just received some, you know, a second round of funding, but sort of ready to fight and prove myself. Like I had, I had already written these pieces that sort of announced to the world, watch out.
I can do it all. And could. Yes. Did I feel a few months in to the, to that, that I feel like I was doing myself and my startup and my twins, the greatest service by trying to like, I had sort of a chip on my shoulder. Right. And just for my own emotional journey, it was, it wasn’t fun. It wasn’t, I wasn’t being gentle with myself at all.
It wasn’t that long ago, but I. I wasn’t thinking in terms of fourth trimester, I thought, you know, newborns are especially tiny little twin newborns. They sleep a lot, you know, that you have that adrenaline filled like rush at the beginning where you think it’s gonna, you don’t understand how it’s always changing, always evolving.
And for a while I thought, oh my gosh, I have my plan. I know how to do this. The additional help and care that I need. But I realized that I realized that it wasn’t necessarily the path that was going to be best, not just for the startup, but for me. And so I did take a step back. I mean, I ended up becoming a venture partner right away in a brand new fund.
Like I still have work before me, but I decided that that was, you know, at one, I guess, I guess what I wish I could have told myself then is it’s no one’s business. You, you make your choices and learn as you go. You don’t need to like prove anything to anyone. I don’t know that I wouldn’t have made any different choices necessarily, but it would’ve been a lot gentler on me and on my sort of ability to be really present and truthful about the highs and the lows of those very early days as a brand new parent, because I just felt like I had to be so tough about it.
And that, that I look back and I feel bad for that person. I’m like, oh, it was a lot. It’s a, of course it was super hard and that’s okay. But I felt so defensive going into it. So anyway, that’s, that’s a, that’s a lot about the first round of children’s.
[00:21:22] Stephanie: No, but knowing that with your twins moving forward, you had two others while still, you know, launching companies doing that.
How did that change the way you approached your next venture and you know, what did that look like? Pretty much 10
[00:21:36] Jessica: years. Yeah. Yeah. You know, there were a few things I became, I sort of thought, I mean, you never know with each kid what they will need, who they will be, how you will be. There’s always different things.
Right. But come up. And so I think knowing that, I couldn’t know until it was unfolding and giving myself space and a little, sorry for that was that me and a little gentleness, a little kindness to myself, knowing that I was. Allow myself, some wiggle room to see what I needed in those moments. Sometimes I was able to do one a lot more professionally than I had anticipated.
Sometimes it was less, sometimes it wasn’t about more or less. It was just a different way of getting things done or different paths than I thought I might’ve chosen early on. Yeah. With EISA I was. Working as a, uh, the first entrepreneur in residence at Disney Imagineering. And it was a sweet, fun gig, right.
It was an amazing experience to be there. And I, I really felt unapologetic when he arrived. I would bring him everywhere. I would nurse him everywhere. I just, I wasn’t going to, I was going to make it my own version of things, you know, and I, wasn’t going to look around for approval or does anyone else think I’m doing a good job here?
Does this investor or this person or that person. Approve of like how I’m getting all my things that I started done when I did it my way. Did
[00:22:52] Stephanie: any of this like, change the way you’ve like managed company as to like, did you implement any policies and things like that that you’ve changed throughout the years?
You’re like, wait, actually, we’re going to have a better. But like maternity program or we’re going to have a better whatever that
[00:23:06] Jessica: is. Absolutely. I mean, it’s, I, I have not all my companies have been small and early stage, but the way that we have set culture, that’s probably the biggest piece is absolutely been.
I think I’d like to, I hope so. I mean, I’ve gotten this feedback and centered around a lot of flexibility, a lot of respect and honor for whether it’s, whether it’s welcoming a new child or any other life change, but just for the balance of personal information. No, I’m, I’m F I’m remembering now with ASAP.
I remember among it among other things, like I gave lectures with him on my boob, actually, when he was two weeks old, I had to do like a, it sounds crazy now with COVID and the world being full of terms and things to think about taking a two week old out into a lecture hall, but I did, and I just wore my learn how to tell problems.
Yeah. But it’s funny among other things. I took him to Ted women and we didn’t even go into the main room, like with the big red circle where things are being recorded. We were like in a breakout area, kind of watching things on screens, but at one point and ill informed, I think he like worked at the hotel where it was being held.
