Jesse Draper is creator and host of The Valley Girl Show and CEO of Valley Girl, Inc. She has produced and distributed over 200 interviews with some of the greatest minds in business, entertainment, government and technology including; Ted Turner, Mark Cuban, Sheryl Sandberg, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, MC Hammer and Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google. Valley Girl has been called "Must see startup TV" by USA Today. After six successful years hosting her Internet talk show online, Jesse is expanding her influence with a new television series on KTVU-FOX 2 and KICU-TV 36 in Northern California.
Previously a Nickelodeon star, Draper has used her comedic and acting talents to bring an approachable feel to the business world. Through Valley Girl, she has helped pioneer the way in the digital media world and has created a new distribution model for online shows. Recently named "The Tech World's Queen of Networking" by GENTRY Magazine, Jesse recently founded a women in business organization in association with Valley Girl which holds exclusive quarterly events across the country for cross industry networking and support of women in business. Draper is also an angel investor through her fund, Valley Girl Ventures where she does early stage seed investing in startups that have a female in the founding team. Jesse splits time between Silicon Valley and Santa Monica and is a graduate of UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.
Draper is a regularly featured speaker on digital media, women in business and entrepreneurship at business conferences around the world, including; SXSW, DLD, TEDx, TechVentures and Universities such as Stanford and the University of Edinburgh. She is also a regular contributor to such news sites at Mashable, Forbes.com, The Huffington Post and Glam.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
It's hard to put a pin on exactly which life experience caused me to be a leader, but I am the oldest of four children and the first grandchild as well -- I also have a very strong father figure in my life, so I think those things started me on my way. Running a show or creating any type of content is a collaborative art. I think I have learned a lot about people working together and good leadership by working with my crew and team on The Valley Girl Show. I am always learning however, new situations come up daily that you need to deal with and I am always trying new leadership tactics.
How has your previous employment experience aided your position at Valley Girl?
I was formerly an actress on a Nickelodeon show. Being an actress in general was an amazing experience because I got so many "No's" in auditions that it no longer affects me when I hear the word 'No' or any criticism at all -- as an entrepreneur you really can't let the rejection affect you in any way, you need to only see the positive and find the 'Yes's' that will move you forward.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Valley Girl?
I think this is all about goal setting. There are daily challenges. How am I going to take our new TV show national successfully? How do I scale my brand? How do I find time to run my angel fund and run my show simultaneously while making time to see my incredible husband? The highlights have been the moments I look up from my work during a low moment and realize that I have made incredible progress from where I was the year before. Those moments bring me clarity. Sometimes I feel like I am not moving forward at all and then I realize... I am.
Tell us about Valley Girl Ventures and what you're hoping to achieve.
I hope to help increase the number of female founders and female investors in the tech space. I also hope I encourage more women to take more risks with their money and invest in startups.
What advice can you offer women who are seeking to start their own business?
1. Come meet with me.
2. Just do it and stop talking yourself out of it.
3. Put yourself out there. More women need to be seen in the press for our numbers to increase.
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I don't. You are getting me the day after I finished editing our first episode of The Valley Girl Show for KTVU Fox 2 which took longer than anticipated because we were working out all the kinks, so, I've actually been in a dark editing room for two weeks straight and barely eaten. Yesterday, my assistant KC actually said, "I can't sit in a dark windowless room any longer!' so we are all at our wits end. To answer your question... today, specifically, I am not balancing it all well. I have thousands of emails to catch up on and meetings to reschedule that I've had to push off and I also run an angel fund so I need to check in on my portfolio companies. They're probably like, "Who's Jesse?" about now. I think everyone has moments like this though and balancing is difficult. I am more impressed with all the women who have kids and do this much -- when I think about them, what I am balancing is not impressive at all. That's my brutally honest answer. I'm doing the best I can.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think that women are doing most things the right way, we just need more women to enter leadership positions. Women helping women is key. Women hiring women. Mentoring women. And more women need to invest in women. Women take significantly less risks in investing than men do and we need women to be riskier with their money. I would love to see more women investing in tech startups.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I didn't have a ton of female mentors growing up when it came to my career. My aunt Polly gave me one of my first jobs and I always looked up to her when I was young. She has been a huge mentor in my life. She is the only person I knew in entertainment when I started my career and she has helped me throughout! I call her regularly for advice and to discuss issues I am having. I also have many male mentors. And I have the most incredible group of girlfriends. People never mention their friends as mentors but I respect their opinions more than anyone else's and often ask for their feedback on whatever I am working on. Girlfriends are just the best.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I love Sheryl Sandberg. I think she has started the next generation of female leaders and she gives the future generations someone to look up to. When I was young I always looked up to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. I had the opportunity to interview both of these women on The Valley Girl Show and they didn't disappoint. They are both people I idolize still. That said, I like to look to the next generation of female leaders that they have sparked. These include Alexa Von Tobel, founder of Learnvest, Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, Julia Hartz of Eventbrite, Ruzwana Bashir of Peek.com and Caroline Ghosn and Amanda Pouchot of Levo League. These are some of the incredible female leaders I am watching and can't wait to see where they take us.