Life experiences shape philanthropists approach to economics
Photo courtesy of kivateam.tumblr.com
Jessica Jackley has already accomplished significantly more than her average thirty-something-year-old peer. In a few short years, she has founded two successful and innovative companies, taught as a professor of Global Entrepreneurship at USC’s Marshall School of Business, gotten her MBA from Stanford Business School and toured the country to share her success story with university students, not to mention being a mother of two.
She offered four key pieces of advice for Wake Forest students who are looking to find their passion and design a career path, especially in the realm of entrepreneurship: Know your identity, learn to listen, cocreate and, finally, begin now.
“The greatest entrepreneurs are able to take their ideas out into the world and firmly stand on their ideas to be successful,” Jackley said. “Optimism is key. An entrepreneur has to believe that tomorrow will be better than today.”
Like many students, Jackley started out majoring in philosophy at Bucknell University, unsure of what she wanted to do with her liberal arts degree when she entered the working world.
She did, however, know one of her passions.
Growing up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, Jackley recalled attending Sunday school, where she was introduced to the concept of poverty. When her Sunday school teacher told her that the poor would always be with us, she remembered feeling an overwhelming sense of panic by the enormity of the poverty problem. At that moment, her lifelong passion for helping the less fortunate ignited.
“Reflect on your values. Continue to learn about everything you can, especially the things that stir your heart the most,” Jackley said to the students who attended.
Following her own advice, she went on a service trip to Haiti during her senior year of high school to help with rebuilding efforts after the earthquake. The trip left her feeling further overwhelmed by the idea of poverty but the experience gave her a better idea of how she could utilize her passions to change people’s lives.
“The currency that is important, probably to you and definitely for me, is not money but the impact you are making,” Jackley said.
After graduating from Bucknell, she moved out to Silicon Valley and found a temp job at Stanford. It was there, surrounded by people her age successfully following their passions, that she encountered Nobel Peace Prize recipient Muhammad Yunus, one of the most successful microfinance entrepreneurs in the world. His concept of taking the services we get from our banks every day, and bringing them to places where people could utilize them on a much smaller scale, helped Jackley to envision her own idea of aiding the poor.
After a few years at Stanford, Jackley took a job with Village Enterprise Fund, and went to Kenya and Tanzania to help the microfinance firm at the ground level. There she saw citizens taking small loans to create small business enterprises. Witnessing how microfinance was allowing impoverished people to break out of the cycle of poverty, she decided it was time to put her passion and her newfound experience to good use.
In 2005, Jackley co-founded Kiva.org and acted as its Chief Marketing Officer. Kiva, a not for profit organization, is the world’s first person-to-person microlending website that allows people from around the world to make investments of as little as 25 dollars in the businesses of entrepreneurs worldwide. In just the past seven years, Kiva has grown from a small website in which Jackley’s family and friends invested into a thriving business with over 333 million dollars in investments each year.
Taking her entrepreneurship experience with her, Jackley got her MBA from Stanford School of Business and founded a new company called ProFounder which crowdfunds entrepreneurial start-ups in the United States.
As CEO of ProFounder, Jackley is quite the success story. But her key message to students is that anyone can reach her level of success.
“We are born with great potential; we just have to convince ourselves that our story will be one of greatness,” Jackley said. “You all have ideas, big ideas, maybe even dreams. You just need to believe that you can go and do your wildest dreams. Your experience, your journey right now is what counts.”