Founder of Hope Solutions
Jessica Nowlan really knows how to bootstrap. Starting when she was just 13, Jessica was on her own. She has lived through periods of homelessness, group homes, and struggled to raise two kids as a single mother. But when Jessica was 16, she was given an opportunity that changed her life. She was hired out of juvenile hall as an outreach worker for the Center for Young Women’s Development. When she left the organization seven years later, Jessica was the Interim Executive Director. Jessica found out about the Women’s Initiative when she started working as a domestic violence counselor at Stand Against Domestic Violence. To empower her clients, she started showing them Women’s Initiative success story videos. When funding for her position was cut, Jessica decided to take a chance and sign up for the Women’s Initiative business training program, even though it meant hardship because she would have to forgo Welfare to Work public assistance during this difficult transition. “I thought, so I don’t have a college degree, but I am definitely untapped talent.”
Jessica’s dream was to build a company that would provide high-paying career track jobs for people like her, looking to pull themselves and their families out of poverty. She had observed first-hand that they wouldn’t find these kinds of opportunities through traditional workforce development programs. During her days working as a payments processing sales agent, Jessica had also learned that many large banks use predatory practices that take advantage of small business owners. To put a stop to predatory practices and provide quality jobs, Jessica decided to start her own triple-bottom-line company. In 2010, Jessica founded Hope Solutions. Her company offers integrated payment technology and marketing services in Oakland and the Bay Area and now employs five people. “Hope Solutions provides small business owners the information they deserve and offers high-paying, career track positions in the payments processing industry to our employees; you don’t need to have graduated from college to deserve the opportunity to get ahead,” says Jessica.
I can definitely say that I am proud of myself. I am proud that I have gone against the grain in a male-dominated industry that is normally only about the bottom line and created a company with a social mission that advocates for small business owners.” Hope Solutions is currently working on a major initiative in collaboration with Oakland Grown to promote purchasing from local businesses, including several Women’s Initiative graduate businesses. Hope Solutions has also given back to Women’s Initiative graduates by providing free trainings on how to avoid predatory payment processing practices. Jessica found the personal support from the other women entrepreneurs in her class and the networking opportunities provided by SuccessLink to be integral to her success. “I look at every person I meet as a networking opportunity now, maybe they have a helpful idea, or contact, or just know something you don’t know – if you walk in the world that way, it can really open up doors.”
On the rewards of starting her own business, Jessica says “I still have financial anxiety, but now I know that if the car breaks down, or the kids need new shoes, it isn’t going to break the bank, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel now. Since starting my own business, my confidence has gone way up. I find myself in rooms with people from top universities and firms, and it feels so good to be the one looked to for advice.” Jessica anticipates rapid growth in her business over the next two years in the Bay Area and plans to bring Hope Solutions national in the future.