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Boss Babes ATX provides a sassy new space for creative women in Austin

Staff Writer
Austin American-Statesman
Leslie Lozano, from left, Jane Claire Hervey and Ashlee Pryor created Boss Babes ATX, a networking collective for women that includes regular gatherings at places such as coffee shop Friends & Neighbors.

To catch the vibe of Boss Babes ATX, a new networking collective for creative women that aims to “form a more perfect sisterhood, establish badassery, insure gender equality and provide for the common businesswoman,” drop by their web site and shoot them an email.

“Before you contact us, look in the mirror,” a steely grey font on the contact page insists in all caps. “You’re fine as hell. Xoxo,” It virtually winks.

Charmed? You’re not alone.

Boss Babes ATX fast tracked from conception to reality in late spring, and in the two months since they staked their space on social media they’ve sold out two casual mixers, built a Facebook community with over 1,000 fans and established themselves as leaders of young feminist chic in Austin. If that sounds like hyperbole, comb through Austin’s street-style Tumblrs and blogs and count the fashion forward millennials sporting the group’s audacious “Babe as (expletive)” T-shirts.

The collective was the brainchild of Jane Claire Hervey, a freelance writer, creative consultant, musician and all-around fireball who surely didn’t just turn 22 last week. Hervey grew up in the Rio Grande Valley, where her “redneck and wonderful” family were the only white folks she knew. “I spoke Spanish and cussed at people using profane language from Northern Mexico,” she said with a laugh over coffee at Dominican Joe’s the day after her birthday. (The group is not connected to a national group with a similar name and Hervey said they might change the Austin name to avoid confusion.)

She was an ace student in high school, but after making it through a few rounds of auditions for the NBC talent show “The Voice,” she almost skipped college. Her family talked their starstruck teenager off the bus to L.A. and instead she headed north to the University of Texas. She excelled in school, where she studied journalism, and her projects included launching the digital arm of the student magazine Orange. After graduating early in December 2014, her work trajectory found her moving through creative industries which she quickly realized were dominated by men.

“A lot of the authorities, people who have decision-making power when it comes to events — who gets on the music bill, who gets the write up, who gets booked at all — a lot of that power comes from men,” she said. “There’s no ill will. I just kept noticing it over and over again.”

At the same time, she was running into loads of creative women who were doing interesting work but didn’t know about each other. She began to think Austin was missing an infrastructure, a place for them to connect, grow ideas and collaborate. In April, she joined forces with a couple friends to launch Boss Babes ATX with an aspiration to build that space and a Facebook invitation to a coffee meetup at Friends & Neighbors in East Austin.

“ We hope to turn Austin into the kind of city a woman can call home — a-take-off-her-bra-let-down-her-hair-brew-some-coffee-invite-the-crew-spin-a-vinyl-and-throw-herself-into-work kind of home,” the invite read.

The babes told the venue staff they were expecting a modest turnout. “I was like, ‘Oh 20 girls might show up, but we’d love to have the outdoor space,’” Hervey said.

Three days after the invitation went live they had over 500 RSVPs. For safety reasons, they capped attendance, and a group of roughly 300 crammed onto the patio of the small boutique and coffeeshop. Their second gathering in June sold out with 500 $3 tickets.

The events are primarily mixers. Both have featured art and fashion vendors and the last one had a confetti photo booth. They’ve been loosely organized and not without hitches. At the second meet, the bar line ran about 50 babes deep at any given moment, but the energy in the room was electric. Women are invited to take the mic and talk about their work and put a call out to potential collaborators. At the second one a diverse group of women talked about everything from dreams of creating a costume line for drag queens to seeking volunteers for an afterschool program for at-risk teens.

Through the meetups Boss Babes ATX has grown into a buzzing collective and the response, Hervey says, has been overwhelming. “I’ve gotten a lot of emails saying, ‘This is exactly what I needed. I was completely uninspired and now I’m meeting people who are asking me to do projects,’” she said.

The babes have branched beyond mixers. On Saturday, they’re co-hosting a showcase of female fronted bands at the Gypsy Lounge with Glitter Tribe, an event production and artist management company run by a pair of 25-year-old communications specialists, Taylor Wilson and Dani DeMarco. They’re also sponsoring a few artists to help them sell their prints at the July meetup. (Vendors at the meetups pay no table fees, and Hervey says no one has made less than $50 selling their wares.)

It’s clear from the enthusiastic response the group fills a void in Austin’s social and business scene, but part of the appeal is certainly the cheeky mix of sass and spirit built into Boss Babes’ branding. It flies in the face of the stereotype of the humorless feminist. “Being a woman is fun as hell,” Hervey said.

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