You know the feeling of doing work that has a real purpose? That helps you fall asleep at night? That motivates you to keep going even when things aren’t always smooth sailing?
That’s the kind of work that Opportunista Jenna Broadbent gets to do at The Wonderment, an online platform where kids and teachers initiate and participate in creative challenges (“Paths”) with other kids around the world. Their participation becomes a currency, backed by a community of donors, to make social good projects happen that they propose and choose.
Now that’s purpose.
Jenna discusses how she made the leap from working with established companies to startup ventures, and how she felt when making this life-changing transition. She shares her solid advice for those of you who are looking to build robust online and offline communities through your businesses. Jenna also provides powerful words of wisdom for female professionals to stay true to themselves and to honor their value. And if you’re just starting your business or at a crossroads trying to figure out what you’re passionate about – Jenna’s got it covered. (You’re in for a good laugh, too.)
Jenna is an Opportunista creating her own opportunities to live her best life.
Let’s meet Jenna, and learn from this Opportunista.
Name: Jenna Broadbent
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Title & Company: Community Director, The Wonderment
BA from Brigham Young University in Marketing Communications, Minors in English & Art History
Describe your current role and a typical workday at The Wonderment.
I’ve been lucky to have worked with The Wonderment since its inception. My background is in digital marketing and strategy for advertising agencies and tech startups. It’s been really fun to work with this small, brilliant team of social good innovators to bring this project forward. We’ve got some awesome, diverse brains and skills in this place. I feel really proud to be part of this project and part of this team.
My current role as Community Director is to work closely with the educators, parents, and kids in The Wonderment ecosystem. This includes working with, and understanding, the “macro” community of platform users/data to the “micro” opportunities to connect with, and personally interact with, the kids and teachers who are bringing their social good projects and ideas to life through the Wonderment. Because our community of “Wonderguides” consists of super passionate, active, innovative, hopeful humans – I’m pretty inspired on a regular basis professionally and personally.
What advice do you have for professionals seeking to build a successful online and offline community?
The idea/definition/function of “community” is something we’ve always had and defined by physical, geo-located environments and are all now exploring how that translates in non-physical, tremendously broad digital environments. I believe the function of community is still very much the same: it’s built on people’s need and desire for connection and belonging. Connection and belonging aren’t fluffy “nice to have” things. They’re very much connected to our physical and psychological wellbeing. There are some really fascinating studies and examples of how those needs actually supersede even physical survival impulses. No matter how the ways that we participate in communities change, we will never evolve out of our need for community and each other.
So for my fellow “community builders” out there, a nod to the fact that there are lot of nuances right now and things we’re all still trying on and figuring out. Be flexible. Be curious. Be scanning, researching, asking questions. I find as much pleasure/opportunity right now in the observation of how digital communities are unfolding as in the role of doing.
What are the three greatest challenges in building a successful community? How have you overcome these challenges?
- Patience. So often the things online that are up-leveled to our line of sight are a kind of quick-growth, viral result – a lightening flash that’s here and then gone. There’s certainly a place and value for that. I think it’s pretty exciting when content, people, and timeliness all meet up in a big way that’s independent of impact/outcome/longevity (and, let’s be honest, “keyboard cat” is a cultural gem and a classic, and I hope to share it with my grandchildren one day). The Wonderment is an ambitious endeavor that we hope can continue to make a legacy of impact – that’s something that requires the time to build solid, deep roots.
- Clarity. Savor and appreciate it when you have it and communicate it the best you can. Be willing to adapt as you/your projects adapts. When you’re working at something that’s new/innovative – the moments of clarity are simply the best.
- Flexibility. Knowing how/when to “air traffic control” your community’s passion and willingness to engage into action. Sometimes you’ll know beforehand the points of engagement and process when that will naturally happen. Be receptive and learn from the spontaneous opportunities, too.
- Can I have a fourth answer? Consistency. If you, your team, and/or your community find yourself at anytime unable to draw on one or any of the above things – know that you can still have consistency. We all like to feel like we can connect to something that’s dependable and consistent.
What do you love most about your current role?
That I deeply love and feel deeply connected to the people and this project.
What is the biggest obstacle in your current role? How do you work toward overcoming this?
That I deeply love and feel deeply connected to the people and this project(!).
