Tell us a bit about your background, where you grew up?
I grew up in a small town in Illinois, U.S.A. with my maternal grandmother. It was a childhood filled with financial and personal hardships. But despite the many obstacles that I had to overcome, my love for travel and learning lead me to pursuing an International Business degree with a minor in Spanish, and then eventually to moving to Amsterdam.
'Gessell wearing the SPIRIT all-weather coat'
What did you dream of becoming when you were a little girl?
At first, I really wanted to be a veterinarian. But my allergies unfortunately made that impossible. The next thing that I wanted to be as an opera singer. For various reasons, that did not work out.
Describe your current job?
Currently I work as a freelancer marketer and growth hacker. I specialise in helping entrepreneurs, small businesses and non-profit organisations achieve their business goals through creative, data-driven marketing tactics. I love working with smaller companies because of how much of a difference I can help make within the organisation. During the covid crisis, for some companies this means whether or not they make it at all.
What do you love about the city/town/village you live in?
Even though Amsterdam has a population of just under one million people, it really feels like a small town in some ways. Neighbours greet each other, children play freely without fear. Your local shops may know you by name and ask after your family. It truly is a place that you can feel at home.
Do you have a favourite place in the world?
My favourite place would have to be Val Thorens. One of our family traditions is going snowboarding every winter. We’ve visited Val Thorens a couple of times and there is so much to do and see that I never get bored. It’s an amazing place. Beautiful scenery, lovely people, amazing food, and just an unforgettable environment all around.
What is the greatest risk you have taken? OR The greatest fear you have overcome?
I’d have to say the greatest risk was moving to Amsterdam. When I moved here, I had never even been to the Netherlands, let alone Amsterdam. I had no friends here, no family, and had to rebuild not only my career, but my entire life. That’s something very scary to do in your 30s, when you feel so established where you are. But growth doesn’t come without risk taking and the rewards have been an incredible new place to call home.
What motivates you?
In the last few years, I have had the fortunate position to mentor a number of other women starting out in their professional careers and it really pushes me to bring my A game. Being the type of person like the ones from my childhood who helped to make me the person I am today motivates me to always do my best personally and professionally.
What brings you joy?
My daughter. It’s probably a bit cliche at this point, but seeing her childlike wonder and joy moves me in a way that I didn’t think was possible. It’s so easy to get jaded as an adult. Seeing things through her eyes reminds me of the beauty in life.
What’s the funniest thing that has happened to you this year?
My daughter’s friend complimented me on my hair. My daughter decided that it was appropriate to tell her that it was fake. She wasn’t wrong, it was a weave. But just hearing her matter of factly state this out loud had me in tears laughing.
What’s the one piece of advice you would give to a young woman just starting out?
Success is up to you to define. Don’t look at social media, or other people to determine if you’ve “made it” or not. Forget what other people think. Live life on your own terms. In the end, that’s all that matters.
'Gessell visiting the BYBROWN pop up shop in Amsterdam'