Filling the world with more Rebel Girls.
Jes Wolfe is the CEO of Rebel Girls, an entertainment-driven, global empowerment brand dedicated to inspiring and instilling confidence in girls around the world.
”One of the fundamental values of Rebel Girls is how can we be a platform for a plurality of voices? How can we represent all girls? We want every girl to see herself in one or a dozen women we feature."Jes WolfeFounder and CEO, Rebel Girls
Julia Balick (00:09):
Hi, we are back on the Building While Flying podcast. I’m Julia, our producer. And on this week’s episode, Maribel speaks with Jes Wolfe, the CEO of Rebel Girls, a girl driven edutainment company on a mission to inspire and instill confidence in 50 million girls. Over the last five years to date Rebel Girls has sold 5.5 million books translated into 49 languages in 85 countries. Under Wolfe’s leadership, the company is expanding its offerings to TV, live merchandise and digital. Listen for Jes’s vision of what the world looks like if Rebel Girls has accomplished all it’s set out to do. How are our next generation of women different? What does the world look like? Jes’s ideas reminded me of when Sheryl Sandberg said, “give us a world where half our homes are run by men and half our institutions are run by women.” Jes mentions that in 50 years we’ll have multiple female presidents. Well, I don’t think anyone would be crying Wolf if Jes Wolfe was our president. Let’s dive into it.
Katie Hankinson (01:18):
Welcome to Building While Flying A Sasha Group podcast we interview business leaders about how they tackle challenges, stay resilient and navigate ever changing skies.
Maribel Lara (01:31):
Jes, So excited to have a conversation with you. Um, you, you really are a part of what so many of us have in our homes. Um, and um, I wanna talk about Rebel Girls for sure, but that’s not where I wanna start. I wanna start talking about the woman behind Rebel Girls. So, uh, let’s start with like, who are you? What are things that we need to know about you in terms of your skillset, your passions, the lessons learned that have gotten you to, to this point in your career.
Jes Wolfe (02:06):
I am a small town, Oregon farm girl that wanted to go see the world. And so I did, I identify as a Jill of all trades, having worked in finance and consulting with industrial goods, companies, energy companies, financial services, and now at the intersection of media and technology and culture, I am a builder and a doer. I love hard challenges. And I also love my dog river, who is my loyal adventure buddy.
Maribel Lara (02:38):
So you will forgive me if my dog chewy who’s somewhere in the background, like jumps up in the midst of this perfect surprise. Um, so Jess, when I was first like reading your background and reading our, our producer’s notes, literally the first question that jumped into my head is this next question, which is why aren’t you retired? Uh, and then I was just like, but seriously, uh, on behalf of all women on behalf of all rebel girls, uh, and rebel women, thank you for, for not retiring. But the reason that jumped into my head is you’ve accomplished a lot and so much in industries that can be really tough for women to make their way in. Um, what is your, why? What keeps you going?
Jes Wolfe (03:23):
Well, fundamentally, I like the idea of being retired more than the actuality of it. I, I do like to play a lot and I do need rest sometimes, but I really like to use my brain. I like to build, I like challenges when I slowed down a little bit, a few years ago and I had a chance to think about what my next chapter would look like. I thought about what are the boxes I wanna check before I die realizing that that could happen in one year or 50 years. And the three boxes I wanna check before I die are one to have family two to take my personal development, as far as I can and three to leave the world a better place. And so I felt that if I retired, I would not be doing number two or three very well. And so that’s fundamentally what keeps me going, is wanting to leave the world a better place and, and really wanting to take my own personal development and growth as far as I can.
Jes Wolfe (04:20):
And so, um, a few years ago when I was taking a break, I, I hosted these founder sessions at my house in Tahoe. And there’d be these ski strategy Jess camp with about a dozen or cofounders and Ellen Fili, who was one of the co-founders of rebel. Girls was one of the co-founder who came through this ski strategy camp. And after we spent three days together talking about girls, I was, I was so hooked. The company has such an important mission that I care about passionately, and there was so much potential to, to make it so much bigger. And I felt like this was the company I was meant to build. And so there history.
Maribel Lara (05:03):
So, uh, I have a question that I didn’t send you ahead of time, but I, I, I have to ask it and I know that you’re gonna be able to an answer this tremendously well, which is right. Like our, our podcast is called building while flying. Uh, and so the idea is that it’s never finished, right? The work is never done. And so you sort of, you, you continue to move forward while building the thing and, and what it looked like when you started may not be what it looks like now, and may not be what the vision for it is. Long term. How has your day to day changed from the early days of rebel girls to today?
