Meet our Board Member: Heather Jacobs
Heather Jacobs thrives on inspiring and leading others to create progressive ideas that connect with today’s more globally diverse audience. Her 20 plus years of marketing experience have taught her that marketing is about solving problems, whether it is for a business, community, or individual. And she really likes solving problems, which is at the core of what Sundara does. In addition to managing her own consulting agency, she serves as an Adjunct Professor at George Washington University.
Where did you first learn about Sundara?
Until recently, I worked at Marriott International, where I had the opportunity to work on the marketing for Delta hotels. We partnered with Soapbox soaps for our guest rooms which was a big deal because the brand is not just sustainable, organic, and high quality, but it also has a mission behind it.
Soapbox has a relationship with Sundara and as a part of our launch for our Soapbox partnership, we announced a special guest experience, where Marriott customers could take part in an auction for a trip to India. The money raised went towards supporting Sundara and this fundraiser also raised awareness about their work.
I had the opportunity to join the guests in India and experienced first-hand what the organization does. I met the women who were working as hygiene ambassadors and had the chance to see the impact on the community. Delta Hotels donated a hygiene station to a school where they didn’t have running water, to enable the students to wash their hands. The station reduced illness and increased attendance at school, and for me, this experience was life-changing. Seeing the impact and learning how a little goes a long way really demonstrated what Sundara as an organization could do.
Why did you want to join RISE by Sundara’s board?
I found the trip to India incredibly eye-opening, and I learned about the disparities and saw how much a community benefits from having access to clean water and hygiene. I fell in love with India, and I had this huge connection that I didn’t want to let go of.
Seeing so much potential in the organization and having this personal stake, I wanted to do more to help. I thought to myself that I should be more accountable and see what I could bring to the table to help move things forward. With the transition from Sundara to RISE by Sundara and understanding the urgent need for water, sanitation and hygiene, the organization was at a pivotal moment where I feel as though I can actually make a difference.
I have also had so many other female leaders support me in my professional journey and I wanted to give back and support other females. Through my own experiences, I am inspired to help women to thrive in the working world and now seems like the perfect time in my life to get involved.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten in your career?
On a personal level, “trying to assume positive intent and recognising that most people do not come from a bad place” completely changes how a situation is dealt with.
Professionally, I learned that often being a leader is not about ‘being in the front’ but knowing that helping other people push forward often leads to your own success. Often your path to success is not as direct as you think; a lot of your success involves other people and you need to trust the system.
What’s one of the biggest highlights of your life?
In college, when I was 19-years-old, I led a campaign to increase student voter registration which was met with a lot of resistance, almost criminal activity, but I was determined to fight. I called the justice department and MTV and started a whole fight to solve a problem that I believed someone needed to pay attention to. Although it didn’t resolve the issue entirely, it brought a lot of attention to it and made a stance about youth activism.
Why is RISE by Sundara important to you?
I feel as though there needs to be a drastic change in the way we deal with the big problems in the world. I specifically love how RISE by Sundara supports locals on the ground to create the changes that they want, rather than having it dictated to them. Everything that happens within RISE by Sundara has multipliers. For instance, a fellow’s project may aim to solve sanitation issues, but it also supports women to work, changes their status in society, changes their ability to support themselves and their families, enables them to access healthcare, and so much more.
As an organization, Sundara is super transparent. It’s evident that the organization works hard to connect the donors with the results - so it’s easy to see exactly what your money funds.
What’s your purpose in life?
I believe that finding ways to make incremental changes to support other people is my purpose. When I was younger, I was set on making a difference in the world but having grown, I believe that I can create moments that matter for other people. I might not be the person to change the whole world, but I believe that I can make small waves of differences in at least some people’s lives.
Who do you admire and look up to?
I admire a lot of female activists who are not afraid to talk about the hard subjects such as Stacey Abrahams and Madeleine Albright. Also, closer to my heart, I have a few extremely good friends who have supported me and shown me a bigger way to look at the world.
Summarise your life motto in one sentence:
“What is the next right thing to do?”. Finding something which can move you forward when you feel stressed or overwhelmed to get back on your feet productively is something that I try to focus on.