What does it take to be an entrepreneur? To turn your passion into a business that you love to run? In modern-day America, it’s easy to think of entrepreneurship as something that’s untouchable – only accessible to those who have an excellent education or an incredible mind. We think of Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, or any other world-changing innovator. The result? We don’t try it ourselves. The reality is that, with hard work and the right amount of dedication, you can turn your interests into a viable business. We’re covering this and more on Episode 1 of the Next Matters Most Podcast as Nick talks with Jes Averhart, creator of the Reinvention Roadmap, and Founder of Jess and Co.
Jes Averhart is the CEO of Jes & Co. and creator of the Reinvention Roadmap! As a Mom, Storyteller, Podcaster, and member of a Badass Girl Tribe, she uses her flaws and lessons to fuel each incredible life chapter! Jes is obsessed with the process and power of REINVENTION and wants to inspire others to start their journey.
Jes realized her true passion for leadership development and women's empowerment while leading partner engagement at the American Underground, a Google for Startups Tech Hub (aka, the 'Startup Capital of the South' by CNBC). During her tenure, she had the unique opportunity to manage relationships with Google, Fidelity Labs, Wells Fargo, Coastal Credit Union, Lincoln Financial, and others. Her time spent immersed in the startup scene also inspired her to co-found Black Wall Street Homecoming, a nonprofit aimed at closing the funding gap for Black and Brown tech founders.
Earlier in her career, Jes launched a boutique event production company. She specialized in providing professional event management services for the likes of the Cincinnati Bengals & Cleveland Browns (NFL), Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA), The Procter & Gamble Company, Pepsi Cola North America, as well as a growing number of companies based in the Research Triangle Park.
Originally from Evansport, Ohio, Jes learned the ropes quickly by working in the family's real estate, auctioneering, and appraisal business. After college, she accepted a corporate role with General Electric; but it didn't take long before she started her own company, making her a4th generation entrepreneur. Jes moved to North Carolina in 2005 devoting much of her time serving on various nonprofit boards, writing, cheering on The Ohio State Buckeyes, and globe-trotting. But without question, her greatest gift is her teenage son Tre who helps keep all things in perspective!
The truth is, whether we realize it or not, reinvention is inevitable and recurring. The question is, are you in the driver’s seat or a passive bystander in the next chapter of your story. We’ve all been through countless moments that qualify as “reinventions.” If you were fully present in these moments, you probably became a little more grounded and began to believe in the possibility of more.
The Reinvention Roadmap Course allows you to discover the next BEST version of you. The art of reinvention should be exciting and full of wonder and curiosity. The process should be fun, insightful, and full of introspection…. Reinvention is not by accident…it’s by design.
"Passion is not always a viable business plan. You have to think about whether or not your passion can be turned into profit. Instead, think about purpose. When you use the purpose behind what you're doing to drive you, the hard days become easier because you know what you're working towards."
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NJ: All right, awesome. First episode! I guess we could start out by you giving us an outline of who you are and what you do.
JA: My name is Jess Averhart, and I am the creator of a new concept called the Reinvention Roadmap. The idea of reinvention roadmap is to help women in particular level up and think about their reinvention story. How'd it go from good to great? These are a million cliches I just threw out there but there are a ton of women out there right now in this changing environment and time that are trying to figure out if they're doing the thing that they're meant to do, and if they are, are they doing it in the best way possible. The reinvention roadmap takes people through six specific steps to help them get to the destination they want, and I also have a podcast. Like you Nick, I've been through ventures my whole life. I've been all over the map, and at every stage of the process, I've had people that have helped me along the way. I know that I need to step into what I know to be true, take some hits along the way, but eventually enjoy my life and do what I love.
NJ: That's awesome. Like I was saying before we started this, I wanted to start catching authentic conversations here with people in my network to capture the experience for other people and entrepreneurs. This podcast is about how technology can save the world, along with other tools like you're mentioning like support coaching in mental health, that goes into the portfolio of improving and going to the next level. right now we're in a place where we're having to think about the tactical steps of what's next. For a lot of us, next is to have a budget, or get in shape, because when we get back to work and go back to our old habits we have to be ready and more resilient than ever. How do we build resilience? How do we have more goals? It sounds like what you're working on is timely because it helps people set up for the future and being their best selves. What inspired that?
JA: Well as you talk about what we're all experiencing collectively as a world, the world is experiencing a disruption that makes it hyper-focused on what it gives to you every day. From the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep, it feels like zombie moments that you had in your day creep in and you think about where you didn't pay attention to your routines and your people in your life. Now you're forced to pay attention. You're forced to look at your marriage, your company, the people that work for you, in a new way because everything is so acute. The cracks and fissures from my routine before the pandemic have now become a lot wider, and I've had to adjust a lot. It's like a chiropractor right now – we all need to get realigned in a way that allows us to come back fully adjusted and better than we were before once this is all over. I talked with a mentor of mine about crucible moments. Moments that change you a lot. For me it was my divorce, and when I came out of it I was a different person. The pandemic is one of those moments for all of us. It's a time where we can change and grow for the better. if I hadn't thought about the lies I was telling myself, and the lessons I could be learning, I never would be the person I am today after my divorce. This is the best time for us to sit and really take stock of what we've built, whether we've built it the right way, and whether there are mistakes that we need to make in order to grow.
NJ: For people that don't know, you're an influencer and a leader in both our community of Durham, the state as a whole, and beyond for different aspects of leadership, communication, economic development, and more. I want to ask you about what turned this into a business. I can sympathize with what you went through, not in a personal sense, but more with the aspect of self-improvement. I used to really not think that I had a lot to improve on, but I've eventually come to realize my blind spots and the importance of confronting them and trying to improve them. I can consume growth in leadership, I can listen to a podcast or read a book, and realize that they're important now. I'd love to pick your brain on your big mission statement of why and how you're building more women entrepreneurs in the workforce. How do you apply the learning into business, and did you have a moment where you realized that you were helping people constantly, and you should flip it into a company?
