2015 Hot 20: Jessica Semaan, the Passion Chaser

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Jessica Semaan, founder of Passion Co., believes every person has something to offer—some individual passion that just might be a gift to someone else or to the world.



Almost seven years ago, Semaan made the trek from Lebanon with a couple of suitcases and an ambitious spirit. She graduated from Stanford Business School and got a job at Airbnb—impressive resume bullet points that left her craving something, you know, more.


In her hunt for the thing that would satisfy her soul, Semaan developed Passion Co., an organization designed to help regular people get in tune with what they love. Over the last two years, Semaan and her team and have helped more than 5,000 seekers chase down their destinies in 30-day Passion Projects, where they write a "meaning statement," build on an idea, and then share it five weeks later at the company's popular Shine events. To participate, members apply for a course and pay tuition (think of it sort of like bootcamp for getting your creative juices going). The concept is sweet and just oozes with sunshine and hope. But does it work? Well, ask Passion Project participant and everyone's favorite local woodworker Aleksandra Zee; or Kate Kittredge, the former Google marketer who dreamed of concocting magical floral bouquets. She's now the creative director of BloomThat.


Now Semaan has gathered the stories of 100 people's quests for passion (which, in addition to her own tale, comprise her blog Passion Stories, which she hopes soon to develop into a book), and last month, she staged her first Start Conference, with 30 talks and 30 workshops geared toward kickstarting visitors' own passion projects (creative, personal, and small businesses) over a single weekend.


Semaan sees the quest for passion as a movement, quoting civil rights leader and author Howard Thurman: Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.


She hopes to “spread the Passion Co. mission and method everywhere in the world," offering anyone who wants it (you?) “the clarity and the support and the empowerment to launch their passion project." In the process of helping people engage in what they love, Semaan has found her own calling. It's kind of hard not be inspired by someone whose job and passion it is to inspire others. // thepassion.co

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