Speaking - Jess Ekstrom

"The first time I heard Jess speak at FailFest I was blown away. Blown away by her company, her speaking, her message, but most of all, blown away by her."

- Jeff Hoffman, Co-Founder of Priceline.com

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Jess is an original in a world of copies. She was a standout among the rest of the speakers with her story, humor, inspirational message and lovable energy.

- Kelsey McKague, director of Catalyst University


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Jess has been featured in ...

Named Top Influential Speaker by Forbes

Chasing The Bright Side:
Why Optimism is The Secret Ingredient to Success

When we look at someone successful, we often skip right to where this person posts on his or her profile: job title, accolades, financial status, fancy degree, and how many times they’ve appeared on the Today Show.

So when we look at that list, it makes us feel like we have to check those boxes in order to be successful, which can be daunting and seem impossible. However, when we hear the real stories of the initial spark of an idea from a basement or a dorm room and how it was built, we realize that every expert we know was once a beginner. We always see the Chapter 7, 8 and 9 or even their next book, but rarely Chapter 1.

Chapter 1 in anyone’s success story had to start with one thing: optimism.

Anyone who’s ever done something great, created something new, shattered tradition or changed patterns had to start with the mindset that they could make it better. Optimism is the rooted belief that there’s something good on the other side. In fact, studies show that optimism can be linked to a longer life span and triggers positive cognitive responses associated with greater flexibility, innovation and problem solving.

Jess encourages her audience to use optimism as a tool to not just envision the good, but create it. When we think optimistically in our careers and in our lives, we’ll feel more confident, creative and empowered to go for it. And forward mobility is contingent upon our optimistic mindset coupled with the willingness to go for it.

By using her story of creating a million dollar company from her dorm room, Jess talks about the three essential tools to practicing optimism: confidence mindset, failure management, and purpose activation.
Some past clients for this talk have been Leadercast Live and Catalyst University.


  • Every expert you know, was once a beginner
  • Failures are not opposite of success, they’re a part of success
  • In order to be resilient, you have to believe in the end result
  • Tactical tips to practice optimism in our daily lives and jobs

Most tweeted line from this talk: Success is not what it looks like to others, it’s what it feels like to you.

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Who Do You Serve?
Connecting Our Work to Our World

When Jess worked in Disney World, she met two custodians. One of them always complained about her job. She said she was just picking up trash and she questioned why she was even there.

The other custodian loved his job. He said he loved working outside, helping guests plan their days, and handing out fast passes to the kids.
Both employees had the same assigned work, but one of them saw trash and the other saw meaning. The difference of mindset between these employees is what this talk will cover.

Through humor and inspiring stories, Jess helps the audience build a closer connection to their work by bridging their actions to a greater purpose and mission of the company.

She helps the attendees make a human connection to their work by encouraging them to think about who they serve, not who they sell to.

Having a sense of meaning is one of the top 3 most important factors cited by employees when it comes to job satisfaction and engagement. Engaged and loyal employees will allow companies to remain innovative, impactful and competitive in their industry.
In this keynote, Jess will debunk the idea of bouncing around searching for your ‘calling,’ and instead find alignment between your work, purpose, and greater mission of the company.
Some past clients for this talk include SAS Global Leadership Forum and Newell Brands.


  • Learn tactical strategies to increase employee empowerment
  • Discover potential ways to increased workplace engagement
  • Employees view their roles with deeper meaning
    Enhanced workplace culture with new ideas to keep it consistent

Most tweeted line from this talk: Meaningful work is not assigned to you, it’s created by you.

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That's What She Said:
Making Our Internal Dialogue our Biggest Cheerleader

Whether or not we recognize it or hear it, we have this voice in our head: the voice in our head that tells us we’re not ready. The voice in our head that makes our failures louder than our wins. The voice in our head that compares us to the woman beside us. The voice in our head that tells us someday, but not today.

The voice in our head is our internal dialogue we have with our feelings, decisions and actions. We’re not just out in this world aimlessly reacting to anything and everything without thought. We have a buffer in our head that puts a space between our world and how we feel and respond. We have a conversation with ourselves just like we’d have with a friend.

 And that buffer and conversation is the voice in our head that tells us when:

  • We can or can’t.
  • We’re too old or too young.
  • We’re too busy or too bored.
  • We’re too tall or too short.
  • We’re ready or not.

The story we write in our head tells us how we’re going to respond. Are we good enough? Up for the challenge? Is it the “right” time?

Whatever the answer, the voice in our head will tell us, and frankly, sometimes it doesn’t know what the heck it’s talking about. Sometimes, girlfriend is whack. It tells us we shouldn’t apply for the job or it’s not the right time or we’re not good enough or it feeds off of all the negativity.

So what happens when we change the story? 

