Sometimes, social entrepreneurs can be found in unexpected places. When I first met Jess Lively, she was a veteran jewelry and accessories designer who also wrote a popular blog about intentional living. I attended her very first workshop on designing a business with intention before I launched Prosper PR, and her wisdom, insight and support were one of the reasons I made it through those tough early days as a new business owner.
Fast forward one year, and Jess is now running her own successful life, business and home design consulting business, With Intention. Though she’s never thought of herself a social entrepreneur in the traditional sense, I think her dedication to using her talents to serve others makes her just that.
If you’ve ever thought you didn’t fit the social entrepreneur mold, Jess’s story is for you. It’s proof that impact can have a place in any business, and that realizing your purpose can and should be a lifelong journey.
What does With Intention do?
With Intention is my way of helping people design lives, homes, and businesses with intention. I work one-on-one with clients in these areas as well as via live workshops across the country. I also work on commercial design projects that intersect brand and space into one cohesive package.
What’s your role at With Intention?
I’m the founder.
What did you do before starting With Intention and how did it help get you where you are today?
Before With Intention I was a jewelry and accessory designer for 14 years. I began the company by accident at the age of 15. After years of trial and error I grew my business from part-time in school to full-time after college graduation.
The skills I learned there directly impact how I’m able to help my business clients. Along the way I was also devoted to interior design as a personal hobby and I spent seven years designing my own life with intention. These skills are now being used on the home and life aspects of my service as well.
Where did you get the idea for With Intention?
I got the idea from my blog readers, quite frankly. Though I knew all along that my purpose is to help people design lives with intention, the actual services that I provide are largely created around the needs my readers have approached me for.
How did you discover your passion for your work?
I don’t think that I really discovered my passion for my work. I made my work support my passion. I deeply want to help people in these ways. That’s what I’m meant to do. So it’s a natural thing for me, business or no business.
What do you think makes you uniquely qualified to do your kind of work?
I’m pretty much an expert on the things I help people with from my own experience. I have lived a life with intention and make difficult decisions along the way that support my life intentions.
I have built a business from scratch and understand how to help others do the same.
I have 14 years of brand experience and a personal passion for interiors that allows me to uniquely understand the needs of businesses who need to merge brand and space into a consistent package.
What does an average day look like for you?
Right now I’m in the process of modifying my days because they were so hectic! going forward I hope to do the blogging, outreach, and housekeeping tasks of my business in the mornings and consult or work on design projects in the afternoon.
I have an intention not to check email on nights or weekends, but I’m now also trying to limit the number of times I check my inbox to just two a weekday – which is incredibly hard to do, but should open up even more time in my life.
To the best of my ability I do not work after 6p or on weekends.
Do you have any advice for people who may want to turn their idea or passion into a successful small business or social enterprise?
It’s really not that complicated. You need to start where you are and just keep going. There is no such thing as failure if you refuse to give up.
And if in the future you realize there is something better out there for you and you decide to go in a new direction, go. Let your intuition guide you. You don’t have to have all the answers right now (you never will).
You gotta take what you have and work with it until more is revealed.
In what ways would you like your career and your business to evolve over the next few years?
I’m actually really excited about the commercial design projects I’m working on. I’d love to find a way to share these stories and insights with people online through an online video series.
Though I don’t have all the details lined up just yet, I’d love to see where something like that would lead in the years to come.
What were the biggest challenges you faced while growing your previous business and starting With Intention? The biggest rewards?
The biggest challenge early on was trusting that the money that I needed would be provided.
Starting something from scratch organically was not easy, to say the least. But I had a deep sense of purpose and direction which helped me face the anxiety attacks that accompanied cash flow the first year or two.
Now, the biggest reward is seeing that as I devote my time and attention towards service I am helping people in deeper ways and abundance is naturally following.
I have designed my life and career with such intention that, though it’s still not “perfect” by any stretch, it is so very exciting and fulfilling. I love what I get to do.
What has been the best moment of your career so far?
That’s a great question. There have been a lot of great highlights over the years but the moment that sticks out in my memory is the one where I realized it was time to end my accessory company and pursue my purpose-filled career (With Intention) full-time.
I felt an immense weight lift off my shoulders as I realized I could finally help people all day long.
What traits to you think social entrepreneurs need to be successful?
Faith – It is hard to keep going when times are tough if you don’t have faith in what you are doing and that things will be provided at the right time.
Integrity – Social entrepreneurs are doing something for a higher purpose, not just profit. And to do this and retain client trust you need to have the utmost of integrity and authenticity.
Gumption – You need to trust that what you are doing is worthwhile deep down. You need to rely on your gut to guide you. And you need to have the ability to choose a different path than others around you.
You can give just one line of advice to a young, aspiring social entrepreneur. What is it?
As I mentioned earlier: just keep going.
Photo credit: Daniel Peter (featured image/headshot). All other images are originals.