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Jane Hervey is the founder of the networking group for self-identified women in Austin, also known as #bossbabesATX. Jane's gift for curating organic and personal networking has helped her fill a much-needed gap in the Austin scene by creating #bossbabesatx. Aside from leading that, she is also a freelance writer for publications such as Forbes, and manages her production studio, Group Work. Read on to find out how Jane celebrates and brings together women in all walks of life, masters the art of networking, and juggles her growing list of projects like a pro.
Introduce yourself, give us your background, and tell us what you're up to now.
I'm a creative producer, entrepreneur, activist and performance artist based in Austin, Texas. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley, I moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas in 2011. After earning my Bachelor's of Science in Journalism and pursuing a career in freelance writing and startup management, I began to search for resources and a space to ask professional questions. I hosted my first #bossbabesATX meet in 2015, hoping to foster community and connection between self-identified women in Austin, Texas. I now run the nonprofit and its festival, BABES FEST, while managing my production studio, Group Work.
Tell us about the #bossbabesatx movement. The very first event sold out right off the bat, and you've continued to grow so much! What's made it so successful?
Although there are many groups for women in the established stages of entrepreneurship, art and creative industry, there aren't many organizations attempting to bridge the educational and networking gap for those first starting out in a way that's concept-accessible, financially approachable and fun. We filled that niche when we launched, and that's been a large part of our rapid social growth over the last two years. As for the business development growth of the organization (like keeping the lights on, funding new projects, paying artists for their work, etc.), that success has come from buckling down and woman-ing up. We were entirely community-funded for two years; the launch of this project was not backed by an investor or supported by a grant, and it amazes me to say that we now have two part-time employees. To me, that's success...refusing to give up even when the learning curve was steep and doing our best to never stray from what we're here to do and why we started. I truly believe that women need better access to financially and socio-economically sustainable networks. I believe changing the culture in arts and media to better support and uplift the voices of women, and nonbinary folks is essential to our survival as a species. It all sounds intense, but that's why we haven't quit and that collective belief shared between myself and everyone else working on this project has fueled us from the start.
You wear many hats. What does an average day in your life look like?
I've spent a lot of time on my daily routine, to optimize and maximize my time, so I appreciate this question. I typically wake up around 7 or 8 AM; I spend the first thirty minute of my day researching or brushing up on new/old skills that need a little more work. I read books, articles, go through my link collection, and revisit stuff I found encouraging in the past. I then spend about ten minutes getting dressed for the day; I used to spend more time, but I've realized if I do, I end up wearing something uncomfortable. From there, I'm working on programming for the nonprofit, tying up administrative loose ends and taking meetings with other organizers, our team, and community thought leaders. I stop for lunch and then I hit my inbox. It usually takes me one to two hours a day to get through emails (it sounds terrifying—it is, so I deal with it in chunks), and by the time I'm done, it's usually 4 or 5 PM. I then transition to working on personal projects that have come through the studio; right now, I'm casting a play and developing stories for my column on Forbes about creative entrepreneurship and lifestyle design. If you've caught the gist, it's basically a ton of creative output, problem-solving and determining the best ways to get things done. I love the routine I've created now and have found I'm getting more done than ever (without feeling burnt out or like a machine). It's taken a lot of trial and error. Mostly patience with myself and not forcing myself to do work I'm just not passionate about.
What is the secret to throwing effective offline events and why is networking so vital to the development of community infrastructure?
I wouldn't say there's a secret. We obviously approach our events with a lot of preliminary research and community conversation in mind, and thus our events are organic and fun, as a result. If there's any advice I could offer, though, it's to communicate! We like to think about our events as people - who do they attract? What makes sense for their format? Who would different kinds of people perceive them to be? Think about your offline events like that, and it may help you develop a communication plan around them that gets people out and excited to participate. If I'm an activist for anything, it's organic, personal networking. We create networking events that aren't networking events (I get the irony) for that reason. Most of the clients and employers I've met throughout my lifetime that truly wanted to work with me came through friends, conversations at events unrelated to the content of the work or through the grapevine. This is how you get funding for your business. This is how you find patrons for your artwork. This is how you get your goods in front of wholesalers. You get out in the world. I don't think it's fair that the network's men have access to have more buying power and political influence; I want the networks women have access to, to mean just as much, to create just as much. I think it's vital to the communities we build and the culture we reinforce and sustain.
Your IG, @bossbabesatx, reflects your mission of amplifying women-identifying artists, activists, and creatives. How do you choose what content to share and what are your top 3 tips for creating a feed that is in line with your brand and message?
Much of our content is centered around our events; we have a lot to share about the people that we work with. To maintain a consistent message, I have a couple of tips:
- The visual message of your feed is often just as strong as each individual post. Pay attention to the way your work looks like a grid; when people come across your page for the first time, that display alone is a strong brand message. We've strayed away from pink for that reason; we don't want anyone thinking we're super femme because there are many women in our organization who aren't. (Not that there's anything wrong with the color pink, but we've recognized there's a connotation there, especially when next to a word like #bossbabe.)
- Posts should be conversational, promotional or a mix of both. Use social media to communicate broader messages, not just content on your services or product.
- Who you are offline is more important than who you are online. Remember that whenever you get caught up in how things look vs how things work.
What tips would you give to people who are interested in starting a movement or business?
If you're just starting out, you might have a disruptive idea that others can't understand (that's how #bossbabesATX began for me; despite pushback, I thought it would work), and that's good. Even when people discredit your idea, you should experiment and try it out anyway. You should sometimes ignore advice. There are a few caveats, though. If it hits and it's successful, recognize that you don't know everything just because you proved a few people wrong. You will need experts, you should talk with consultants, and you should gather information about the structure of your business, the market you're after, and the technology available to you. You need to know, or at least begin to understand, your blind spots. Collect a lot of advice, before you make any major decisions. Gut instinct is great, but you owe it to yourself to know what's up in your business's space. You owe it to yourself to make an informed decision.
What advice do you have for women when it comes to embracing their beauty, identity and value?
You have so much agency and power. It may not feel like it, and you might get discouraged, but you have every right to live. And when I say live, I mean live. Celebrate your body. Celebrate your labor. Celebrate your community. Celebrate your friends. Celebrate your sisters. Be sad when you want to. Call in if you need to. Quit if you have to. Because when you are hustling after a dream, you've got to look at failures as data, see obstacles as an opportunity to learn and challenge your ignorance with research. That's how you continue to create work you're proud of; that's how you treat yourself as someone to be proud of.
"Gut instinct is great, but you owe it to yourself to know what's up in your business's space."