Opportunity. That’s what happens when we change the voice in our head to tell us that there’s good and we can bring it. It opens up a whole other world that maybe we thought was beyond reach before. Everything we want is within reach if we’re willing to throw perfection out the door and embrace the messiness of the journey.

But first, we have to learn to recognize the voice in our head and train it to be our biggest cheerleader, instead of the coach that keeps putting you on the bench. In this keynote, Jess will use her story of Headbands of Hope to show how she actively trained the voice in her head through times of inspiration, chaos, failure and purpose.

Some past clients for this talk include Leadercast Women and Women’s Business Summit



  • Recognizing the voice in our head and what it tells us
  • Tips to making our internal dialogue more positive
  • Learning that confidence is a voice, not a skill
  • Understanding that we are always in control of our story

Most tweeted line from this talk: We can’t always control our experiences, but we can always write our story

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  • SAS Global Forum
  • Citrix
  • Leadercast Live
  • Sharpie
  • Micron
  • Clif Bar
  • Newell Brands
  • Fonville Morisey 
  • Long & Foster Real Estate
  • Justice Summit
  • Economix Conference
  • WIN Collision Repair
  • The Preiss Company
  • HR Palm Beach County
  • Yellow Conference
  • Red Ventures
  • Simplicity Financial Planning
  • SHRM Wichita
  • SHRM South Central California
  • McGill & Hill Group
  • Girl Scouts
  • National Guard
  • Leadercast Women
  • Tennessee Banking Association
  • CREW Richmond
  • CREW San Antonio
  • Promotional Products Association International
  • IAEE
  • School Nutrition Conference
  • Mavenly Conference
  • WISE Symposium for Women in Business
  • Women’s Entrepreneurship Summit
  • National Charity League
  • Girls on the Run
  • NextGen Summit
  • UNC Healthcare
  • Western Banking Women’s Summit
  • Ames Chamber of Commerce
  • PMI Great Lakes
  • PMI Madison
  • YMCA Professionals Network
  • EnviroTech Summit
  • Catalyst University
  • Imperfect Boss Camp
  • Harvard
  • Gulfstream Leadership Conference
  • DECA Conference
  • International Live Events Association
  • Georgia Association for Student Councils
  • Key Club Convention
  • Collegiate Entrepreneurship Organization
  • TEDx University of Akron
  • Simon Family Foundation
  • Designed to Lead Conference
  • Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values, Central
  • Southeastern Panhellenic Conference
  • National Society of Collegiate Scholars
  • Indiana Women’s Banking Association
  • 4H Conference
  • Eastern Carolina University
  • University of North Alabama
  • Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
  • University of South Florida St. Petersburg
  • Oklahoma University
  • Southeastern Louisiana
  • University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
  • Western New England University
  • Williston Northhampton
  • Hamline University
  • Arkansas Tech University
  • Ferris State University
  • Ball State University
  • Illinois College
  • Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Georgia Fall Leadership Conference DECA
  • Florida Atlantic University
  • Auburn University
  • University of St. Thomas
  • Endicott College
  • University of Akron
  • Lander University
  • University of Colorado, Boulder
  • Salisbury University
  • Texas A&M, College Station
  • Bradley University
  • University of Connecticut
  • Pittsburg State University
  • Pennsylvania State University, Altoona
  • University of Virginia
  • Lynn University
  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • University of Nevada, Las Vegas
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • Marian University
  • Eastern Connecticut State University
  • Belmont University
  • Clemson University
  • California DECA
  • University of Missouri, Columbia
  • Arkansas Tech University
  • Rockhurst University
  • Coastal Carolina University
  • Oregon State University
  • University of Central Oklahoma
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of South Alabama
  • Michigan State University
  • Georgia State University
  • Radford University
  • Virginia Community College System Student Leadership Conference
  • Nova Southeastern University
  • Washburn University
  • Oxford College of Emory University
  • Marshall University
  • Southeastern Louisiana University
  • Creighton’s Corner
  • Norwich University
  • Brookdale 
  • University of South Florida, Tampa
  • University of South Carolina, Upstate
  • Kent State University
  • Slippery Rock University
  • Colorado State University, Fort Collins
  • Eastern Oregon University
  • University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
  • Georgia State University
  • Western Carolina University
  • University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Oglethorpe University
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Old Dominion University
  • Emporia State University
  • Saint Leo University
  • University of Utah
  • Oakland University
  • Eastern Michigan University
  • Capital University
  • James Madison University
  • University of South Carolina, Columbia
  • University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
  • Elon University
  • Georgetown University
  • Springfield College
  • Pennsylvania State University, University Park
  • North Carolina State University
  • Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi
  • Wright State University
  • Gardner-Webb University
  • Eastern Washington University
  • Monmouth College
  • Appalachian State University
  • University of Delaware

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