He was not sort of in tune with Ted women’s, I think policies or anything else, but he basically said, Is this person ticketed. And I was like, he’s five months old and he’s nursing and asleep in this slang. What are you talking about? They asked me to leave the room and so I made a big stink about it. And that was it.
Got it got in the New York times about like mother nursing mother asked to leave Ted women because of bringing in nursing. So I think that’s one little nice data point or one little mini story about. I just never, never apologized for parenting my children. They are, and always will be my priority and I will get my jobs done.
But they even in this, now, this time of zooming and chaos going on in the background, oftentimes like I’ve, I’ve made a point to do my best, to never apologize for interruptions from my kids because they bear the
[00:24:59] Stephanie: priority full stop. That’s why I named this mommy’s on a call because it’s okay. If your kids come running in, I definitely say mommy’s on.
But, you know, it happens it’s life now, and that’s an incredible that you incorporate that in and you should never apologize. I feel like you’re the pioneer and not only like social entrepreneurship, but a pioneer in, you know, women’s kind of like rights in the workplace and gender equality and all of that.
[00:25:23] Jessica: I appreciate that I’m doing my best. I think we all show up and do it differently and we all prefer different things. Like. Some people don’t want their kiddos. They need some space to focus. And I get that too. So, you know what I mean? We all do it our own way. And I think that’s the whole point. We should all have an option.
[00:25:38] Stephanie: So now we’re in the middle of a pandemic and you have a newborn and you
we’re starting a, I guess we’re going on year three, whatever. We’re going to go back to now, you have a newborn. And when did you come up with the idea for altruists and kind of what made you decide? Okay. I have four kids now and it’s a pandemic. I’m just going to start another company. I mean, moms out there and I asked this because we all make excuses.
We all say, oh, maybe, you know, when the kids are older or, you know, not right now is not a good time. You seem to have launched it at a time where most people would say it’s not a good time. So what happened for you? And also what had kind of the behind the scenes look like to make it happen? Especially at home.
[00:26:24] Jessica: So I, for years, my husband and I have done it’s like our main family, uh, extracurriculars, the wrong word, but like an ongoing. Passion project, uh, I guess to explore different world religions with our kids. My husband is a scholar from the gym that doesn’t hurt. He’s pretty encyclopedic. I can kind of be like, Hey, tell them, tell them that story about the man that pops out of the pea pod.
It’s like, it’s actually a native American like origin story. Anyway. It’s amazing. So he’s, he’s able to sort of pull out a lot of stuff easily quickly and tell them. Stories of many other belief systems, many other cultures. And for us, it’s just very important that we are raising religiously literate kids.
Cause I do think it ties to cultural literacy, literacy, empathy, all sorts of good stuff. So that’s been our project and I say that because for years we thought. What could we build or make or provide for parents that want to teach their kids these core and common values around, especially in interfaith families or inner, you know, family?
Um, when I say interfaith I’m I actually mean like inter belief, maybe one parent has no faith background and is agnostic or atheist that counts too. So any kind of different belief systems coming together in a family unit, how do parents navigate that? And for us, we’ve been able to spend a lot of time making our own curriculum up, like making up, making up.
Projects and stories on Sundays with our kiddos. So we were thinking. Could we make this into something more helpful for other families. And that basically evolved into some experiments that we ran and, um, some fun Sunday afternoon spent with neighborhood friends and families around us doing reading a scripture, singing a song, learning a lesson, hearing a story and doing projects and what really resonates.
When you, when we stepped back after a few months of doing this, the projects, particularly the service projects really resonated. So you pair that with my own personal feelings of disappointment in myself for not, not having gotten out the door with my kids more in the first 10 years of the twins’ life to volunteer, we have a handful of times and we continue to try to make that happen.
Although it’s been really hard in the last two years, but I felt like when Sariah was born at. Play. It was a moment in time for me to step back and say like, how are we doing? Are we achieving all the goals? If you will. And our quotes, we all, all of our sort of greatest wishes for what we want to teach our kids.
Like what’s most important here. And we were missing the mark on service. So I thought as I am. New baby at home. The way we interacted with the world was through the boxes that showed up at the door. And we were so fortunate to have that be the case. And I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting if it wasn’t just things arriving that we consume, but things arriving that would give us tools and learning materials to be.
