Asking for a Friend with Jane Claire Hervey

Photo Oct 11, 1 21 54 PM.jpg
Photo Oct 11, 1 21 20 PM.jpg

During the first few months of me living in Austin, TX a new friend of mine invited me to this event on Facebook called #bossbabesatx. It was supposed to be a small meetup at a local coffee shop for women. On a warm afternoon I remember getting out of my car, and walking to the back patio of a coffee shop where around 150 women were already gathered. I was about 20 minutes early to the event. Shortly after a woman, who I had never met before, stood on a chair in a shirt that said ‘babe as fuck’ and introduced herself as Jane Hervey, the founder of Boss Babes. I left that meet up with 10 new friends, around 29 mosquito bites, and a love and admiration for Jane.

Since this day we’ve become friends, and I’ve watch #bossbabesatx grow into a nationally regarded organization, and I’ve watched Jane pour herself into project after project, client after client with her creative agency group work and I’ve come to love and admire her more and more with each coffee date and email we exchange.

I started this series with interviewing her in mind & I’m so so excited to bring it to you today!

What are a few things that you want us to know about you?

Five things about me from the last five years:
1. I'm originally from the southernmost tip of Texas — a small township with a population of ~2,000 near Brownsville.
2. I auditioned to compete in The Voice in 2011. I was sent home after Round 2, just one round away from auditioning in front of the show's celebrity judges. It was an interesting time.
3. In 2013 and 2014, I was in the Top 1% of contributors on BuzzFeed for a series of satirical listicles on pop culture. Over the years, those few posts have gathered 5M+ hits.
4. I founded #bossbabesATX, a nonprofit that amplifies and connects women and nonbinary creatives, entrepreneurs and organizers, in 2015.
5. I keep a column at Forbes about creative entrepreneurship and lifestyle design:

1. Do you remember the first time you remember being emotionally affected by failure?

The first time I realized I was in over my head with #bossbabesATX literally brought me to my knees. The organization's growth ballooned within the first few months; my ideas had thousands upon thousands of eyes on them in the very starting stages, and feedback (both positive and negative) was through the roof. I was receiving upward of 50 emails per day (I now receive anywhere from 30 to 50—even with five #bbatx inboxes, managed by other parties). For the first time, I didn't know where to grow and I felt like a failure for simply not being able to manage it all. I didn't have the infrastructure or the capital to meet the demand of this random opportunity in life. It took me two years to heal from that shock and emerge from this pit of self-loathing to realize that my ONLY objectives for success should have been sticking to my mission, not pleasing the strangers emailing me at every minute of the day. I have adopted a new mindset and now see failure as data; this has radically shifted the growth of the organization into a positive direction over the last year.

2. What’s the biggest accolade you earned while you were in school?

I received the 2014 Good Neighbor Award from the University of Texas at Austin. This is a reward given out by the campus once annually to one student in the entire student body. I received it because I supplied 2,000 granola bars to an annual day of giving for UT students. It was probably the first time I realized that brands can really create a positive effect in the community by simply being generous and not pursuing visibility as the fundamental reason for their giving. That was cool.

3. What does your day to day look like in your occupation?

I look at my day in three buckets: #BBATX, group work and personal art-making. For #bbatx, on any given day, I am meeting with community members, managing my team and our volunteer committee, engaged in fundraising and/or strategy around the nonprofit's ongoing mission, pursuing research around women's rights in Texas, developing programs and driving our communication forward. I then transition into running group work, my production studio. This means client calls, brand and voice development, designing events, developing communication plans, sourcing talent—you name it. I love my group work clients, so I look at this as a little break from the grind of running #bbatx. (Although the nonprofit is a hugely rewarding experience for me, it's emotionally taxing work. The problems we're trying to solve will literally take decades to fix.) I also do some freelance writing and songwriting, so sometimes I'm in the studio or I'm conducting interviews for my Forbes column. My day-to-day is honestly pretty fun. I'm a neurotic person, I think, because I really thrive having multiple projects at once.

4. What does your morning routine look like?

I wake up at 7 AM. I read for about two hours. I stretch. Sometimes, I go for a walk. Reading, though, is the most important. I don't do the whole social media scroll thing (unless it's checking on #BBATX or client accounts). I have a few blogs and books that distinctly apply toward my career and/or the interests of my gender justice research and I immerse myself in those each morning. Even on weekends. It helps me remember why I'm here and why I put up with all of the bullshit.

5. If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

Eat your food and stop obsessing about your thighs. They aren't going anywhere, and you are wasting your time and energy trying to improve a body that's already good enough.

6. Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?

I'd like to open another nonprofit in my hometown, Rio Hondo, Texas—some sort of art ranch.

7. It’s a random Tuesday and you have the day off and no plans, what do you do to fill those hours?

I actually regularly do this, so I love this question. If I've got the day off in the middle of the week, I am in full-on plant mom mode. I have 37 plants, and they always need tending, pruning, etc. I also go get my hair dyed.

8. If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one failure from the six months?

I failed to secure 7 proposals this year for group work. Since I work with a small number of clients, this means I lose about half of the inquiries that come through my inbox. I'm cool with it. I've learned that I usually can't win clients that aren't for me.

9. If you’re comfortable, would you mind sharing one success from the past year?

I finally got #bbatx's funding model together. This took three years of research and one year of painstaking experimentation, in which my personal savings became the nonprofit's emergency fund on more than one occasion. To finally know what works and what doesn't to keep our programs on budget is a blessing.

10. Who is the most ‘successful’ person you know?

My mom. She's a former zoologist turned science teacher. She raises chickens and hunts every weekend.

11. What do you think makes them ‘successful’?

My mom's left leg is paralyzed from a botched surgery in her twenties. She's now in her 50s and eclectic as ever. I have never, in my entire childhood or adult life, heard her express anything that may lead me to believe she gives a damn about what other people think. She's been given a strange hand in life, and she doesn't complain, has ZERO time for people who don't value her and she's perfectly collecting chicken eggs and sitting in a deer blind for five hours every Saturday. I admire the shit out of that.

12. Describe your relationship with failure?

Failure is just data for me now. I'd say my relationship with it is largely positive now; I look at anything I can't get right as an opportunity to grow.

13. Describe your relationship with success?

Success is still scary. Like I mentioned before, my perceived success was actually one of my biggest failures in the past few years. I have now figured out how to determine if something scares me because I am intimidated (but should still do it), or if something scares me because it intuitively is not right for me. That's a big turning point for my relationship to doing well.

14. This is the last question! And it’s all yours! What parting words do you have for us?

Life's a spectrum. It's OK to not know who you are, what you're doing or where you're going. You contain multitudes and each slice of you will have its time.

15. Just kidding! Where can I get a good slice of pizza?

Dai Due is my fave pizza spot

Photo by  Jinni J

Photo by Jinni J

Jane Hervey is a creative producer, activist, entrepreneur, writer and performance artist. Originally from the Rio Grande Valley (956 por vida), Hervey moved to Austin to study at the University of Texas. After earning her Bachelor's of Science in Journalism and pursuing a career in freelance writing, Hervey began searching for resources and a space to ask professional questions. She hosted her first #bossbabesATX meet in 2015, hoping to foster community and connection between self-identified women in Austin, Texas. She now runs the nonprofit and its festival, BABES FEST, while managing her own production studio, Group Work and maintaining a column on creative entrepreneurship and lifestyle design at Forbes. Her personal and professional life are dedicated to improving community infrastructure, retooling systems of collaboration and changing cultural economies to create equal opportunity for women and girls.

Chelsea Francis