Fairygodboss Of The Week: Jenifer Willig

Courtesy of Jenifer Willig

Jenifer Willig

Courtesy of Jenifer Willig

June 13, 2024 at 1:10AM UTC
This week, we celebrate Jenifer Willig, a woman who transitioned from a career in advertising to founding her own business. Her consultancy company, Motive, works with large organizations to incorporate social impact into their business. 
Fairygodboss of the Week: Jenifer Willig
Founder, Motive
New York, NY
FGB: Tell us about your career. How did you get to where you are now?
JW: I began my career in advertising working at some of the most creative agencies, with smart people on challenging accounts (in a good way). I loved it and thought I would never leave. I believe strongly in the power of creativity to help solve business problems. But my career changed in 2007 when I was approached to join a new organization called (RED) that was raising money for AIDS in Africa. Going to (RED) I felt like I had trained all of my muscles for this new adventure. It was an innovative business model that was not afraid of private sector profit while committing to create a sustainable flow of funding for people living with HIV and AIDS in Africa. It changed my career and inspired me to start my own companies.
In 2012, I launched Motive with co-founder, Katie Harrison and in 2014, I launched WHOLE WORLD Water with co-founder Karena Albers. Motive is a social impact consultancy that works with large organizations to model social impact into their business. This can take many forms from strategic development and planning, to product design and implementation to marketing and communications. WHOLE WORLD Water is a social enterprise designed to unite the hospitality industry to raise money for clean and safe water initiatives for the more than 1 billion people living without it today. I am also on the board of I AM WATER, a global oceans charity, and Thankful, a new social enterprise, and an advisor to the 92Y Women in Power Fellowship.
FGB: What is an accomplishment that you are proud of?
JW: Motive is almost 6 years old!  
FGB: What is a challenge that you've faced and overcome?
JW: Starting my own company was a very scary challenge. It was something I desperately wanted to do, but I had a mental block. I thought that it was too risky to have my own company versus the security of a consistent paycheck, which isn’t true! I overcame that with the complete support of my husband and talking to other people who had started their own businesses. Understanding the risks, but more importantly the rewards, helped me overcome that fear. 
FGB: What is the #1 career tip you'd like to share with other women who want to have successful careers like you?
JW: Talk to people about what you're doing. Many times people want to hide their ideas for fear of sharing too much. When in fact, more people want to help you succeed than not.
FGB: Why do you love where you work?
JW: Because the work we do has ripple effects beyond the actual day to day. We work on issues that range from climate change, to gender equality, to youth under employment and on and on. And because I have a team that is fun, funny, smart and committed to doing great work. They have a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to learn.
FGB: Who is YOUR Fairygodboss? Why?
JW: Susan Smith Ellis. She hired me at (RED) and has been my biggest supporter, unofficial new business recommender and most importantly the greatest friend. She was a boss that understood not getting in the way of ideas and letting creativity lead. She is fun, interesting and confident enough to let her team get on with it.
FGB: What do you do when you’re not working?
JW: I’m at our house in the Hudson Valley most weekends cooking, baking, gardening or swimming in the pond. Just relaxing hanging out with family and friends…
FGB: If you could have dinner with one famous person - dead or alive - who would it be?
JW: Margaret Atwood.
Lightning Round
FGB: What is your karaoke song?
JW: “Saturn” by Stevie Wonder, although it’s more just a song I love…I’m not great at karaoke!
FGB: What is your favorite movie?
JW: "Gladiator."
FGB: What book would you bring with you on a desert island?
JW: "Anything” by Margaret Atwood.
FGB: What is your shopping vice? What would you buy if you won the lottery?
JW: My shopping vice is kitchen appliances. If I won the lottery, an island and mortgages.
Fairygodboss is all about women helping other women - so each week, we celebrate a woman who made a difference in another woman’s career. Is there a woman who has made a difference in your career? Celebrate her and thank her by nominating her here.

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