Turn around and give back and reach back out into the world in a positive way. Like what if there was a service project that kind of came in a box and I was very inspired by the love. Every is the Kiwi crates and all those that we’ve subscribed to for a long time. And I thought, what if it went beyond, again, I’m doing air quotes here because I have all the respect in the world for those companies and others like them.
But beyond. Let’s consume some, just let’s read a book or just let’s make a science project, but what if we could do something useful or helpful for other human beings or animals or the planet. And that was the idea for altruists. So today we create kid friendly and family friendly, volunteer and service projects in.
And you can sign up to subscribe monthly, or you can just come to the site, pick issues that you care about and get one off boxes and projects. We’re about to launch group options. So if there’s, you know, girl scout, troops, or church groups or classrooms that want to do this, that’ll be more possible. But right now we’ve, um, we have a box on homelessness and the unhoused.
We had one on clean water. We had one on hunger and food insecurity. We have one on saving the pollinators. We have one on energy, poverty. We have one. Refugees kids can make a welcome kit for new arrival, refugee kiddo in their community. And then all the things are included, right? Materials and pre posted mailer to send back projects when that’s relevant.
But some of the projects also are like about doing better at home. So we have one. Our next box is on shelter, pets and kids. Toys for dogs and cats, but we have one with Audubon coming up that we’re super excited about where kids can help make their own homes safer and more friendly for migratory birds.
And so you don’t necessarily always make or gather something and send it off. You often do projects and hope to,
[00:30:39] Stephanie: I love it because that’s altruists so we got the homeless homelessness. And so it’s amazing. And I went through it, honestly, the connect. So, um, for those out there who can’t see this there’s five mini books in there, that’s learned connect, active and do more.
And the stories that they put in it talking about, you know, an actual child that’s homeless, like almost made me cry. I was like, and then ironically, I wanted to show you this, which I know we’re on a podcast, so people can’t see it. But my son actually for school, Ironically had a help, the homeless project that he brought home yesterday.
And I was like, I was like, this is so crazy and serendipitous, because we literally are talking about like, we all need shelter and why. And he goes, oh mommy, we need to make a kit for homeless people. And I was like, huh, like, wait, w I’m so confused. What’s going on? So it’s amazing that. It ties in. So the lessons you learn, the stories and all of that.
I just love it because for me, giving back has been part of my life ever since I was little, like, and now I sit on the board of a nonprofit, like I just, it’s something that I’ve always done. Community service, giving back, fall hunting. I was always looking for ways to involve the kids, because sometimes it’s hard to bring like a four year old to the food pantry or, and really all they could do was like clean a beach.
Cause that’s like the safest, easiest thing for them to do. And there’s not, it’s not the impact like, and so I love getting them involved in things where they actually like meet the people or see that. Yeah, it’s just, it’s amazing what you’re doing and learning about all the issues in the world. So,
[00:32:13] Jessica: and that may not be, that makes my day, I’m so glad that it was a success in your home and you know, we’re still so new.
So we are really eager to get this right. Or even more. Right. And so we’re super open to feedback if there, and if anyone is listening and has, you know, an idea for a group that could use our projects or even a nonprofit that you think would be a great partner or a project or an issue, we’re all yours.
And a lot of what we’ve built has been very. And closely tied to feedback we’ve gotten. So if there’s something out there that you’re like, you know what? My kid asked me about this today, and I really don’t know how to talk to her about it. Let us know. Maybe we’ll get to make something that would be helpful.
Actually, this is too funny not to share it. My friend Leah said to me early on when I was starting to figure out what this might be and trying to figure out how much our learning materials, for example, helpful. Do you just want the project is a guide like FAQ. Not fun facts, not so fun. Facts answers to tough questions, like what would be useful there?
And she said the funniest thing, she’s like, oh my gosh, I still need a guide. My kids keep asking me about climate change. And I don’t even know what to say. I’d rather they just ask me about sex everyday. Cause at least I know the answers. This is a real pain point. It’s scary to crack open the conversation about why this person is unhoused and asking for money, like, or why this, like, why are people hungry in the world?
