Stop. You are smart. You are strong. You are independent.
That’s the message that greets visitors to the website for #bossbabesATX, a local community for creative women in Austin to collaborate and connect. The group, which seeks to inspire and empower Austin’s “badass creative women,” is the brainchild of Jane Claire Hervey, known simply as “J.”
The idea started through a blog series while Hervey was a journalism student at the University of Texas. She wanted to create a brand for women creatives in festival media, but her vision ended up being too narrow, so it became female creatives in general.
“I started interviewing people pursuing creative passions entrepreneurially, asking them how they feel and conducting emotional analysis. Then it became about what their needs were,” Hervey says.
“People were saying the same thing — they don’t know where to go to talk to other women, they don’t feel comfortable. I’m a journalist and I’ve done a lot of copy writing and I never felt comfortable talking to people about my work. A lot of women felt how I did — without resources, mentors, or support. We all became friends through the interviews, so eventually we came up with this elevator pitch.”
The full branding and mission for #bossbabesATX — “I was going to call it ‘boss bitches,’ but that was too abrasive,” she laughs — formed about a year ago, but Hervey sat on the idea for more than six months.
The group held its first meet in May, selling out and garnering attention from more than 1,000 women on Facebook. Since then, the group has only expanded, posting blogs on creative women and issues facing the female creative community, as well as holding regular events with one last meet up of the year scheduled for Wednesday, December 2.
What are these meet ups about? They’re not your typical stuffy networking events with nametags and handshaking. Held at Austin’s coolest venues (Cheer Up Charlies, Empire Control Room, Spider House), the events are brimming with vendors, artists, musicians, and more.
“We try to give women a platform to speak to their peers without feeling uncomfortable or different because they’re not pretty enough, or white enough, or homogenous enough, or straight enough,” Hervey says. “I just want people to feel better and act that out in their day-to-day lives. If you feel like a good person, then you are a good person.”
Yvette Dechavez is one of the vendors who has benefited from the exposure. She’s a Ph.D. student at UT studying black and Mexican literature with a focus on race and social justice, but in her spare time she’s Cholahontas, painting women’s nails, reading tarot cards, and finding inspiration in the #bossbabesATX community.
“These women, many of them have a day job, but they have a creative endeavor on the side, or they’ve abandoned their day job to go into the creative world,” Dechavez says. “Everyone is so encouraging.”
Tarot is a “weird thing to do,” she says, but it’s a different way of helping people. Dechavez says #bossbabesATX is helping her expand her community beyond the “limited audience” of academia.
Caroline Gormley, a local freelance copywriter, has also found her voice within the group and has used its platform to make professional and personal connections.
“[My friend and I were] both venting to each other about career woes, just feeling stuck and a little dissatisfied with our current positions at the time,” Gormley says. “We thought [#bossbabesATX] would be a great way to meet like-minded, creative women — maybe gain some inspiration or new collaborators.”
She says the women she met encouraged her to pursue a new career path and helped her develop actionable steps to make her dreams come true. “My biggest takeaway was that I needed to get out there and make it happen, and stop waiting around for the perfect moment to present itself,” Gormley says.
At the next meet up, she participated in Babe Announcements, where each woman gets one minute to let the community know what she needs or what she can provide. Gormley says she immediately got a positive response.
“It really gave me the confidence and swagger I needed to apply to positions I would have never considered previously,” Gormley says. “Women so frequently find ways to convince themselves they're under qualified or not the perfect fit. I have long suffered from imposter syndrome and it's an extremely tricky rut to break out of. I found that by telling strangers and acquaintances more about what I love, what gives me oxygen, what my dreams and passions are, the more I realized I could go out and do it.”
And that’s what it’s all about, according to Hervey. “Since we formed #bossbabesATX, I have seen so many business and creative partnerships blossom from this. People I never thought would be in the same place. It’s like worlds colliding. Every day is incredible.”
What’s next for the organization? There are no plans to expand just yet, but that’s not for a lack of other cities reaching out. Hervey’s hesitant to bring the group to other communities, because she wants to make sure she understands the community first.
“You make a shit ton of mistakes if you make assumptions about what a community needs,” she says. “Even with multiple backgrounds, we still made incorrect assumptions about the [Austin] community.”
Instead, Hervey says, she and her fellow founding members, Ashlee Pryor and Leslie Lozano, are focused on finding a space the group can use for retail, co-working, events, and more. They’re also looking to hire a full-time staff. In the meantime, they’ll continue the blog and organize a meet up every two months with workshops and retreats scattered in between.
You can still RSVP to #bossbabesATX's last meet up of the year, scheduled for Wednesday, December 2 at Spider House Cafe and Ballroom. Tickets are $5 and must be purchased in advance.