Jess Mester, a Leading Women Fund member, stands at her desk.
Courtesy of Jess Mester
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Donor Profile: Jess Mester

"I love knowing my contribution takes the pressure off a refugee woman.”

Jess Mester, a Byron-based business mentor and keen traveller, explains why she donates to the Leading Women Fund.

Tell us about your business

I mentor small and medium-sized creative businesses in the ethical and responsible space, through workshops and one-on-one sessions. From retailers and artists to designers and photographers, it’s a broad spectrum. Business owners are often stretched in every direction, and find themselves wearing all of the hats without having the time to actually work on their business, much less be creative. Most creatives don’t think they want structure, but at some point they realise they need it – and then they love how it engenders more space for their creativity.

What’s your business background?

I used to work in the fashion industry, which I stepped away from when I began to understand the impact it was having both on the planet and the communities producing for high-street brands. I then went into the not-for-profit space and worked across fundraising and business development. Mentoring businesses means I can combine the part of me that is still really creative, and loves the creative industries, with what I really love about not-for-profits and social enterprise.

How did you get involved in the Leading Women Fund?

I read about the Connecting Worlds app, and I was particularly interested because of my background in charities. I knew how difficult it could be to provide any kind of real connection between a donor and the recipient, so I was impressed and intrigued. The more I looked at it from the business angle, the more I wanted to be a part of it on a personal level.

Jess Mester, a Leading Women Fund member, sits on a couch with a book in her lap.
Courtesy of Jess Mester

What do you like about being a donor?

I've participated in women's circles in rural Kenya and Uganda, and they've been some of the deepest, richest experiences of my life. I loved learning about women’s daily lives, as well as their hopes for the future and expectations for their children. It was rare, I thought, to be able to connect online in a way that was meaningful for both women.

I also love knowing that my contribution directly takes the pressure off a woman – helping her to pay rent, put food on the table, take care of her kids. To be honest, I didn’t know about the networking aspect of the Fund until I signed up to donate, but I’m always looking to connect with passionate, like-minded women, so that was a bonus!

What are your hopes for the next year?

I want more travel. I’ve been lucky to take some amazing trips already this year: I was in Antarctica in February, I've been back to Africa, and I’m hoping to get to both South and East Africa for a couple of months early next year with some projects. I love it there. It’s where I feel my rawest and most alive, and there’s so much incredible work being done in conservation and sustainability at the moment, which is drawing me back.

Learn more about the Leading Women Fund

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