Jess Molina  is a storyteller. That’s just who she is – a 20 something editor turned actor and TV host, chronic oversharer on the internet, flatlay enthusiast, pasta eater, writer, and fairytale believer from New Zealand. And that’s just her night job.

By day, she’s a cool corporate, helping bring stories to life through her unique brand of storytelling. Somewhere in there she manages to relax and live her best life eating all the food, staying up late to interview celebrities LA time, and sharing her ‘Instagram’ life.

This week she is writing a series of blog posts in the led up to our NZ Startup Bootcamp:

I can’t remember exactly how I met Gemma Major many moons ago, but I'm glad our paths crossed. She's headstrong, brilliant, and absolutely inspiring and I love that we share a lot of the same values.

It feels right to be kicking off this week's in conversation with her. I’ve witnessed firsthand her passion and dedication to Seed Waikato right from the get go, and I've admired how outspoken she is when it comes to talking about mental health and her own story.

What got you into your line of work and how did end up where you are?

Because I was pissed off and decided I wanted to change the things I cannot accept. I dug deep and found the courage to dream, to find others who believed in that dream, and started executing. I wanted to use my lived experience of mental distress to help other young people overcome their challenges.

When I studied at University of Waikato, I became interested in emerging social enterprise models, and found the challenge of generating impact and profit an exciting one. Introduce social innovation into the mix, alongside community-led development, and I’ve found my playground.

I volunteered with Momentum Waikato when I was studying, and soon after became the second employee. Working in start-up mode for four years at the regions’ community foundation taught me how truly wicked and complex our economic, social and environmental issues are, and in order to support and empower real change, philanthropy needs to be strategic.

After publishing Waikato Vital Signs, and listening to young people across the Waikato, it was clear that millennials wanted a place to call home, to be inspired, to give back, to tackle issues they care about, to improve their wellbeing. So we just started.

What are you looking forward to getting out of the NZ Startup Bootcamp?

Empowering people to turn ideas into reality that create real value for the world.

I’m pumped to share the learnings from my ultimate f*ck ups to accelerate the process for the attendees.

Best thing about getting to do what you do?

Empowering millennials to realise and step into their potential.

Last book/song/or film that resonated with you and why?

It’s got to be Alice in Wonderland, the original 1951 Disney version. It always resonated. Be madly curious and look for wonder and awe, always. It’s there, you just need to look.

Best cure for a crap day?

Road trip to Raglan for fish and chips at the wharf, and a barefoot walk on the beach.

Dream guests for a dinner party?

  • My niece, Evie Louise
  • Alice from Alice in Wonderland
  • Oprah
  • Andy Warhol
  • Greta Thunberg
  • Jacinda Ardern
  • Brene Brown
  • Beyonce

Advice you’d give your younger self?

You are capable of epic things. Believe in yourself. Go and figure out how to believe in yourself.

Don’t take drugs. It will make your mental distress so much worse. There are no words to explain how bad it will get.

Tips for anyone wanting to get into your industry/follow your footsteps?

Find like-valued people. Get involved in a community. Surround yourself with dreamers and doers, believers, encouragers, and truth-speakers.

Spend time thinking about and reflecting on what makes you mad in the world. Is it racism? Inequality? Youth suicide? Climate change? The health system? Politics? Talk about it with your friends and Whaanau. Ask yourself: ‘What kind of change do I want to be part of? What kind of impact do I want to create?’ You have to find your own personal ‘why’ that will carry you through the times when you want to give up.

Then find a mentor who is an expert in the thing you want to become, and who wants to nurture and develop your potential. Find someone who amplifies values you admire, and has developed their unique strengths to create value in the world.

Invest in your own development, and learn how to increase your resilience and adopt a growth mindset. Practice this often. Have a self-care plan that you are responsible for. Understand what activities improve your mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing and do those things regularly.

Lastly, work hard when no-one is looking. Yeah, I think that’s it!

Follow Seed Waikato on their Website, Facebook, and Instagram.

This post was created in partnership with Jess Molina.