The future is indeed bright — on many exciting levels — for Lacombe’s 2022 Citizen of the Year Jo Phillips.
The co-founder and CEO of Jo(e) Social Media Inc. recently announced she will be moving on from the groundbreaking Lacombe-based company and focusing squarely on working with youth — something she describes as her true passion.
“This has been coming for a while,” she explained, adding that she took her youth resilience coaching training last year.
“It was a seven-month program, and I’ve been really working towards focusing on the kids.
“Because I work with so many kids, the thing that I really noticed is that there are definitely mental health challenges that do require therapy, but really, one of the bigger challenges the kids who I’m working with are facing is the development of trust in their own coping skills,” she said.
“Also, the development of using their abilities and their own experiences to build solutions and things like that.”
Phillips, who is also the director of Jo(e) Youth Creative which is a program currently offered through Jo(e) Social Media, also wants to help parents in assisting their children in the development of these skills.
“That is what youth resiliency coaching is: taking a kid who is being challenged and helping them to develop their own skills based on their own experiences,” she said.
She will be wrapping up her work with Jo(e) Social Media Inc. — which she co-founded with Joe Whitbread — in June.
From that point on, Jo(e) Youth Creative won’t be under the umbrella of Jo(e) Social Media Inc. but will be a singular entity all its own.
“It’s going to be developed as a social enterprise and will really grow into its true form; the true vision of it, which was a business run by kids giving them opportunities like entrepreneurship,” she explained.
Moving forward, the Creative will also be able to really expand its programming and Phillips is absolutely thrilled at the range of possibilities.
Utilizing social media will certainly be part of it, but there will be a whole lot more built into the venture.
“I just love youth. They are so honest and if you look at things from their perspective, it’s really cool what they find interesting, and what they can teach you,” she said, adding that unfortunately, young people often don’t get the respect or the listening ear that they deserve.
“When I get to connect with them and share that respect with them, it just ‘shifts’ them.
“There is this quote that says, ‘Be the person you needed when you were younger,’” she said, adding that it was at a basketball camp in her own youth where she received such profound and life-changing inspiration.
“I had really powerful mentors for one week a year,” she recalled. But that one week was enough to help her navigate through the twists and turns of what can be difficult years.
“Those weeks taught me about self-esteem, valuing myself, goal-setting, and things like that,” she said. “So that is the direction I am going; I’m being that person that I needed.”
In the meantime, plans are quickly taking shape. A program called ‘Haven’ will be launched this summer for kids who are experiencing bullying. But kids who tend to be bullies will also be welcome.
“They don’t become bullies because they are having a really positive experience in the world,” she said.
Ultimately, Haven will be a week-long program for all of these youth to come together and talk about the issue, build some skills around it, and hopefully change what can be devastating outcomes.
Meanwhile, with new beginnings, come a few endings.
Phillips has loved her time at Jo(e) Social Media and the amazing connections that she has made with others over the years.
“It has changed me significantly. It’s made me a better person. There were things I would say and do 10 or 12 years ago that I wouldn’t say or do now,” she added with a laugh.
It has also been a place of seeing dreams come true.
“Every year, we would sit down and write out our biggest dreams for that particular year,” she said. “A year later, we would look at it again and say, ‘Wow — we achieved that in two months!’ So the thing that I would say it taught me the most is that every single thing is possible,” she said.
“There is also a motto on our wall that says, ‘Innovate, Grow, Give Back, Repeat.’”
It’s a bold statement that has bolstered an engaging leadership style that has helped to build a close team over the years.
“I will miss this team and working with them because they are just so talented,” she said. “But at the same time, I’m a business builder, and I don’t like to stay in the same place for a long time. So I’m very excited about the possibilities.”