On Four Years, Failure And The Power Of Optimism: A Letter From Our Founder
As we reflect on our fourth birthday, our founder Jane Hervey shares her notes on four years of #BBATX, resilience and future-building.
Austinite Jane Hervey started #bossbabesATX, a nonprofit community of artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs focused on gender equality, in 2015. After a few years, the work was taking its toll. But before she threw in the towel, Hervey made the decision to calculate the organization’s impact. What she found was that the programs, meet-ups, and opportunities the group provided had injected nearly $1 million into the Austin-area economy. That was enough to keep going.
“Survival is on the line for a lot of these entrepreneurs,” Hervey says. “This not only makes them visible, but it changes the cultural conversation.” When it comes to driving that change, she says it comes down to constant conscious choices to be resilient. “When we stand up and speak out, we inspire people to listen,” she says.“I have to be an optimist every day.”
— Texas Monthly’s 2018 Faces of Optimism Project
That little excerpt is from an interview I did with Texas Monthly last year. Around the time it was published, I was already struggling to push through burnout and disappointment again.
In all honesty, optimism does not come easy for me.
I am quick to get discouraged. I am hard on myself. And I often question whether or not I am worthy to pursue the work that I do.
I am not alone in that. Imposter syndrome is a beast, reinforced by our day-to-day social interactions, the systems we encounter that are not designed for us and the pressures of societal expectations. It can be hard to trust our intuition and lived experiences to make decisions, pursue our goals and stand up for what we believe in.
Because, what is best for us? What’s best for the world?
Those answers are complicated and their intersections run deep. The truth is our world is complex and our perspectives are largely informed by where we come from, what we look like and how we move through this world. Our identities and the stories we tell about each other and to ourselves matter, too. They determine how we approach problems, history and the future. They determine who we include and exclude. They determine how we frame our values and where we choose to place our attention.
Which is why this project began with $100, a website and a simple belief: Amplifying the stories of women creatives, business owners and leaders makes for more resilient communities. I had no idea what that belief would come to challenge.
I didn’t know about the hard and fast inequalities that marginalized, small business owners face. I didn’t know that our creative workspaces still have some of the lowest percentages of gender equality across industries. I didn’t know that a year later we’d see a President like Trump. Or a protest like The Women’s March. I didn’t know that the more we speak out about inequality, the more criticism, scrutiny and hatred we face. I didn’t know that our meet-ups and dialogues would expand to become symbols—symbols of changing tides and new eras defined by #metoo, equal pay and resilient fighters like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Or that thousands of people would rally around this project to shape it into what it is today.
But I took a risk. Like many of us do when we speak up for ourselves, hold each other accountable, fall in love, start a new business, or put our thoughts, feelings and vulnerabilities out into the world.
When we welcome the uncertain, we are welcoming the possibility of success and criticism. Reward and embarrassment. Growth and mistakes.
It takes a certain brand of optimism to take the risk anyway.
Over the last four years, I have watched some incredible people take mind-blowing and beautiful risks. I have witnessed our community unpack tough societal challenges—wicked problems, like sexism, racism and transphobia, that will take lifetimes to solve. I have watched friendships form and biases wither. I have seen coalitions between individuals build businesses, creative communities and movements much larger than themselves. I have seen transitions and transformations and coming-outs and tears and pain and failure and change.
I have met some of the most resilient, creative, resourceful leaders I have ever known. I have grown, and this organization has grown, too.
Year over year, our programs and their expenses have doubled. In 2019, we are projected to both make and spend $200,000 on the community we serve. Our programs will amplify the stories and work of 1500+ women and nonbinary creatives, entrepreneurs and leaders, provide low-cost, accessible education to 500+ creatives and entrepreneurs, connect 400+ makers and artists directly to new customers and fans, foster professional development and commissions for 16 emerging Texan artists, fundraise $10,000+ for nonprofits and businesses that center diversity, inclusivity and intersectionality and host 17,000+ community members. And we will do that work, thanks to two part-time staffers, a board of four, 19 committee members and hundreds of community volunteers.
We are proof that when you invest in what you care about, what you care about grows.
So, thank you for investing in us.
And if you’re reading this wondering whether to take the risk, you should. You are doing big work. You are not required to be all of yourself at once. It’s OK to change. The world needs you.
Thank you for an incredible four years,
Jane (Founding Executive and Creative Director)
PS: I would like to thank your staff, board and committee for all that they do to keep #BBATX alive. You can meet them here.
We are currently fundraising for #BBATX’s fourth birthday and anniversary. Donate to us or join us at a celebration event here.