It’s a cold, foggy day. Cara Jones drives over the Bay Bridge, from San Francisco heading east.
She thinks about how it used to be. There’s no photographer there to drive her around in a big news van. Nobody to figure out the directions or carry all the gear.
“On that day,” Cara says. “I had to arrange all the shoot details and pick up the videographer myself. When I was a reporter, I used to show up at the station and everything was taken care of.”
Cara shared her business idea with Ryan Rigoli of Soulful Brand, feeling scared just talking about it. She had just graduated from New Ventures West and planned to offer her new coaching skills to single women entrepreneurs. As Ryan asked her questions, Cara started second-guessing that direction.
With 10 years in the broadcast industry, Cara had a passion for storytelling. But she didn’t want to cut the typical prime-time news. She wanted to shine a light on inspiring stories but didn’t know how.
Ryan recognized this as a deep calling, completely aligned with her previous work experience.
“Part of me wanted to scrap my history and start over in a completely new field as a way of erasing all the negative experiences I had in the industry,” says Cara. “At the same time, I didn’t want my experience to go to waste.”
Previously, after an award-winning career in TV news, Cara Jones had quit her job and bought a one-way ticket to Argentina, having “the most amazing adventure of (her) life.”
At that time, she carried this dream to tell inspiring stories with her. When she returned to the U.S., an agent told her that the job she was looking for didn’t exist.
“I thought I might have to create this job or keep looking,” she says. “I didn’t find anything that matched what I wanted to do and I didn’t know if I could actually get paid telling inspiring stories.”
Considering what it would take to do this on her own, she wondered:
- Where do I focus my energy?
- How do I create a business out of doing what I love?
- I am just one person—how can I do something of significance?
- How do I bring this to life?
Cara crosses the bridge to the East Bay. She feels small and breaks down in tears.
Even though she has years of experience, she spends the whole day accompanied by doubt. She hears a voice in her head asking, “can I still do this—will people question me?”
The pro-bono video she creates that day becomes the first project on her new website. She needed content, and she had it. But she still wasn’t sure if this could be a business. It felt bigger than her. Right behind the doubt, Cara found herself intimidated.
Creating a Business & Making it Work
“I couldn’t see myself at a desk job,” Cara says. “I knew this work was calling to me and had been for years. It felt like the time to do it. I knew if I didn’t, it would always bother me.”
She recalls one day, right before New Year’s Eve. Her friends wanted to go out that night in a limo, and when they asked her to join, she burst out crying.
She didn’t have the money.
Cara marks this as one of several emotional breakdowns she had during that time—not being sure about what she was doing. Some people were extremely supportive and others were saying, “just get a job—something, who cares?”
For 6 months, Cara spends days alone with her computer, watching her bank account shrink. She finds herself confronted by the decision to invest in this or find a full-time job.
“Up to then, my life circumstances had taught me to ‘leap and the net will appear,” she says. “When I would feel fear, I would just do something. From leaving my reporter job, to traveling, to arriving in San Francisco without a job and 10 days later getting two freelance gigs.”
While doing some brand strategy + leadership development work with Soulful Brand, she uncovered a deeper sense of who she was and what contribution she could make through a new venture. Cara made her decision. A decision that would draw on the power of her community.
“I used to tell people I just had this little project,” she says. “I knew that if I held an event it would be harder for me to turn back—I have that tendency. An event would make it a real thing. I started planning a fundraiser for my first round of pro-bono videos for non-profits.”
Under the name Storytellers for Good, Cara began a letter campaign to all her friends and family in an effort to make her dream come true. Between that and the event, she raised $12,000. This step became the way for her to get her name out and her portfolio built.
“I felt this great sense of accountability,” says Cara. “These people rallied to support me and I thought, ‘now I have to make something happen!’ There was a lot of support from the Bay Area and beyond. I had declared my vision to a broader world.”
Her fundraising event turned everything around. She made a connection with someone that led to a part-time teaching job at the local Academy of Art University. This gave her grounding as she continued to build Storytellers for Good.
As a result of seeing the video Cara shot that day, crossing the Bay Bridge, one of Cara’s biggest clients is still with her today.
“I feel like I’m in phase two right now,” says Cara. “I’ve been able to transition to doing Storyellers for Good full-time.”
For her, the doubt used to be a scream. Now it’s a whisper. Cara has experienced the power of following her heart and having things just show up. And chances are that’s going to keep happening.
“I don’t know what’s coming next year but so far so good,” she says.
Cara continues to dream.
“When I was a kid I had big dreams,” she says. “I wanted to do great things for the world. In my news job, I kept measuring myself against other people—having families, being married. I tried to be like everyone else. In the process, I turned some of my dreams down. Now, as I allow my dreams to breathe again, they are just as big as when I was a kid. I am feeling the fear and doubt—they bring me alive.”
She sees her fear as a sign that she’s moving in the right direction. And then she takes a breath before leaping. As one of her favorite quotes reminds her, “fear is just excitement without the breath.”
What’s coming next for Cara?
- Telling her own story (she’s currently working on a documentary and memoir)
- Leading personal storytelling workshops for non-profit and business leaders
As Cara shines a light on inspiring stories, she finds new value in “the power of television and the media to influence the way people think, act and experience life.”
Given the authentic nature of the Storytellers for Good videos, it may not be just the light of the camera that’s shining. This reporter seems to have a light all her own.
“If you’re dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough. I wish someone had told me that fear and doubt are just part of the process. Don’t look at running into them as a roadblock. If fear and doubt are there, you’re doing something right. Be willing to step out of line with your peers at times. We might not make the same salaries as the people we went to college with. We have a different kind of path than other people.”