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Jess Stack, From Teacher to Grant Writing Consultant in 6 Months

Jess Stack

For Jess Stack, the transition from teaching to grant writing was extremely intuitive. A mere six months into her grant writing journey, Jess has built a grant writing business, has five clients, and won a $300,000 grant! Best of all, Jess’s schedule is no longer regimented out, but more fully integrated with her passions.

Honolulu, Hawaii
Funding Area
Environment, Education, Arts
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A Natural Career Change For a Teacher

As an elementary school teacher and mom, Jess was more than familiar with the need for grant funding to be able to carry out important programs. She was often on the backend side of receiving grants and managing the funding appropriately. While Jess was excited about the creativity of the grants and being part of the process, she wasn’t in the role of grant writer.

While at home during the height of the pandemic, Jess did some serious soul searching. “I wondered if I should come back to the classroom or figure out a way to homeschool my kids,” Jess said. “I fell into this wonderful community after I saw one of your great videos on YouTube. And I said, ‘Hey, I can do that.’”

Making the transition from teaching to grant writing was very logical for Jess. She was able to take her educator-like pragmatic, solutions-oriented approach to her grant writing work. “As grant writers, we're trying to find the perfect match for the need,” Jess said. “It's a wonderful way of matchmaking and educators are very used to that.”

Rather watch than read Jess’s story? Head on over to YouTube:


Perks of Becoming a Grant Writing Consultant

Working as a grant writing freelancer allows Jess the freedom to carry out her days as she pleases. From the flexibility of choosing who to work for, what projects to work on, and when to work on them, Jess is able to cohesively integrate her entire schedule. Instead of clocking in to work everyday and engaging in a regimented schedule, Jess is thriving with her newfound adaptability.

“It really has transformed my life because it enables me to take my different interests, put them all together, and make these passions come to life,” Jess said. “My daily work has become so organic and natural. I don’t need to push myself or motivate myself to get up anymore. I’m excited to wake up in the morning!”

In addition to writing grants, Jess has also had the opportunity to serve on a grant review panel for a local arts organization. The experience helped clarify her writing and prompted her to be more assessment and rubric driven to ensure she’s clearly answering the grant application questions.

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Developing a Program & Winning a $300,000 Grant

Jess has had many small and big successes warranting celebration along the way, including winning a highly competitive $300,000 federal grant only months after becoming a grant writing unicorn.

The client needed a kitchen renovation, but Jess went a step further to leverage more ideas and obstacles to create an innovative solution - a solution that would attract more funding opportunities and serve the community more robustly. As a self-proclaimed foodie, Jess pitched a farm to table concept with a culinary weekend where local chefs are invited to look, eat, drink, and enjoy the land. This new take on the client’s needs would fund a kitchen, garden, and necessary staff.

“It wasn't just that we were going to renovate this kitchen, but that we are going to make this a program that brings our community together in a time when togetherness is really needed. Food really matters,” said Jess. “The participant gets to take home not only the program, ideas, and knowledge, but also an actual seed that they can plant in their own home gardens. It's really evolved and I’m so proud of this whole program.”

Jess’s expertise helped to make the Camp Mokulē‘ia Mix Plate Program come to life. This program educates Hawaii's youth on where their food comes from with the hopes of creating a more sustainable food system. Watch a recap of the program on YouTube.

Growing Business & Personal Development Skills

Jess founded Haystack Essentials as her grant writing consulting company six months after joining the Global Grant Writers Collective. “LGW has changed my life,” Jess said. “I went from a burnt-out classroom teacher to the founder and CEO of my grant consulting company.”

In her first year in business, she earned $55,000 in revenue! She also helped design Funding Strategies for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations.

In Haystack Essentials’s second year, Jess made a strategic move to hire subcontractors to build out her team and take on larger projects. Jess’s team has written federal grants and private foundation grants. The team has secured close to a million dollars in grant funding as well as developed innovative programs for the arts, environment, human services, and education.

“It has been an inspirational journey to learn, design, and work alongside change-makers in my community and throughout the country, and that is truly my passion,” Jess said.

With her background in education, Jess was accustomed to being told how much her work is worth and not setting her own value. Membership to the Collective has helped Jess immensely with recognizing the value of her work (more than she thought initially!).

“You can read all these books about the technical skills of grant writing and do all these different professional development courses, but truly that inner growth of personal development is so key,” Jess said. “It helps you to feel good, make things happen, get the ball rolling. The Collective is so holistic in that sense where you are developing this grant writing unicorn from the inside out.”

Jess has embodied the essence of the Collective so much so that she now serves on the Learn Grant Writing team as a Coach. In this role, she provides coaching and mentorship to members of the Collective. She also coordinates and facilitates a monthly book club.

Popular reads have included “Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person” by Shonda Rhimes, “The High 5 Habit: Take Control of Your Life with One Simple Habit” by Mel Robbins, and “Find Your Unicorn Space: Reclaim Your Creative Life in a Too-Busy World” by Eve Rodsky.

Learn Grant Writing Review

“Meredith said you can just hit the ground running and you really can,” Jess said. “I totally binge-watched all of the content and started informational interviews right away with schools that I was connected with. Through the interview process you teach, I was able to transform those relationships into paying clients.”

Jess has also greatly appreciated how being part of the Collective has helped her to reframe limiting beliefs. She now sees obstacles as creative opportunities to seek new collaborators and ways of thinking.

“When we think outside of the box we can create so much value in relationships and in actual dollar amounts,” Jess said. “The Collective hits the nail in so many different ways with this opening up of possibilities to capture what is needed for these organizations.”

“The community is really awesome and solid.” Jess said. “It's been a great way to have the sense of coworkers: people who have very similar interests and who want to do good in the world. We can do it together. It's just very inspiring.”

If you’d like to become a grant writing unicorn, check out our free training on how to build a career in grant writing.

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