Author And Entrepreneur Inspires Others To Tell Their Stories

By Johanna Willett
The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Jennifer Spoelma never saw herself writing a book, but after she moved to Tucson, she found her passion for encouraging storytellers was going unused. In her first “Kickstarter funded” book “Tell It Well: How to Discover, Own and Share Your Story Well,” she wants to empower people to share personal stories of faith and life.


When Jennifer Spoelma decided to write a book last September, she took the plunge and told the world.

She figured that was the best way to make sure it got done.

“I had no idea how to write a book and didn’t know what I was getting myself into…” says Spoelma, 24. “At the start I told people, and I said, ‘Now I have to live up to it.
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It worked.

For a year, Spoelma waded the waters of book writing — researching, marketing, asking for feedback and staring at a blank screen. She squeezed her writing into the weekend hours and the moments before and after her full-time job as a product education strategist at Simpleview, Inc.

But she got it done.

In her first book “Tell It Well: How to Discover, Own and Share Your Story Well,” Spoelma wants to empower people to share personal stories of faith and life.

Her book becomes available on Amazon Thursday, Dec. 15 with a launch party following on Saturday, Dec. 17 in the Creative Tribe Workshop studio, 236 S. Scott Ave.

A fitting place, since it took a tribe.

Around the same time Spoelma started writing the book, she also started the Tuesdays Together meetup for creative entrepreneurs — a local chapter of the international organization the Rising Tide Society.

Not that she actually considered herself much of an entrepreneur at that time. She was a blogger with an idea for a book. That was all. Or so she thought.

Finding a genuine life
Spoelma moved to Tucson from Grand Rapids, Michigan the summer of 2014, newly married to husband Trevor Spoelma, a doctoral student at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.

In Grand Rapids, she worked as a program director for a church youth group and organized a weekend retreat to empower students to share their stories and their faith.

She was also working on her blog, the Jenuine Life, a place to celebrate the beauty she saw in other women and give them a forum through which to tell their stories.

“That was kind of a similar thread,” she says. “I didn’t realize how everything was tying together at the time.”

It was a year of job hunting and transition, a year without many people to meet.

The summer of 2015, her blog work compelled her to attend the Yellow Conference in Los Angeles — a place “for the creative, entrepreneurial-minded lady who wants to change the world,” so the tagline reads.

Game changer.
“I went there and was very inspired and just very moved and realized that these are my people…” Spoelma says of the three-day conference. “I get these people and feel excited for for them. I can be intense sometimes pursuing things. I kind of go hard after things which sometimes makes me feel like I’m too much.”

But not here. Not with these women.

She came back to Tucson thinking, “There have to be people like this in Tucson, too. How do you find them? How do you do this?”

When the tide rises
Spoelma found the answer to her desire for creative community in the Rising Tide Society, launched in May 2015 to provide community for entrepreneurs.

Too bad there was no Tucson chapter.

The organization encouraged Spoelma to apply to lead it in Tucson.

“I felt they better not choose me because I have a blog but I don’t run a business. I don’t have anything to show for it,” she says. “They accepted me in September 2015, and I was like, ‘OK. I guess I have to find people to join my group.'”

On the second Tuesday of September, she hosted the first Tuesdays Together in Tucson. Twelve people showed up. Now the Facebook group boasts more than 200.

“The whole point is to just get started,” says Emily Powell, a consistent Tuesdays Together attendee. She is in the beginning stages of launching her own toy business. “Due to the support from fellow Tuesdays Together members, both creatively and just having key insights into the growth process, I could embrace the idea of just starting instead of waiting for something to be perfect.”

Tuesdays Together helped her to refine her ideas and held her accountable: She wanted something new to share at each meeting.

“One of the things I have been proud to see happen, not because of me specifically, but as a facet of the group, is a lot of people have gotten to know each other and realize each other’s services,” Spoelma says. “As needs are growing and services expand, they are able to use each other and build their portfolios, and as everyone is growing, it’s lifting up everybody else, too.”

The Creative Tribe Workshop, a similar organization, started around the same time as Tuesdays Together and gives people a chance to exercise that creative streak. Now, the two organizations collaborate.

For 24-year-old Theresa Delaney, founder of the Creative Tribe Workshop and small business owner, Tuesdays Together offers a monthly chance to talk business — a way to stave off isolation.

“It makes people feel like they’re more welcome to try new things and get out there and start their own business, because they will have a network of support to turn to…” Delaney says. “It creates a feeling of support for people and I really think this is the motto of the Rising Tide group — by helping each other, we’re helping ourselves in the long run. The rising tide lifts all boats and creating that spirit helps everyone individually as well.”

And while Spoelma’s heart beats to infuse others with the confidence to tell their stories aloud and in life, she needed a boost of her own.

“I think at first I felt pretty insecure leading the group thinking, ‘I don’t make a living doing this. It’s technically at hobby level…'” Spoelma says. “I saw that there are no qualifiers for meaningful work. You don’t need to make a living, you don’t need to make a certain amount of money. You don’t need to make money at all for what you’re doing to be important. It’s also saying there are a lot of exciting and worthy things that come from building an audience and having people like your work, but that doesn’t validate your work either. Seeing that other people were doing what they loved and maybe were more content than I was to be doing it on the side was an important lesson.”

Tell it well
This fall, 148 backers pledged $14,305 to Spoelma’s book through Kickstarter, surpassing her goal of $14,000.

She self-published through the copyrighting company Words Move People she runs with her sisters Erica Male and Kellie Voss.

The organization also helps Christian churches with branding and communication.

Spoelma never saw herself writing a book, but after she moved to Tucson, she found her passion for encouraging storytellers was going unused.

“That was when it clicked,” she says. “Oh, I don’t have a platform or a youth ministry or anything like that to touch people with at this stage of life, but a book is something someone can pick up and own the journey for themselves.”
During interviews for her blog, women she admired would often thank her for challenging them to reflect on aspects of their life.

“I didn’t know I knew that,” they would tell her. “I didn’t know I had that story.”

The book challenges Christians in particular to think about their life story and the movement of God in it, Spoelma says. Most people think they don’t have a story, don’t know how to share it or felt insecure doing so.

But everybody has a story, Spoelma says. And everybody has a chance to make, build, dream and do.

She did.

“It’s really easy to rule yourself out and think, ‘I have this struggle or I don’t have time because of this and this and this,’ so surrounding myself with other people who were realizing their dreams and working toward them and pursuing them despite whatever struggles they had or hindrances they had was really inspiring,” she says. “You keep putting one foot in front of the other, because you realize nobody has it made for them.”

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