Jess Jones was sick of attending events where guests seemed to be competing for a prize for who was the busiest. She saw the need to create a comfortable, open environment for female entrepreneurs on the Mornington Peninsula, Victoria. She created Soar Collective, an organisation that runs events allowing the women attending to be brutally honest with each other as well as identifying collaborative opportunities.
Jess encourages her attendees to have a ‘no bull approach’ when introducing themselves to other women, which always seems to get a laugh. She says ‘they honestly need to be told it’s ok to say “I’ve had a really bad day” or “sales aren’t good at the moment and I don’t know how to fix it.” Jess is concerned that people are increasingly putting on a front and feel pressure to ‘perform’ when attending networking events.
What are the foundations and inspirations behind Soar Collective?
After attending a variety of networking events, seminars and workshops over the years, I was feeling quite jaded about how the networking industry was changing. I felt like the support and encouragement side wasn’t as important to people as the sales pitches and competitiveness seemed to be.
I moved to the Mornington Peninsula in December 2013 and as a business owner wanting to build my network and get myself out there, spoke with other local business owners to see if there was any interest in coming together for a catch up and there was. Over 50 women responded with enthusiasm. So I had a coffee with another girl from the Facebook group we were in and 6 days later, the first event was held.
From there, it’s really grown into this real community of women business owners who give a genuine damn about each other as well as wanting to focus on knowledge sharing rather than keeping thoughts and resources to themselves. They are a driven, talented, powerful bunch of ladies who inspire each other and support one another. It’s how it should be.
Why do you think it is important to have a networking space that is for women only?
Women are starting businesses at twice the rate as men. I wanted to create an authentic, comfortable environment for businesswomen so they knew there was no reason to put on a front, feel intimidated or concern themselves with things that don’t matter. We’re all in the same boat; it’s just that some have been in it longer. Doesn’t necessarily make them better or more successful. Combined, we all have plenty of experience and skills to help each other succeed.
How was the reaction from the Mornington Peninsula, and wider business community been?
The reaction has been fantastic so far. I’ve received a lot of support from businesses either wanting to attend our events or wanting to get involved in some way for 2015. Word is spreading and the feedback from attendees has been wonderful.
What is your personal background and what lead you to starting your business, 2nd Avenue Events?
My first job was at McDonald’s; from there I’ve been employed everywhere from Kodak to Sanity Music, from Boost Juice to Laurent Patisserie. I’ve worked all over Melbourne and to New York City and back; then from the Espy in St Kilda to Westpac Group in Melbourne’s CBD.
With over 9 years in management, I’ve always enjoyed leading a team and the organization and process of putting together an event – Jess Jones
While working in corporate events was great, I was missing out on engaging my creative side. A few months into my pregnancy in 2012, I decided it was the perfect time to get out and create the life I wanted for my family. As I was about to become a mum, I knew I needed flexibility and to work on my own terms while I launched my business.
Photo credit: Soar Collective twitter