Jes Wolfe (05:40):
Well, we’re a bigger company with more people and more moving parts. I think we’re also a more ambitious company and I think we have more creative mojo in terms of where ideas come from and how we’re able to execute upon ideas. And our, we figured a lot out in terms of where we play and how we play and where our impact can be and how we can expand and do so better and better and better. So, yeah, I think we’re at where more
Maribel Lara (06:19):
Are you able to focus in more on things that fuel you, things that, like you mentioned, the ability to be more creative, is that because you have more space to be creative or is that because like the opportunities now are, are greater because you’ve established the reputation you have?
Jes Wolfe (06:37):
I think all of the above, I think the opportunities are greater. I think we’ve also brought a lot more creative people into the company. And so there’s a pool of creativity and we continue to bring more and more creative people into the company. And so the more creative people, the more creative ideas, the more opportunities to build and grow and, and tell more stories and types of stories and ways of telling stories. So, uh, a lot of it is about building a team of incredibly amazing, talented, hardworking, creative people.
Maribel Lara (07:11):
Yeah. It’s, it’s amazing, right. When you work at a place where there are so many ideas and so many experiences coming that you, it just feeds into each other, right? Like who you surround yourself with is, is definitely, uh, has an impact on like what you’re able to do and how far you’re able to push yourself. So it’s, it sounds like a, a fabulous environment to work in. Be careful you might see my application
Jes Wolfe (07:35):
Maribel Lara (07:38):
Um, so one of the other of things that like I really connect with about rebel girls is, um, really this visualization of intersectionality, right? Like we all exist at the intersection of various different identities and, and we weave in and out of those and how we prioritize them, you know, depends on, on where we are, even when we think about your introduction, right? Those are all ways that you identify. Um, and I’m sure based on like who you’re speaking to, like what you’re connecting to most in terms of your, in terms of your identity may also like flow. Um, I think that rebel girls does tremendous job honoring those types of intersections. Can you talk about how that, how that manifests itself today and, and the work that really had to be put in to do that?
Jes Wolfe (08:33):
So we’re all a product of an intersection of identities, as you just mentioned, and this generation more than any before, or I believe is the generation of identity. And so one of the fundamental values of girls is how can we be a platform for a plurality of voices? How can we represent all girls? We want every girl to be able to see herself in one or a dozen of the women that we feature. We really want every girl to find inspiration. We want every girl to feel like she too can do whatever it is that inspires her. And so we take a lot of care, great, great care in our story selection to find a extraordinary women and girls that come from more countries, more backgrounds, more professions, more identities, really, to ever expand the representation in our anthologies. And similarly, we take great effort to work with creators from all over the world to make sure that our storytelling and our artwork are just as diverse as the amazing women’s stories that we’re sharing.
Jes Wolfe (09:39):
And so that’s the fundamentals, no matter whether it’s a book or an audio story or a video story or an event, or is how do we bring in more and different types of women and storytelling and represent girls and creators and all of that good stuff. We’ve taken specific lenses to celebrate specific groups. And we’ll continue to do that. In recent books, we celebrated immigrant women with a book. Our last year, we celebrated black women. We have a whole number of stories in a, our app, uh, that we’re devoting to disabled women or LGBTQ plus women or indigenous women and all kinds of professions and dimensions. There’s, there’s really so many women out there. And so many stories to be told it’s, it’s, uh, hard to do it all in one time, but we’re doing our best. And it’s fundamentally about how do you celebrate heritage? How do you celebrate nationality? How do you celebrate? Who makes us who we are? And that’s what we’re trying to do.
Maribel Lara (10:50):
And, uh, along those same lines, like what advice would you give to other leaders in business about how they should be through thinking about intersectionality? Like even just in terms of, right. I think about hiring, um, and creating spaces for, for, for women who come from different backgrounds and like people in general who come from variety of different backgrounds, like what words of advice would you give? What, what lessons from these stories girls do you believe apply in, in the business world?
Jes Wolfe (11:23):
Well, I think it’s been proven that the more diversity you have, the better pool of ideas you get, the better products you’ll create are products are designed to serve a wide, wide, wide audience. And so having very diverse creators of these products is incredibly important to us. I have been so pleasantly surprised by where some of the best from even in our team and not necessarily along lines of, well, this person has this background or that background, but, um, you know, we’ll be reviewing a book and our head of finance will have incredible ideas based on her experience as a mom. And, and, and that just drills home, the, that you want to have all sorts of people in the room to make something even more special. I think hiring is tough. Hiring smart people is tough. There’s a lot of amazing jobs out there right now. It’s a crazy job market. And, and sometimes you can get, you know, it right. And sometimes you get it wrong. And I think what we do is, is we definitely attempt to get amazing people from as many backgrounds as possible, and that served us.
