When it comes to our careers, women are often discouraged from connecting with each other and networking — we're told a lot of myths about women and work, like that other women are catty and can't be trusted, and that space at the top for is limited for ladies. But the founder of BossBabesATX, a collective devoted to helping creative women in Austin, Texas, connect professionally and personally, is calling bullsh*t on those sexist stereotypes. BossBabes ATX is an organization that makes networking more fun and accessible for creative women and helps them promote their projects and passions. From writers to designers to filmmakers, the group unites creative women to connect through meet-ups and retreats set up by the collective. The vibe of the group's meetings is part find-your-next-business-partner, part meet-your-next-BFF.
Founder and recent college grad Jane Claire Hervey set out with one simple goal: to create a safe space for creative women to come together and collaborate. The response has been overwhelming, Hervey says, which shows how stereotypes that women are competitive and unsupportive of one another just aren’t true. Within three months of its launch, BossBabes ATX has held concerts, workshops and monthly coffee meet-ups attended by hundreds of women.
There are a lot of professional networking groups focused on women out there, but BossBabes ATX isn’t your typical networking group. Instead, the group wants to turn Austin itself into the kind of city where creative women can feel comfortable — a place where women of all sizes, ethnicities, races and sexual orientations can collaborate on projects together, form friendships, celebrate and inspire one another.
If you think the ladies in your town could use this kind of boost, then listen up. I spoke to Hervey for some tips on forming your own creative girl squad, and here's what she had to say.
1. Stick To Your Guns
When starting your own group, the most important first step you can take is to decide what your focus is going to be and stick to it. Hervey says it’s easy for people to try to steer the group away from your purpose, and it’s tempting to say yes to every opportunity at first, even ones that don't necessarily fit what you're trying to achieve. But in the beginning, you need to set boundaries. So pick your focus — something as broad as facilitating networking for creative women, or something as specific as organizing meet-ups for women who are writing feminist sci-fi novels — and stick to it.
How do you pick a focus that will work? First, think about what it is you’re really trying to accomplish. Then, ask around and do your research to find out what your community really needs. Figure out your group's identity and the best ways for you to maintain and develop your group.
Then, determine what services you’re going to provide. BossBabes ATX decided that they were going to be a series of meet-ups and retreats for creative women — maybe you'll provide a place where women can meet up and exchange professional information, or practice their craft together. It's also good to figure out what you can't or don't want to do as a group; for example, BossBabes also decided that they were going to stay away from the political realm. Be realistic: you can’t be everything to everyone.
2. Have A Cohesive Message
Once you’ve decided what your group's message is, make sure to communicate it fully. Be straightforward and direct, and articulate exactly who you are and what your group needs. Don't get bogged down in flowery language that might sound cool but obscures the actual point of your group. Hervey says that in order for more people to understand BossBabes ATX’s mission, they “cut the fat” and got straight to the point on their website and Facebook events.
3. Figure Out How To Give Group Members A Voice
Your mission in creating this group will be about helping other women, not about you being in charge — so make sure to pay attention to what’s happening in your town and what kind of needs women in your community have that aren't currently being met. This will help you create helpful avenues and platforms for women to express themselves that also make sense for your business model. Hervey wanted to spotlight creative local women through BossBabes ATX, but thought that running a blog would be too time-consuming. So instead, she looked to where the community would most likely follow: Instagram. Each week, a different BossBabe takes over the group's Instagram account for a few days, which gives followers a chance to connect and interact.
And remember to be observant about what's going on in the community around you even after you launch. Running a successful business or organization is about constantly learning, so ask for help and accept constructive criticism. Communicate with the community to see how you can make things run more smoothly for them as an organization.
4. Remember That It’s Not About You
It's important to remember that you're organizing a group that helps women connect because you have a passion for it, not because it’s going to help further your personal career. If you remember that, Hervey advises, it will be easier to avoid the temptation to make yourself the public face of the group, and instead encourage people to take the group as a whole.
When problems related to running the group or something that the group has been involved with arise, always consider the bigger picture. Again, it’s not about you. Chances are the group will be criticized by others for something at some point — from an activity you've planned to a comment one of your members has made online — but don’t take it too personally. Considering your community first involves some self-sacrifice, which sometimes means being nice when you don’t want to. Remember that saying ‘kill ‘em with kindness’? This will be the time to put that into practice.
5. Be Transparent
Be very open and clear about who can join your group and what your purpose is. If you welcome women of all sexual orientations, say so. If your group is only open to women of a certain ethnic background or those working in a certain field, say that, too. It’s best to declare who your audience is rather than assume that everyone knows.
6. Be Reachable And Responsible
Although you are running an organization, don't forget to be human, too. Have a functioning website and answer your emails on time — or at least sometime. Be clear about when you will respond, even if you don’t have time right now to answer. People need to know that they are being heard.
If you want to give yourself a chance to grow as a business, file as a limited liability company, or an LLC. Very adult, I know. But if your group grows to the point that you need to hire interns and actually pay people for their work, file for taxes, etc., you need an LLC to be considered legit.
So go forth and start your own girl squad in your town. If BossBabes ATX has taught us anything, it’s that we need to cut the bullsh*t and band together — because when we start recognizing our own badassery, amazing things happen.