Thematically, the entrepreneurial buzz has been swiping the world’s feet. With new technologies constantly emerging, we wondered why this was the case and what luxuries does the entrepreneurial path contain. There’s a difference in the definition of luxury for different people around the world. The common response has been that luxury is spending time with family and friends. With Jessica Jackley’s recent book launch “Clay. Water. Brick,” I had the opportunity to interview her about her entrepreneurial drive, mission and adorable children. She’s sincere at heart and yearning to improve the lifestyle of those around her. Clay Water Brick highlights the entrepreneurial path and how “The heart of entrepreneurship is never about what we have. It’s about what we do.”
Jackley goes a long way in illustrating her story and how she founded Kiva. It was a long, hard journey with many struggles and triumphs. It’s an inspiration for those around her to continuously move forward and find the inner-entrepreneur within all of us.
What advice would you tell the 18 year old version of yourself? How about the 25 year old version of yourself?
“I’d tell myself to never make decisions out of fear, and to not worry – that the future will work out just fine.”
In other words, channel your inner Bob Marley.
“Yes, exactly. During the early stages of my career, I certainly didn’t know everything I thought I ‘should’ know – and I am still learning – always will be. But, I would have told my 25-year old self, it’s OK to be confident in the meantime! In the end, no one has lived today, before, and everyone is learning as they go.”
What lessons do you teach your children?
I hope to show my kids that they can love learning, so that they go through life with joy and excitement and fearlessness about being creative and trying out new ideas. Later on when they are older I also want them to know that there are very few rules, really, about what their career paths need to look like, or what steps they need to take. I hope to nurture their ability to be self-reliant and independent, so they can live and work in an entrepreneurial way.
How did you become so mission-driven on ending poverty? Would you consider that your personal mission? Is it still? What’s changed?
I have been given everything a person could ask for in life, and it just feels perfectly normal to me to channel that gratitude into serving other people, particularly those who have much less than I’ve been given. So my mission statement for my career has been a constant work in progress, but for quite a while now it has been this: To love others and inspire hope by championing the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in all of us. Through Kiva and other ventures, I have aimed to manifest this by connecting entrepreneurs with the resources and community they need to succeed. Having this mission has allowed me to make decisions about where and how to spend my time, and has helped me to make sure all of my work and endeavors — whether full-time or part-time, ongoing or project-based, paid and unpaid — fit together as a cohesive whole.
What are your values?
I really should have a solid list but I don’t right now – maybe because, for a long time I would have said that my values were identical to my religious beliefs, but now they are a much broader set. So, off the top of my head/heart I’d say, in no real order: Compassion. Boldness. Curiosity. Stories. Voice. Beauty. Openness. Interfaith action.
What’s your definition of an entrepreneur?
My favorite definition of entrepreneurship, which comes from Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson: “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” In other words, entrepreneurship is the ability to pursue opportunity without money, or permission, or pedigree, or most other means that might make the pursuit easier. Stevenson emphasizes the pursuit without regard to possessions. As I see it, his definition hints at this truth: the heart of entrepreneurship is never about what we have. It’s about what we do.
So, my definition of an entrepreneur is someone who embodies this. Wherever they are in their lives, they approach each day as a problem-solver and solution-finder. They are proactive, full of hope, see opportunities where others see none – and most importantly, never stop pursuing their goals even when great obstacles stand in their way.
What’s your definition of luxury?
The greatest, richest stuff of my life is time with my husband and kids. It’s not a luxury in the sense that it’s an “extra” or unnecessary thing. It’s simply the most valuable thing in my life.
Which one of your stories has left a lasting impact on you?
My book title is pulled from a story about a brick maker, named. He had had such a difficult life – he and his brother had no home, no food, no money, not even shoes on their feet – but even as a person who was very young, orphaned, uneducated, homeless, and hungry, he decided to change his life. One morning, he literally began to dig into the ground where he sat (in a village in Uganda) and with his bare hands, he began to work the clay into bricks. He kept at it, sold the bricks for a fraction of a penny each. Over months and months and months, he saved up his money to invest into his microenterprise of brickmaking – buying a wooden brick mold, a shovel, a trowel, etc. He was able to improve his production drastically and eventually he employed several people, built a thriving business, and had built a lovely new home for himself—out of his very own baked mud bricks.