Maribel Lara (12:46):
Yeah. I think, you know, there’s, there’s a role for everyone to play. I’m, I’m not a mom. Um, I chose not to be a mom, but I’m a, an aunt. Right. And I am, um, I am a friend, right. I am a, a fairy godmother in lots of ways. And, and even when I think about the role that men have played in my career, in my upbringing, right? Like there’s sort of a role for everyone to play in helping you all, um, achieve this mission of, of rebel girls. So let, let’s talk about that mission. Um, in, in 50 years, if you’ve accomplished, if you’ve accomplished what you set out to do with rebel girls, what does the world look like? You know, how are, how are women different? Uh, what do they sound like? What does that, what is that generation of women look like in our world? And what does our world look like as a result of it?
Jes Wolfe (13:41):
Well, I hope in 50 years there have been multiple female presidents in the United States. I also share IRBs vision that there should be an all women Supreme court
Maribel Lara (13:54):
Down for it.
Jes Wolfe (13:54):
I, the fortune 500 is made up of 50% female CEOs versus the 7% today, 50% of venture capital will go to women founders versus the 2% today. My hope isn’t 50 years there, isn’t a pay gap more between men and women. And there isn’t a pay gap between white women and women of color 50 years from now. I hope girls have the same level of confidence as boys, that all children grow up knowing they can be and do anything that all children feel encouraged and they celebrate each other and they wear their superpowers boldly. I, I hope the definition of being feminine is so broad that a whole spectrum of girls can relate and identify and be proud of who they are and be excited about what mark they want to make in the world. If you look at the definition of feminine today and go to, Theora still see a very narrow definition of what it means, and, and that definition needs to be expanded greatly.
Maribel Lara (15:04):
Hmm. I, I wanna be here in 50 years to, to celebrate that. You know, I, I, I do believe we are on the right track to it, right. As, as much as there’s a lot of conversation, like conversation is good. Challenges are good, right? Like progress comes out of difficult conversations and difficult challenges. And so I definitely hope we are on the path to helping you achieve the, your, your 50 year mission. Uh, any parting words, Jess,
Jes Wolfe (15:37):
I think, I think you said it really well, which is we all have a part to play in this trouble. Girls is doing its part, but everyone, men, women old young, all have a part to play in raising the next generation and raising the next generation of girls fully confident and inspired to go do amazing things. And my, my hope is that more people and organizations and parents and not parents alike will, will join us, um, to making this more gender equal world.
Maribel Lara (16:16):
Right. Let’s go, we’ve all got our marching orders. Jess, thank you so much for, for taking the time out, uh, to speak with us today and tell us about you. Tell us about the vision for rebel rebel girls. And I hope that this really, um, empowers more women, um, and, and really all of us to help build up the, the young girls and the women in our lives, because, it’ll be a better place when we get that done
Jes Wolfe (16:49):
Maribel Lara (16:51):
All right. Thanks Mar thanks, Jess.
Katie Hankinson (16:55):
Thanks for joining us for building while flying today. I hope you learned as much as we did. We’ll meet you right back here next time for another flight.
Speaker 5 (17:07):
If you’d like to hear more about how business owners and brands are navigating these times, tune in to the next episode. And if you’re so kind, please rate and review us, plus we’d love feedback. So let us know what you think, what you’d like us to dig into next on building. Well for across brands, businesses, marketing, and more
Katie Hankinson (17:21): Original music by Fulton street music group.
Welcome to Building While Flying!
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Inspiring girls and instilling confidence.
Jes Wolfe is the CEO of Rebel Girls, an entertainment-driven, global empowerment brand dedicated to inspiring and instilling confidence in girls around the world.
In her conversation with Maribel, Jes shares her journey from the finance world to CEO. She talks about what makes Rebel Girls so special: the opportunity to inspire girls and children everywhere and instill confidence from a young age. She emphasizes the importance of creativity and diversity on teams, and why honoring intersectionality makes your business better.
Other in-flight topics:
- Jes’s background
- Rebel Girls’s mission
- Growth of Rebel Girls
- Advice for business leaders on intersectionality
- How Rebel Girls will impact the futures of girls everywhere