It’s a lot, it’s a tall order to translate these big issues to kids. So we want to help do that. And then also turn around and give you something to do right away. That can be impactful. It’s
[00:33:36] Stephanie: so true. It’s hard to talk to them about it. So part of the nonprofit, I am. Program, um, that was called holiday baskets where it started in the great depression, but we put together all these essential items for family.
But then we also on top of that by Christmas gifts or holiday gifts for each of the kids, clothes essentials, and it’s about $2,000 worth of like supplies and things. And we deliver it to a family. And this year we had about 110 families. And so I brought my kids with me to shop for them and to also deliver and all of that.
You’re right. The questions that came up, it was really hard for me. Like how do I phrase this? They’re like, well, why, like my daughter’s like, I don’t want that doll. I’m like, oh no, we’re giving that to, you know, so-and-so and she’s like, well, why I’m like, and I tried to explain and it’s and so it’s, it’s interesting.
It’s like, I guess communicate and like express, like what it means and like how to talk about all that. So I love how you make it very digestible. And also it’s like a book you can read. And so I don’t have to come up with the words because sometimes it’s hard. Like you want to do the right thing and you want to say the right thing, but, so let’s back this up a little, like you had the concept, you wanted to do this.
And now, like I get this pretty finished package, but where was the in-between like, how did this, how did you make it happen? At home too. You had, you know, we were in COVID you had an you’re like, how did you just develop all this? Well, as
[00:35:00] Jessica: you probably if experienced in your own journey, although I don’t want to ever presume parenting, you know, having kids show up focuses, you like nothing else.
So you just, you do the things that are important and the rest falls by the wayside and it’s fine. It’s good. It’s it’s clarifying. So when we were, I mean, as we have been for nearly two years now, staying inside. You staying close to home, focusing on taking care of our people, which again, like exacerbated this feeling that we weren’t giving back much or enough to the world.
It was it’s like work and family. It’s not like all these other pieces that float around that take up time. I mean, I miss them. I want to go to dinners and get out and do, do other activities. But when it was just work and family, I was really able to harshly prioritize. I was able to kind of work whatever hours I could fit in.
Pre-dawn late at night. During naps, whatever. And so I turned my dining room and jeweler our little mini warehouse and packing station for the first round. We promptly worked with the warehouse after that. Cause we there’s a lot, but you know, there’s the, the messy beginnings that I just so have a soft spot for and I love, so it was very much like, let me do this myself.
I want to have my, my, my hands on every piece in the beginning. So I really understand what we’re making. Is
[00:36:14] Stephanie: this the first physical product you’ve created, like in terms of your entrepreneurial journey, because you’ve always done kind of like online or more. Wow.
[00:36:23] Jessica: It’s so fun. And I I’ve been, I’ve been, I mean, I’m saying this without mentioning the most important piece, which is I have the most incredible team and they all are so invested and they’re so talented.
They all, you know, I’m a believer or somebody asked me the other day to, to hire next for her star startup. Instantly knew my answer, which was at the stage that she’s at right now, the stages to that, which is super early, you want to find generalists who are just ready and willing to jump in and do whatever needs done.
Cause you all do everything at the beginning. It’s it’s everything. Just picking up whatever piece needs to be done next. And so I now have there’s, there’s four of us, myself, and three others who I couldn’t do any of this without. Who’s the first
[00:37:06] Stephanie: person you hired? Like what was the first person on your team?
I worked with her at
[00:37:10] Jessica: a former job. Her name is Anne and she is. Just such a rock star. She is like a figure it out or, you know, and we, we, we joke that we share a brain, but we really do think I love it because we think similarly enough that we can be super efficient. I know we share the same values, but we, I think have just enough of a difference in perspective and information and sort of like world experiences that we round each other out pretty well.
So it’s the right balance of complimentary and overlap. And did you
[00:37:38] Stephanie: fundraise at all for this? Because I mean, you have the most beautiful boxes, perfect branding, you know, a lot of moms out there who just want to start a business or like, how do I get that? Like, that’s really pretty, like, that’s great, but you know, so you got.
[00:37:51] Jessica: I did. And, you know, we’ve, we start from scratch with every box. And so I’m so glad that that’s being valued because it is hard and time consuming and expensive to do that. There’s so many other ways, you know, that just happened to be the thing that we decided was important for us. One of the things that was important for us, but there are always scrap your ways to go to take the first step and then you just build, and sometimes you feel more slowly, but it’s, it still counts.
