In 2004, Jess Jones captured a business idea in her always-handy notebook that would see her bring together groups of entrepreneurs through education and events to support one another on the roller coaster that is business ownership. And a decade later, Soar Collective was born.
A country girl at heart, Jess grew up in an East Gippsland town with a population of just 4,000 where her parents ran their own retail business. Jess witnessed the struggles and lack of resources they, and many others, experienced while attempting to run a small business in regional Victoria and felt there should be something better. These firsthand experiences at a young age, along with her passionate advocacy for gender equality, instilled a fierce determination in Jess to challenge the norm and change how women in regional places operated businesses.
Recognising that a comfortable, open environment where women can be brutally honest with each other and identify collaborative opportunities was essential in the changing times of the business networking industry, Jess launched Soar Collective in May 2014. She’d had enough of watching women put on a brave face when meeting one another, and competing for who was the busiest, and understood that women, particularly in regional areas, lacked a support group where it was ok to share the struggles of business and admit when things were tough.
Since launching the first event in Mornington, Victoria, Soar Collective has grown to 9 locations (including 4 recently-launched interstate sites), and hosted the inaugural Regional Businesswomen’s Day on February 6th, 2017.
Not interested in slowing down, in May 2017 Jess, her team, and a film crew set off on the Rise for Regional road trip, travelling over 2000 kilometres in 5 days across Australia to bring awareness to and share the stories of regional business women. They held 5 free events and interviewed 22 successful women along the way, capturing everything on film to create the Rise for Regional documentary, which will be released in 2017.
Jess is dedicated to kick-starting the cultural shift needed to empower women in non-metro, rural and country towns to be given the same resources and opportunities as those in metropolitan areas.
“Changing old habits and mindsets can be a slow process but I’m ready to take it on,” she says. “I want to see regional businesses actively seeking out women in their communities, developing collaborations and projects, and challenging the traditional networks that they have relied on for so long.”
A self-confessed optimist, Jess will always have you leaving a Soar Collective event feeling motivated, empowered and ready to move mountains.