The day leading up to the party, I felt junior-high-like fear rising to meet me. I was suddenly gripped by the conviction that this was all a big mistake. I was convinced no one would come, and then I wondered what people would think if they did. The guest room was filled to the brim with clothes, my grandma's dishes lined the fireplace, and rows of paper beads were laid out on the dining table. What if pursuing this dream was a fool's errand? I almost canceled then and there, as fear of rejection and failure stared me in the face. But instead, I sat in my living room and gathered my
courage, imperfect though it was. I decided to simply go scared.
Little did I know then that that night I would be launching what would become the largest fair-trade jewelry company in the world. And that in only five years, Noonday Collection would be named by Inc. Magazine
as the forty-fifth fastest growing business in the United States. Or that, two years after that, I would stand on a stage next to my now business partner, Travis Wilson, to accept the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award—an honor shared by Whole Foods' John Mackey, among others.
My fears may have come out in droves that night, but thankfully, my friends did too. As did those friends' friends, whom they'd invited. They came because they 'did' care about our new journey toward international adoption, and once in my home surrounded by all the African goods, they were utterly compelled—by the intersections of fashion and impact, style and story, work and dignity, and profit and purpose. An hour into the party, I was shocked to find that I
had sold more than 90 percent of all that I had.
As the last of my guests left with their purchases, I wondered if there wasn't something to this concept. After that night, I started dreaming bigger than I'd dreamed before. The products were distinctive, the backstory was compelling, the gap in the market was evident, and the power of women gathering together for each other, face to face, was real. In fact, Noonday exists because women showed up for me on that humble evening in our home. Emboldened by such support, I decided to see where this path would lead.
That first trunk show led to another, and to another after that I had no business cards at those early events, so I'd scribble down my name and number on yellow sticky notes, handing them out to anyone who expressed interest in hosting her own trunk show.
As money trickled in—fifteen dollars for a bracelet, thirty dollars for a necklace, twenty dollars for a scarf, all of it cash only—I'd reach out directly to Jalia and Daniel via email in Uganda to order more. Joe and I scrambled to set up a Western Union account to wire money to them while Jalia and Daniel scrambled to figure out how to order raw materials, price their items, and sell them to me. After each show I would order fresh stock of exactly what I'd just sold
and get busy booking my next trunk show, where I'd do it all over again. It was a pretty stripped-down process, but what I lacked in infrastructure, I made up for in drive.
Across these last seven years, my "little jewelry thing" has bloomed into a thriving global direct-sales brand that has employed more than four thousand Noonday business owners in the United States and over forty-five hundred artisan partners in twelve countries around the world. Jalia and Daniel, who formerly lived on less than two dollars per day, are now part of Uganda's middle class and employ more than three hundred local people, many of whom are single moms. Closer to home, our son Jack's adoption has been completed and he is now an official part of our family. At eight years old, that thoughtful and energetic boy is a daily reminder to me of the value of courage—and of choosing to say yes to big dreams, even when fear is knocking at the door.
Until I started this Noonday journey, I had always equated courage
to the word fearlessness
. In my mind, courage described people such as Martin Luther King Jr., who rallied a crowd every time he spoke, despite the danger that rally inevitably drew; firefighters who ran into the Twin Towers on 9/11, while everyone else was running out; women who leave their abusive spouses, having no idea what will happen next. That
, I told myself, was courage. On the day we moved forward with the adoption process despite what our bank account said or the night I opened up my home for possibly no one to come or the day I pawned my gold jewelry, I had not felt like a hero. And yet, with a beating heart and shaking hands, I said yes to risk and yes to moving ahead. I had simply gone scared.
Imperfect courage is the only kind I possessed, but it was courage nonetheless. Instead of waiting for fear to subside, I had made it my friend. Because when you've got a vision, you don't have time to wait around for your fears to vanish before you start moving. Perhaps the hero's journey is not for a few brave people after all but is an invitation to me, to us all, to rally our courage and go do the thing we're meant to do. This mind-blowing transformation—from letting fear sideline you to choosing to go scared—is what I wish for you. And so, my friend, this book: a memoir-ish road map to get us from here to there.