It’s still valid. I chose to raise funding, but it’s not. It’s ever without cost. So my investors own part of the company and that’s, I love it. I love I’d rather have the right people on board and share the wealth, share the, the ups and the downs. And I couldn’t be doing what I’m doing without them. So that was something that I needed to do, but I’ve worked on certainly my fair share of things where I haven’t raised funding at first and just scrapped it together.
Begged and borrowed and made it up as I went along with, you know, at the beginning, less polished outcomes, but that’s okay. And you’re right. A lot of the tech enabled stuff, like, I feel like I know enough to be dangerous and a handful of computer languages and that sort of thing, but like, I’m so grateful that I was able to raise funding and get a ton of help on this one.
[00:38:58] Stephanie: that’s what I did. So now between work. Do you find time for yourself? And if so, what do you do
[00:39:04] Jessica: for yourself? I go on walks with my daughter, which is both of us, but it’s really, she could care. She’d be happy doing anything and that’s for me. And it brings me so much joy. We usually do early morning walks.
I do yoga pretty regularly. I do my own sort of walking and hiking near our house when I can duck out for 30 minutes, if there’s childcare or someone else home. And then. I write, I don’t do it enough, but I really, really love it. And it helps me sort of process the world. So those are my main things. You know, refueling times, but the other piece of it is I think like learning for me as my kids, they all do change and grow so quickly.
I really am getting a lot of joy and energy lately and just making the attempt to be super present and go with their pace, not rushing along. They want to play Legos. That’s what we do. If they try to really follow their lead and just not have as much of an agenda. As I think I used to being super type a and w w for a minute, we were a family of all oldest.
My husband’s an oldest, I’m an older, and then the twins came and they both kind of arrived first. So that was crazy. I’m glad we have other people to shake it up, but I’m a lot more. I just want to be with them and, and see the world through their eyes. And I get a lot of, I actually do get a lot of energy through that.
If I’m not like trying to get a bunch of stuff done with them.
[00:40:24] Stephanie: Well, that this is all amazing to wrap things up. I want to ask, what do you think is your superpower you gained once you became a mom that makes you better at business or life? It’s a great question. So yeah, like what did your kids help create?
Like a new superpower for
[00:40:41] Jessica: you? I. Felt, uh, I was surprised this was the most surprising thing. And I think it’s, it’s, it’s a, it’s a purse. It might be perceived as a weakness. Basically. It is a real strength. I don’t, I had an instant, like humility about the absolute vulnerability that new parents experienced, particularly.
Parents who have given birth mothers who have given birth. And I, I like, honestly, in my heart, just, I actually called friends that had had kids in the few years before me and said I had no idea or, I mean, wow, like, are you, I should have done more for you or it’s like, it wasn’t involved. I just suddenly my heart understood how dependent we all are.
I mean, on each other and how. How very sensitive, how very vulnerable new moms and tiny new babies are. And it just, it’s a beautiful and super humbling moment in time. And so it just gave me a lot of like a feeling of comradery and just a love for all parents at every stage, but certainly those very early days.
So I think, yeah, the super power to be very specific. Understanding how vulnerable we can all be. And we all started out as, and so it gives me a softness that I can tap into with difficult people, or when I feel like I’m being too
[00:42:00] Stephanie: hard on myself. That’s beautiful. And where can we find you online? And
[00:42:05] Jessica: please, please, please check out.
Altruists it’s two L’s and there’s an S at the end. It’s plural. So a L L T R U I S T s.com. That’s where you can find. My work and all the things we’re
[00:42:20] Stephanie: about. Yeah. And it’s amazing. And go subscribe to it. I’ll put all this stuff in the show notes. Thank you so much, Jessica, for joining today. I loved
[00:42:27] Jessica: having you.
I loved it too. Thank you so much. Thank
[00:42:31] Stephanie: you so much for listening to this episode of mommy’s on a call. Your support means the absolute world to me. You can find the show notes for this episode and other goodies over at mommy’s on a call.com. And if you enjoyed this episode or have gotten value from the podcast, I would be so grateful if you could head on over to apple podcasts and leave a rating and review so that we can reach and empower more moms all over the world together.
Thank you so much again, mommy pod, and I will see you here next time.