JA: At some point, you take what you've been listening to and learning and realize that you can teach it to others and help them grow themselves along the way. Like for me for business, a lot of the things I've been saying can feel soft and squishy around this idea of reinvention, but I started to learn that, really my whole life but definitely, in the last five years, there's real value in focusing on the whole person. People say “I don't really get how you build relationships,” people say I'm a good writer, I'm a great communicator, and I'm a good networker. I don't know how to code, I'm not an accountant, I don't have letters behind my name, so people discount those softer skills. But the softer skills have propelled me throughout my entire career, because not only do I married the strengths of being a great communicator, relationship builder, communicator, and writer, but I'm also a really hard worker. I work all the time. So if you take those two things and you have an idea, well, nothing can stop you. The whole person gets neglected. We focus too much on outcomes and what people are delivering to the marketplace, when people are hurting, they don't know how to do their retirement, and they won't tell anybody. They're too scared to talk about it because it'll make them look like something to other people. So they go years without saving or doing smart investment because they don't want to tell anybody that they have chink in their armor. That's sad to me. If they're done well, peer groups foster vulnerability, a lot like Brene Brown's books, where people can tell others things that are holding them back and save months and months of their time. Sharing that knowledge and helping somebody through difficulty is important. We need to do more of that. There are people out there who will resonate with my message, and I want to work with them and help them. I can never go back because I will feel unfulfilled.
NJ: What I'm hearing is that your story makes you uniquely you and that realizing the hard parts of your story allows you to realize your weaknesses and strengths. How did you figure out those parts of your story?
JA: My story is weird. It almost defies belief in a few different ways. People will guide you along the way, which in my case was people saying that I should write a book. People from a lot of different Industries. And so I listened.
NJ: How would you package that up for a potential person that you might be helping?
JA: The most effective leaders know their story. They can tell their story. It makes you more empathetic and makes you more believable. It makes you more effective. Who are you? If you don't know who you are to the core, self-help books fall flat. They aren't hitting the right things because you aren't in touch with yourself. People don't pull this out of themselves because they discount it. They think that everyone has a thing and that they don't. They think that they don't have the motivators that others seem to have. Your story is uniquely yours, and you will find the energy around your own story. You have to find triggers. Set your course. You have to have reasons for what you do. You are the most effective as a human and a leader if you know your story.
NJ: Absolutely. I got mine from a coach, and he was going hard on the story. I was all-in on whole self and fulfillment, in thinking about how we want to praise and reward from others, relationships, community, and many other things. If you focus on your goals and sacrifice community and personal relationships, you won't be happy and flourishing. We need to get rid of the word happy. When you focus on happiness, you don't achieve it. Are you going to chase success at the expense of everything else? Because that's where you will not get fulfillment. So as we think about Next Matters Most and the future, it's about looking at ourselves and strengthening ourselves so that we can look at the future and tackle these problems – not only as you work on your company, but as you work on your relationships and fulfillment.
JA: People want to jump to the end result – talk about tactics, improve their brand – but the foundational work is the hardest work, and requires the most discipline and bravery. It's very personal and scary. But if you can get it right, you can do anything that you want to do, because it's a time something that's not going to be shaken.
NJ: Are there any thoughts and tips that you could share for people who want to see if their passion can become a viable business idea?
JA: Yeah, I have a whole thing on passion and purpose. When I hear the word passion, I get a little bit grisly, because you can't always make a viable business about your passion. I'm passionate about traveling and I can't make a business out of that. But with purpose, there is a workaround. I had a mentor one time that told me the questions you should ask yourself when starting a business. The first one is “are you comfortable being uncommon?” If you aren't comfortable being uncommon you shouldn't be starting a business. You have to give up a lot, people don't often understand you, you feel alone, you're taking on a lot of risks, people don't understand that risk, and they want you to reassign your gifts and talents to something safe. They don't understand why you want to start a company. So if you're not willing to be uncommon, hold on because it's not the time for you. People will back off quickly as soon as the criticism comes if they aren't comfortable with that. The second is that I would ask the people around me who know me best about my idea. Since they don't feed my ego, they're able to cut through the noise to help me with my thought process and help me. Practically speaking, the Lean Canvas Model. What's going on in the marketplace, is it real, could it make it? Is this new or is it the fifth version of the same thing? The Lean Canvas Model is a free one-page tool online that assesses what you're thinking about doing. So those are some really high-level thoughts, but doing that foundational work, getting a good group of peers around you to throw the ideas off of, and then practice putting it on paper and seeing who you're up against, is not easy.
NJ: It's funny how it’s that simple. But it makes me think about a lot of peers that aren't willing to sacrifice time to do what they want to do. Across-the-board, that's a huge one. It's going to be uncomfortable. Are your clients specifically thinking about leadership and career development, or are you helping people be better humans, parents, and partners?
JA: They usually come in for a career coaching moment and end up receiving a life coaching relationship. I'm super clear about wanting to work with women, but I've had two men in the last week asking for career advice. It goes back to the whole person. There's a whole lot of things going on that creates confusion in their life. My work is to help sort out the confusion to help lay it out so that people can see it for what it is, and draw some lines from here to there. What I enjoy the most is getting through the process of asking strengths and assets so that people can look at their crucible moments and lay out the map of how they're going to get there. The ones who are really on it pursue it with reckless abandon because they're grateful to have a partner in it. So much of our personal work we do alone. Coaching is really helpful because it provides a safe space for you to explore everything about you and get to the next level.