biz ladiesinterviewsLife & Business

Biz Ladies Profile: Jess Lively

by Stephanie

Jess Lively Biz Ladies Profile Photo by Daniel Peter

Today’s Biz Ladies Profile comes to us from the lovely Jess Lively. Jess is no newbie to the creative business realm, having started her first business in high school!  While her business endeavors have transformed over the years, Jess has remained steadfast in her business goals and has learned a lot along the way.  Today she shares a bit of the insights she’s gained along her career journey.  Thank you, Jess, for giving us this glimpse into your business path! —Stephanie

Read the full interview after the jump…

Why did you decide to start your own business?

I actually began my first business, Jess LC, at the age of 15… by accident! I was making some (ugly) ankle bracelets next to a pool and some women came up to me and offered to by them. I spent six hours making bracelets for a grand total of $30 and I decided to start a jewelry business on the spot. It was as simple as that.

I then bought more supplies and kept making new designs and sold them to friends, neighbors, teachers, and eventually 12 stores across Michigan while in high school. From there, I studied business in college and launched the accessory company full-time after college graduation. It was not easy to do by any means (the recession followed a year later), but I had a clear mission and knew it was the right move for me.

In fact, the “clear mission” that I had in mind was what has now become my new business and full-time career: helping people design lives, businesses, and spaces with intention.

In college, a huge a-ha moment helped me realize that my purpose is to help people live intentionally. And I knew running my accessory company would keep my schedule and priorities focused on my own pursuits – not a corporate ladder. So in January, 2009 I launched my blog and started to help people live lives with intention there while running the business at the same time. The blog became the launch pad for my consulting and eventually my live life and business workshops across the country.

By November of 2012 I was able to fully support myself from the consulting aspects of my career and close my accessory shop after 14 years. Many people thought I was crazy for ending Jess LC because it was doing so well. But I knew having both companies would always divide my attention and not lead to my fullest form of service, so it had to go.

Since then, I’ve been beyond thrilled to be able to truly live my passion and serve people in the process.

Jess Lively Biz Ladies Profile

When you first decided to start your own business, how did you define what your business would be?

The accessory company was incredibly simple: I decided to make jewelry because people bought it from me. I later expanded to bags, iPad cases, stationery, trays, and prints to explore new mediums and apply my design perspective in ways that excited me.

On the consulting side, I decided to offer life, business, and design advice because those are the things that again, clients have asked me to do. I knew I was meant to help people and by sharing my journey on my blog people naturally wanted my help and advice with their businesses, lives, and even their home and business spaces.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting off?

I didn’t really have any advice when starting out. I simply had my parents, friends, and teachers cheering me on! They were very encouraging and pushed me to just try new things and keep going with it. Which is, in fact, really great advice for business owners.

What was the most difficult part of starting your business?

The most difficult part of starting a business, especially full-time, is the “unknowingness” of it all. Every day you wake up you have no real clue whether you will make your financial projections. There is a lot of cash flow fluctuations and there can be days (or weeks) where you don’t get much, if any, new business.

That’s a scary prospect when your bills come every four weeks. But over time things even out and grow to a more sustainable level. You learn to trust the process and have faith.

Can you name the biggest lesson you’ve learned in running a business?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned ties into my last comment about having faith. I’ve learned that following your purpose, especially if it’s entrepreneurial in nature, will require you to trust that the Universe is working out in your favor.

As long as you are dedicated to following your gut and serving others with your talents, amazing breaks will come your way, things will fall into place, and you will find things will be far better than you could have ever imagined.

But all of that does not come without its seasons of testing, of hard work, and of learning.

So for me, the lesson I have learned is to trust that things will work out… somehow. And that right this moment the Universe is conspiring in my favor.

Can you name a moment of failure in your business experiences?

I personally only believe the term “failure” can be applied to the decision to stop a company without a better plan in mind. If we decide to end something and start something new, that isn’t a failure as much as a stepping stone to something better.

Or, if we stay put in our current business, as long as we keep going, there is no failure. We simply haven’t made it yet.

Jess Lively Biz Ladies Profile

Can you name your greatest success in your business experiences?

I believe my greatest success in business has been the transition from Jess LC to With Intention. Leaving a successful 14-year-old business I had for almost half of my life was a big deal.

But for me, it has been a remarkable experience. With Jess LC I was “self-employed.” Though I was taking big risks with my career, it was still “a job.”

Now, I don’t feel that way. In fact, I often refer to my new career as a “pre-retirement” because I like to think of the things that I do from the lens of “Would I do this if I was retired?” This perspective helps me hone in on the things that bring me joy andserve others (even though I still gotta pay the bills).

What business books/resources (if any)  would you recommend to someone starting a creative business of their own?

