By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times
Javacia Harris Bowser epitomizes what it means to be a modern-day woman living life on her own terms. Bowser, 35, is the founder of See Jane Write, a Birmingham-based lifestyle blog for women who write. She also is a renowned journalist, high school English teacher, and fierce feminist entrepreneur. Bowser recently sat with the Birmingham Times to talk about her company; her definition of success and freedom; and the millennial generation.
What made you start See Jane Write?
“When I moved to Birmingham to teach, I missed all the women writers I was surrounded by in the newsroom back in Louisville, Ky., where I was a newspaper reporter. I started looking for an organization for female writers and bloggers. I found some for fiction writers, but I consider myself a journalist and writer of creative nonfiction, so that didn’t quite fit. I couldn’t find the organization I wanted to join, so I started one”.
As a person of color, what challenges did you face in your field?
“When I first started See Jane Write, I had a few people tell me I should make it an organization and website just for black women because people would assume it was only for black women anyway because I’m black. While I do think circles specifically for women of color are still very necessary, that wasn’t my vision for See Jane Write. I didn’t listen to those people—who were all men, by the way—and I’m glad I didn’t. The diversity of See Jane Write is something I’m very proud of. Turns out most of the women writers of Birmingham don’t care what color I am.
Where do you see yourself and the company in the next five to 10 years?
“Taking my brand beyond Birmingham is what I must do in the next 10 years if I want it to grow. I’m not sure what that will look like. Perhaps that will even require some rebranding. As for my own writing career, I want to write a few books and see my byline in all of my favorite magazines and on online media outlets.”
Did you think the company would grow as it has?
“I actually had no idea that See Jane Write would become what it is today. It began as a gathering of about a dozen women discussing our writing goals over tacos and queso. Honestly, that’s all I ever thought See Jane Write would be: a small women’s writing group that met monthly to share our work and our struggles with the writing life. But for our second event, which was about how writers can use Twitter, 40 people showed up. For our third event, a panel discussion on blogging, 75 people showed up.
How were you able to finance the monthly meetings?
“For years, I paid everything out of pocket for the events and didn’t charge admission. My husband let me know I was slowly draining our savings account, though, and See Jane Write was turning into a very expensive hobby. So I had to start charging for events, and I created a membership program.”
How do you define success?
“Personally, I define success and greatness as the ability to make money and make a difference doing what you love.”
How big can you make your company?
“I am definitely building an empire. This is something I’ve only been able to admit to myself recently. I used to be reluctant to say this for fear of sounding cocky. But Beyoncé—the patron saint of female millennials, in my opinion—and many of the female entrepreneurs I follow on social media have inspired me to dream big, bold, beautiful dreams.”
Speaking of millennials, how do you see this generation?
“For me, greatness is about first defining what success means for you and then achieving that. This is what I admire most about the millennial generation. They don’t care about following traditional career paths or pursuing old notions of success. They’re defining it for themselves. They’re making it happen right now. They’re not waiting until the time is right, until they have enough money, or until they know the right people. They understand that it’s not about getting it perfect, it’s just about getting it going.”
What message do you have for millennials?
“If you want to be an entrepreneur because you don’t like working hard, please throw in the towel right now. Being an entrepreneur, especially while also juggling a full-time job, is one of the hardest things you will ever do. You will stay up late, get up early, work on weekends. Sometimes you’ll have to be a bad friend because you can’t go out every Friday or Saturday night like you used to. You’re going to make mistakes, and some of those mistakes will cost you time and money. But all of the hard work is worth it. The reward far outweighs the risk.”
What is the greatest reward from what you do?
“The most rewarding thing about my work with See Jane Write is celebrating the successes of members. When I see members building businesses from their blogs, writing and publishing books, getting gigs with their favorite publications, I am elated. When my Janes win, I win!”
You’ve said you want to create a life of freedom. How so?
“I want financial freedom that not only allows me to have the things I need and want but also allows me to be a financial blessing to others and to donate richly to the causes and organizations I believe in. I want the freedom to control my own schedule. I want the freedom to take a break and to take better care of myself, my health, and my husband. I want the freedom to be myself and get paid for it, which is essentially every blogger’s dream.”