Jessica Whalen – EforAll Northwest Arkansas
Jessica Whalen is a filmmaker and videographer who runs her own production company in Northwest Arkansas. After hearing the local EforAll NWA team passionately talking about EforAll’s mission and values at a local networking event, she decided to become a mentor for their first Business Accelerator in 2021.
What made you want to become a mentor?
I have been in business for 10 years, five years full-time running my business, and there were many times when I wished I had a mentor. Especially someone who was an entrepreneur; who understood the practical, tactical things and the emotional journey of entrepreneurship. I got really excited about the opportunity to be that person for someone else since I didn’t have one myself.
What is your favorite part of being an EforAll mentor?
During my last mentor experience, we had an excellent team. The other two mentors were very knowledgeable in the retail and corporate world, allowing me to stay in my wheelhouse of emotional support. I was able to help my mentee see the value in what she was doing and in the story she was trying to tell with her business. I pushed her to see herself as a boss, the CEO of her company, not just as a business owner. It was amazing to see her confidence and self-esteem grow throughout the program.
What are the biggest challenges that women entrepreneurs face?
We are taught to downplay ourselves, and we are not prepared to come out proud of the value that we bring to the world. In the corporate world, we usually don’t negotiate our salaries well and don’t stand for pay equity. In entrepreneurship, we’re less excited or likely to sell ourselves, pitch ourselves, and price ourselves well. We’ve been told to stay humble in a detrimental way. The expectation that we will do it all, and take care of everything professionally and personally, is unrealistic. There are moments when running a business has to take full priority, there’s no work-life balance. We’ve been told that there is a 50/50 life balance split, so we feel like we’re failing whenever that’s not happening. Sometimes also, we don’t have the support from our partners, so we’re running a business and taking care of children and all the housework. I don’t know how anyone does it if you don’t have that support.
What do you think makes EforAll special?
The fact that EforAll is lowering many barriers for business owners really interested me in helping and coming alongside as a mentor. For a long time, especially in Northwest Arkansas, there was a lot of value on a four-year degree, and people think that you have to have all these things in place before you can pursue your dreams, and that’s just not true. So many people with so many amazing ideas just need an opportunity. Lowering that barrier of entry by offering a free program, especially offering a program in Spanish, it’s so incredible. I also love the fact that EforAll is leveling out the playing field, focusing on women, women of color, and immigrants, reaching into some more marginalized communities. It’s a fantastic organization.
What advice would you have for entrepreneurs?
The world is desperate for whatever it is that you have! You are given the idea for your business for a reason, and there are people in the world that are just waiting for that idea that’s in your head, so it is your job, your duty, to show up and give the world that. We’re all waiting, and we’re all excited to support you.
Interested in becoming a mentor? Learn more here.