Dreamer: Jessica Wright

Jessica Wright

girlvscity.net / thecommonthreadcollective.org / 54north.biz

How old are you? 31

How old do you act? That depends on if I’m being a leader, running a major project or being myself.  I would say it ranges from 16-80!

Where do you live? I live in Pune, India but I am from Indianapolis, Indiana.  I’ve lived in Chicago, New York City, Wilmington, NC, Uganda, and I consider all of them pieces of my home.

What’s so great about where you live? I live here with my husband as his work opened an office and sent him to help get things running.  We actually met here while I was working at an education center for street children, so besides the sappy, romantic memories of meeting my best friend, where do we start? Everything is so colorful and the people of India find any excuses to celebrate and dance.  Of course, there’s also the tropical climate, amazing historical sites and treks through the Western Ghats are all around, and the food.  The fruit choice is amazing, because as an American, it’s the “exotic” fruits and the street food, oh man….

What’s your current job? I am the CEO/Founder of The Common Thread Collective and Creative Director for 54 North, which will be launching it’s first collection of luxury and socially conscious Home Goods in 2014.

What’s your dream job? It doesn’t have to be a title, you can describe
what you’d be doing in that job. If you do work your dream job, tell
us about it. Luckily, I have most of my dream job!  I get to use my background in Fashion Design to create positive change and empower women.  Fashion is so often seen as a negative industry from body issues, exploitation, and sweatshops.  To start a venture that will turn all of those taboos on their head and show how garment manufacturing can be a healthy experience for the manufacturing workers, as well as how fashion can help form new thought processes, cognitive development, and build the self-esteem of women who normally would have no options, shy of pregnancy and even selling their children is amazing.  The skills associated with the entire process from development to execution and manufacturing are highly valued in many developing countries where manufactured clothes are a luxury and hand-tailored items are every day life.  Because of this, people are often exploited for their skills and forced into sweatshops, many lose their lives so that we can wear next seasons trends. The Common Thread Collective wants to show that it doesn’t have to be this way.

The only missing piece is finally getting a book into print and seeing people read and enjoy my writing. With my hectic travel schedule, I have a plethora of hilarious stories and have found myself in situations so unbelievable that you simply could not make them up.

What does your dream life include? I never thought I would say this, but I already live my dream life.  That’s the whole purpose of living, to realize what makes you excited and pushes you to wake up with fire every morning.  If you aren’t excited to open your eyes and tell the days challenges that they are going to regret pushing you, what is your purpose?  Your dreams should challenge you and make you explore how you can be the best person that you were made to be.

As for my life, it has to be balanced.  I must have a steady stream of adventure whether that is jumping off a cliff attached to a hang-glider, sand boarding dunes in Egypt, or hiking to an ancient temple up a steep mountainous pass in India with guard rails.  This has to be balanced with reflection, I wake up every morning and spend 20-30 minutes meditating and then do a basic yoga combination to wake up my body.  I make sure that I have time each day to just take in the small moments, as I write this, I’m on my 11th floor balcony watching a young boy run through the society’s gardens with his kite.  Reflection and appreciation make the path to your dreams simple by reveling in each step instead of dwelling on the final picture.  Dreams are a journey and each move on your path presents obstacles but no obstacle is worth giving up.

Other than this potentially cheesy and cliché answer, I have to say I live for a good cup of coffee, a constant stream of music, dogs, driving with the windows down, and the most important piece of my dream life, the support and encouragement from my parents, my amazing group of close friends, and my husband, who is without a doubt my soul mate in every single way.

Besides money, how can people help you reach that ultimate dream life? Don’t be shy. We need a street team, people around the country to help bring the CTC to their city.  We are looking for campus ambassadors, volunteers who might want to trek out to rural Uganda for a bit and teach classes or bring a new artistic skill, etc.

Our goal is to continue growing our first education and community center and opening a state of the art, solar-powered, garment manufacturing center for Spring of 2016.  This takes the dreams of the community to help us broaden our reach and spread the word.

Do you have dream contacts you’d like to make? I would love to sit down with Nicholas Kristof or Somaly Mam.  I also love the Vice News team because they are so raw and bring real news and events without sugar-coating.

Who would you invite to a dream dinner? My dream dinner would be the weirdest mix.  I appreciate personalities, people who use their thoughts to find solutions to problems, and people who stand up for their beliefs.  While some of them are deceased, without a doubt, my table would consist of: Joyce Banda, Aang San Suu Kyi, Yves Saint Laurent, Van Morrison, Leonardo da Vinci, Susan B. Anthony and Emmaline Pankhurst.

Lastly, I would bring Miep Geis, who hid the Frank family during WWII.  We become pen pals of sorts while I was working on a project involving historical preservation of personal stories and I would say her first letter to me is my most-prized possession.  She is the embodiment of humanity, you do positive actions because you are human, not to reap reward or fame.

What’s your dream trip? Without a doubt, The Mongol Road Rally.  You drive a car that would probably be “challenging” from England to Mongolia and if you make it, you donate the car to charity.  You can only bring so many things in the car and the car has to fit into certain specifications to avoid dumping a bunch of lemons on Mongolia.  I actually brought it up to my husband and he is completely on board, we just need to find the time and make the plan!

What’s the biggest dream you’ve attained so far in your life? Seeing the CTC begin to take shape.  The vision and goals have are constantly changing, as they should to ensure growth.  The basic thought process behind the group involved four years of studying trafficking, prostitution, children in development, and really making sure that if we planted seeds, it would not be another charity that does more harm than good.  We had to have steady roots in cultural appreciation, acclimation, and everyone on board had to subscribe to the idea that we were building something bigger than ourselves.  To be successful in the international development world, you have to completely remove all thoughts of self from the project.  The project can not be self-serving or built to give you satisfaction.  The project will fail, the people will not be served, and you will be doing more damage then good.  The charity world is a sticky slope now and really under the microscope, as it should be.  It is so easy to go into somewhere believing you have the best of intentions and totally mess things up.  Our goal isn’t to build another project where people become dependent on our handouts and where we try to convince them that a different lifestyle is better.  I’ve worked with people with that mindset.  Our goal is to create opportunity within an existing group, using skills and resources they have access to, and help them build a better life.  Every person should be able to give food, clean water, healthcare and education within their families.  Children should be able to go to school and not be forced to sell themselves to give dinner.  Teaching skills that allow people to take charge of their life with their available resources and giving them a hand up instead of a hand out, that’s my dream.

What’s the best advice someone has given you to attain your dreams? “Build something bigger than yourself.”

If you have skills that can help people offer opportunities and secure their life, they should be shared.  But charity isn’t about “saving” someone.  You don’t “save” someone, you are not a savior, and that is why I am so blessed with our team in the CTC and our supporters.  Our work involves daily doses of hard reality both to our team and to our participants but the impact and our work towards changing garment manufacturing and creating free design schools in developing nations is actually beyond what I thought were my wildest dreams.

What’s your advice to others? If you have a dream, remove yourself.  So often we stumble on our path to whatever our success or goals may be because we get in the way.  The path is long and hard and will involve many surprises and events that you can not plan for.  Embrace them, cherish them, and always find a way to learn from the good and the bad.  If you are not learning, you are not advancing and you can not reach the finish line standing in the same place.

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