Artist Fellowship | Features

An Award-Winning Digital Strategist Turned Rebellious Entrepreneur

Witnessing the drastic and rapidly increasing effects technology had on the wellbeing of those around her, the seed of an idea sprouted in award-winning digital strategist Jess Davis’ mind.

When her son was born in 2011, it was the final straw to push her budding idea into action. Motivated by her own burn-out after spending eight years deep within the tech world and her “mama bear’s desire” to spare her son from the same fate, Folk Rebellion was born.

Davis left her successful career to start a media company from her home in Brooklyn, NY with a mission of “leading a plugged-in world towards digital wellbeing.”

Fascinated by her path, we had to interview this rebellion’s fearless leader to learn more.

I guess I am the body for this idea. It’s bigger than me. It’s why I don’t stop.

Tell us your story:
I started Folk Rebellion quite suddenly, but a quick review of my GoDaddy purchases show that I have been playing with this idea for about eight years. The long and the short of it is that I was the stereotypical plugged-in New Yorker, wearing busy like a badge of honor. I now consider myself a recovering digital strategist. My career had taken off and after winning awards and gaining more clients which I was communicating on behalf of digitally, I started to get really sick in my head. My brain was struggling. Memory, attention, fog, disassociation, and creativity were all lacking. I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what and neither did my doctors. It wasn’t until a family imposed digital detox on a vacation in Hawaii that I began to feel better. On day eight a lightbulb went off. I was well again and the only difference was my presence, lack of technology, and slower pace.  I quit my job the day I returned to New York.

 I quit my job the day I returned to New York.

Jess Davis at home

I didn’t know this was going to be my life path. My road here is a squiggly mess all over the map. Only in looking back can I see that there was a way all along. I had no idea that this big and busy career was giving me the skill set I needed to story tell and create communities at the same time it was burning me out. When I had my son in 2011, four years after the iPhone was created, I was already able to see the effects of addicted adults….I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for my son. I guess I had to have the burnout, the info, the view from the proverbial “inside” of the tech industry, and a mama bear’s desire to protect her son at any cost. It was like a magical concoction. I had no choice. I often say that I am just a conduit. I am delivering a message outside of myself. Elizabeth Gilbert talks about Ideas finding homes… I guess I am the body for this idea. It’s bigger than me. It’s why I don’t stop.

I was sitting on a mountain when the words Folk Rebellion came to me. I believe nature allows space for breath and ideas. It only made sense for me to create a lifestyle around nature and to get people into the idea…without scaring them. No one wants to be told they are scrambling their brains… or worse yet, their kids’ brains.

And so my new life was born…I’m a Chief Rebel leading a Folk Rebellion — a media brand on a mission, leading a plugged-in world towards digital wellbeing.

What occupies most of your time during the day?
I really compartmentalize my time. I am ALL IN each bucket of time. When I am with my son, I am not working and when I am working, it is not from my kitchen counter. I need to single-task and focus. So, I would say my time is a balance of work, the mission of Folk Rebellion, and leisure time with my friends, family, and self. What constitutes an average “work day” as an entrepreneur is ridiculous. One moment I am handling shipping and customer service and in the next, writing a new methodology for a school initiative or planning an off-the-grid adventure in Greece for 20+ executives. It’s wild. I guess that’s why I love it.

I had no idea that this big and busy career was giving me the skill set I needed to story tell and create communities at the same time it was burning me out.

What occupies most of your time during the weekend?
My weekends are MINE. Not work’s, not clients’. I spend it with my son and we usually try and get outdoors somehow. Living in Brooklyn, I used to think that’s a challenge; but with a little planning, you can be camping in the woods within 2 hours. Outdoors can mean a bike ride to Red Hook with a friend or a rooftop bar, too!

What do you wish you had more time to do?
Reading and idleness. I plan my idle times, so I know I do them a lot more than most but I still wish I had more days of nothing. And books. Always more books.

What do you wish you did less of?
Less email. Less communication. Folk Rebellion has been well-received and as I’ve bootstrapped, I have been the main point of contact for vendors, partners, writers, press, etc. I’ve trained most to not expect responses from me for 24-48 hours, but living that way you get your inbox down and in a day it’s back up to 250 unread messages.

I plan my idle times, so I know I do them a lot more than most but I still wish I had more days of nothing.

What is your favorite non-digital activity?
Listening to live music – or analog.

What is your favorite tech or app that helps you balance your life?
BOOMERANG! I cannot live without it. I “PAUSE” my inbox every day while I work on projects and then also boomerang emails back to the top of it. I also use Voice Notes for everything. That way I’m not staring at a screen typing all day. It allows the phone to be out of my face. And the Moment App to make sure I am living up to my values.

If you could have a day off to spend anywhere with anyone, what would you do?
I would spend it with my son Hays. We would go in an old Westy up to Nova Scotia. We road trip, camp, and sleep under stars each summer. The Northeast is next on the list.

Jess with her son, Hays

What would you pack in a suitcase if you had to live with only those items for the rest of your life?
Does Hays still fit in a suitcase?

  • Pencils and Paper
  • As many books as I could fit
  • Printed pictures of my family
  • An iPod and Solar charger to keep it playing music all day 🙂
  • Fave tee
  • Ripped Jeans
  • Chapstick
  • Sunglasses

Who are your favorite writers?
I feel a huge affinity towards Elizabeth Gilbert because we were both old school NY honky tonk bartenders in another life. I’ve admired her path for decades. Brene Brown, Henry David Thoreau, Charles Bukowski, and so many more.

When and where are you happiest?
In the mountains near the water with family around. Or an open road. No devices seem to be another must-have for happiness these days.

How do you create balance in your life?
I have rituals that I stick to: two weeks offline at the end of summer in the woods, no business between Christmas and New Years’, no cell phones or devices in bedroom, no working in front of my kid, no emailing, scrolling, while in movement (cars, walking, subway, etc.), and when I feel out of whack, I press pause until I don’t.

Which living person do you most admire?
That’s a tough one! Maybe Arianna Huffington? Jean Twenge, Brene Brown. I guess I never thought about this. Oh! I love Tim Ferriss too.

To join Jess Davis’s Folk Rebellion and get empowered to find your freedom in a digital world, check out their website, printed publication, and events. To press pause yourself, you can book a Getaway here.