Hands down the book that has transformed my life and business over the past seven years is The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I adore Mr. Covey, and his wise words and consider myself in constant study of these principles.

I also find The E-Myth Revisited a fantastic book which I recommend to many of my clients as well.

In your opinion, what are the top three things someone should consider before starting their own business?

1 – Why are you starting this business? What unique point of view do you have to offer your industry? And who do you want to serve?

2 – Are you willing to “just keep going” when things get tough? When they get really tough?

3 – If you’ve answered the questions above, then you gotta do what you can with what you have and figure things out along the way!




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  • I really am inspired by Jess’ story and her work! It sounds like things are really taking off for her in this new direction and it’s exciting to get a glimpse into it and watch through her blog! This interview was really great! Thanks!

  • This was very straight forward. I would like to share this with my son who wants to start his own “future”. He has VERY strong beliefs that he can make this happen. And that is a great start!

  • I love that you chose to close one business so you could give your full attention to another. I agree that the bottom line should not always be the primary factor in business decisions (though, obviously, it can’t be ignored either). There has to be a little room for gut-based decisions to guide your personal-business path. Thanks!

  • I love her! So glad to see her featured here.. ive been reading her blog and love her “wish i knew” email newsletter that is so full of great business advice. If you have a business, I highly recommend getting on the weekly mailing list. Fingers crossed I can attend one of her workshops soon. She is a great resource for life inspiration and business direction.

  • I think her services look awesome… especially the business/design. And what a beautiful website!

    But she’s not really a certified life coach or therapist, which gives me pause… or is it just me? Or maybe I just couldn’t find her credentials on the website? I’ve seen a number of services like this pop up recently, and was just wondering about a constructive conversation about how these services fit in, where the line is between personal coaching/ a licenced life coach/ or proper therapy.

    A gorgeous website isn’t the same as a medical degree… (says the daughter of a psychologist and licenced behavorial therapist).

    • Jen

      It’s everyone’s choice, what they feel comfortable with, but I think when it comes to coaching of any sort, what you want to see is experience and results. I’d suggest talking to any potential coach’s previous clients to see how they’re doing after using their services. Medical degrees are different because there is such a clear path to success in that field. When it comes to business there are some people who manage to blaze their own path, break rules and do things their own way- and that’s just as valuable to learn from sometimes.


  • Much success to Jess. Very brave to retire from a successful biz to focus on another. Happy it has also taken off! Love the name of the biz, ” With Intention” and it’s intention of assisting people. Appreciate the book recommendations : )

  • very inspiring….and I can totally empathise with all her comments! great interview…interesting lady!! really like the book recommendations!!

  • Jess is wonderful. We met years ago in blog land, then live and in person in Chicago.
    I attended her business with intentions workshop last summer and loved it. It has been inspiring to see Jess grow- up and evolve into who she was meant to be.

  • @Jen as a Certified Life Coach AND someone who’s worked with Jess, it certainly doesn’t matter in this case. I’ve worked with dozens of coaches myself over the past few years, Jess is by far one of the best! I’ve worked with plenty of “certified” coaches that just read off the paperwork they were given by their “coaching school” or out of books they’ve read instead of “reading” their clients and actually finding ways to help them. I’ve also never had as single client of mine as if I’m certified. In coaching the results are what matter, not the letters after your name or whatever else. Jess helps push you but also comes from a place of understanding. That’s huge for her clients.

  • @ Jen, Ashlee, Bonnie

    Thanks for your comments, I’m glad to read both sides. I kind of tend to think if it’s going to be your career and people are paying good money for your advice, you SHOULD have some sort of training outside of just a couple of books. No? Just my thoughts. I think she’d kill it as a life coach if she had the creds, personally!!

    • Susie Q/A Reader-

      I think experience, success and a proven track record are more than enough training for some fields- especially when you’re talking about small craft-based businesses and blogs. There is no proper degree program for the field we’re all in right now, it’s moving too fast, so I think if someone can provide a satisfied client list, experience and their own success (which they earned, not handed to them) that should be equally valued. I’m pretty sure most of my favorite and admired bloggers and crafters don’t have proper degrees in what they do.


  • Thank you Grace and Stephanie for the opportunity to share here on Design*Sponge about my business and path!

    As far as my “credentials” go, I do not promise or intend to be a life coach/counselor anywhere on my site. That is not my role, nor my goal.

    I keep my focus on my true purpose: helping people with *intentions* in their lives. Life coaching or any other credentials would not necessarily prepare me for this aspect of my career in any better way than the last seven years of my life dedicated to this pursuit. From my own first-hand experience in this area, as well as the amazing support, feedback, and results from my clients, I feel confident in my abilities and my services.

    For those looking for life coaching or counseling I happily refer people to those professionals in those areas. : )