Q&A with Rebel Girls CEO, Jes Wolfe

By Kat La Mantia | June 15 2023 | BlogChildren'sGeneralAllGift

Rebel Girls books feature stories of amazing women and girls from all around the world to inspire young girls to grow up strong, confident, and powerful. From practical puberty advice to good night stories to incredible accounts of trailblazing women from all backgrounds making history in sports, business, social justice, and beyond, Rebel Girls meets girls where they are to encourage, inspire, and empower.

We caught up with Rebel Girls CEO, Jes Wolfe, to get her thoughts on why these books are so important for young readers.

What sparked the idea behind Rebel Girls? 

Rebel Girls is a global empowerment brand whose purpose is to help raise the most confident and inspired generation of girls, today. 

We originally started, in 2016 via a kickstarter campaign with the first Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, because of the lack of representation in children’s literature. At the time, less than ⅓ of books had female characters and only 19% of children’s books had female characters with agency. (Today it has not improved measurably). Rebel Girls books were created to fill this gap by showcasing hundreds of amazing real life women and girls who have contributed to making their communities and the world a better place. The aim was to offer a much more diverse and empowering story to that of the traditional fairy tale – instead of a helpless princess, Rebel Girls books showcase women with true agency. 

How does the Rebel Girls team hope these books will impact girls and women around the US? 

By the age of 6, girls begin to believe that they are less smart and less capable than boys. Between the ages of 8-14, girls’ confidence falls by another 30 percent. And,  8 out of 10 girls say they want to feel more confident. 

When you combine this with the current state of girlhood coming out of the pandemic and with the effects of social media, girls are reporting unheard of rates of depression, mental health, bullying (most notably online), and overall hopelessness. 

We know that storytelling can have an effect on how you feel about yourself and your community, inspire your dreams and provide an outlet to discover role models with passions and backgrounds similar to yours. 

Rebel Girls offers hope, inspiration, and tangible tools to girls in the US, and around the world, through our content. Whether you are reading Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls or Growing Up Powerful, listening to our audio, or attending one of our events, we celebrate empowering women with agency, promote community and nurture girls’ confidence.

How do you hope the brand and its books grow in the upcoming years?

We have exciting plans for Rebel GIrls’ growth. First, Growing Up Powerful, our first franchise launch since Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, is an updated and modern guidebook for girls. We want girls to know they aren’t alone, their experiences are “normal,” and we are cheering them on. We approach all the highlights and messiness of puberty with a holistic approach relatable to girls. There will be more Growing Up Powerful in 2024, as we delve into specific topics we think will help guide girls through these formative years. 

As part of our goal to increase our publishing, there will be stand-alone keepsakes such as Dear Rebel later this year as well as a fiction series and a cookbook coming in 2024. 

Outside of books, we are continuing to produce more audio content, building our entertainment vertical and growing events like Rebel Girls Fest, all as we strive to reach 50 million girls globally by 2025. 

Why is it important to Rebel Girls that people are able to find these books in all kinds of shops?

It’s important Rebel Girls is wherever girls are. Full stop. 

In terms of where our books are sold, every retailer is important. The speciality and independent bookstore has a different – and boldly more important role – they can play. I’ve seen it first hand when we did our Celebrate Black Girl book tour with Black women-owned, independent stores. There is a very special relationship between a small shop owner and their customer that creates familiarity, personalization, and community. 

As a start-up, these are all things Rebel Girls connects with deeply. Nothing gives me more joy and energizes the team like a “love note” from parents and girls about how one story inspired them to create change, empowered them to stand up for themselves or a friend, or simply provided the path to dream big. 

What is one of your favorite quotes from Rebel Girls’ upcoming title, Dear Rebel?

I’m immensely proud of this book. We have nearly 150 women contributors who share personal advice, self portraits, and family recipes to create an undeniable keepsake that celebrates confidence and community. I can’t possibly choose just one, so let me leave you with a top 5 that express individuality, community and confidence: 

  • Katie Bone empowers girls to not lose their voice, to not quiet themselves for anyone: “You are enough. Don’t ever apologize for being you. You are not too much, and if someone thinks so, they can find less.“
  • Melinda French Gates encourages girls to set their own agenda: “Every rebel girl reading this book has her own dreams for herself, her own talents to share with the world, and her own story she wants to tell. Don’t let anyone get in the way of that. When it comes to deciding how you’re going to live your life and leave your mark, don’t let anyone else set your agenda. You know better than anyone else what’s right for you.” 
  • There’s no one way to be a Rebel Girl. And Miriam Haart expresses that while welcoming all of our readers into the Rebel Girls community: “Being a rebel girl is about proving to yourself that you can be whoever you want to be. So, rebel girl, join me, rebel with me, learn, discover, and dare to believe in yourself just as I believe in you. Welcome to the family of daring rebel girls.”
  • Niveditha Shetty Hegde, who shares incredible traditional Indian dances performed with her daughter on YouTube, wrote: “I’m imperfect, my darling, like everyone else. No one is perfect, but it is important that we all try to be the best version of us, for ourselves, and for this beautiful world we believe in.” This is such an important lesson for girls (and everyone!). 
  • Shugri Salh, a Somali nurse, actor, public speaker, and author of the memoir The Last Nomad, speaks eloquently about owning your path while standing on the shoulders of those who came before you: ”When life gets hard, I hope you can weave your own path using the wisdom of the women who rose before you.”