We have a tremendous opportunity supported by a great team and community. Our ability to make it grow is in direct correlation to the amount of vulnerability and trust we allow ourselves to feel. It requires an open heart and a raw skin. It literally feels for me like soul-stretching work. And sometimes that feels like ass-kicking work. We cannot expect our kids to do what we aren’t willing to do/experience ourselves. So when our mission is directly tied to the premise of kids showing up, being willing to meet, and work together to create big change – that’s brave stuff.
What is the biggest career risk you’ve ever taken? How did it turn out?
10 years ago when I made the switch from full-time employment at established companies to working with startup ventures. You know that part in Braveheart where Mel Gibson yells “Freeeedoooommm” for a solid minute? It feels like that. I love working with ideas/people/projects with possibility.
Do you have any regrets?
I see regrets as something you see in your rearview and feel unable (or unwilling) to change. I hope to be able to have the chance to change things, or at the very least, learn from them.
What is something you see successful female professionals struggle with? How do you recommend they overcome this challenge(s)?
Having any kind of expectation that we can do and be good at it all. There’s good news and there’s bad news, and they’re both the same: it’s not possible. So lean in, lean out, lean to the side. Whatever makes sense for you and have a lot of patience and grace for yourself and others. And if you have the chance to take a hot bath or a nap. DO IT.
Women tend to view their role and value in relationship to others. That’s really a beautiful, needed thing when it’s in balance. One of the best wisdom nuggets I’ve been told is “When you honor yourself, you honor everyone around you. Always.” I had to try that one on for awhile. I believe it to be true.
Do you have a passion project? If so, what is it? How are you working toward making that passion a reality?
I bought a small cottage in a rural artist community in Utah a few years ago. I was craving the physical space of something with history, a small community, and the idea of befriending solitude. It’s been such a healing space/project for me. Now I’m looking for ways to share that experience with other women through retreats (whether it’s in groups or individual). I think it’s really important for a woman to have a quiet place and stretch of time where she can really connect with herself and the land. I’d like to be a part of creating more spaces like this for women around the world.
What advice can you share for someone who is looking to discover her passion?
Knowing that passion doesn’t have to be any one thing or have a noticeable “output” or justified. I consider my passions to be a revolving door – not necessarily a destination. If someone were to ask me what I’m passionate about right now – I’m passionate about thunderstorms, travel, and the idea of being a pancake waitress in Montana. What’s the sense in any of that? Where’s the output? Who knows. But if feeling passionate about those things is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.
You’re moving to another planet. How do you want to be remembered on planet earth?
Great question! I’d like the highlight reel to play as a lounge show based on the funny experiences I’ve encountered set to music and with rhinestone embellishments. Maybe a part where someone lays across a piano.
How are you creating your own opportunities to live your best life?
The experience of being a single working mom has been so humbling. For as independent as I’d like to be/think I am, I am constantly humbled by the realization that for my life to function, I have to rely on the dependability and good graces of others. I want to work on refining those skills that I have been the grateful recipient: dependability and grace.
Also, as I get older, I’m really enjoying that option and power of being able to simply say, “no thanks.”
Jenna is The Opportunista.
You would describe yourself as: Classy and sassy. Your friends would describe you as: More smart assy.
Item on your bucket list that you would like to cross off next: Standing Rock in South Dakota. The gathering of indigenous tribes in protection of water is, for many reasons, one of the most significant things happening right now. I’m interested in continuing to look for ways to help the movement and the resulting movements it is creating.
Your biggest pet peeve: Impatience. Especially directed towards children, old people, and/or animals.
The woman you dream of taking to lunch. Why her? My Grandma Mae. She passed away a few years ago. She was a legend of a woman, and I miss her. I’d definitely order appetizers and dessert just to make it last longer.
What’s something you wouldn’t typically share in an interview? Tell us! I love a good harmless vice. I don’t trust people that don’t have/love a few.
Let me know in the comments: How has Jenna’s story inspired you to build your own business and create your own opportunities?
Learn More from The Opportunistas
Check out Opportunista Insights – Stronger Than You Know: 10 Ambitious Women Help You Face The Challenges of Entrepreneurship – to read about the tough challenges that 10 women business owners faced early on in their entrepreneurial journeys, and most importantly, HOW they overcame those obstacles.