In a case of almost overnight success, Jac Bowie, and her latest venture Business in Heels, is taking the women’s networking business by storm only after a year or so from its authentic beginning. Add to that business advice from The Sir Richard Branson, a career in the Burlesque industry and single mother to two children, Jac Bowie certainly knows how to have it all … and of course, all the while wearing heels.
WORDS: Sarah O’Bryan
PHOTOGRAPHY: Brent Leideritz 24b , www.twentyfourb.com
Hair and makeup: MMC Makeup
As a single mother of two, Jac Bowie is living proof that women can in fact have it all and through her sassy and fun networking business she’s on a mission to empower women to feel confident enough to follow their dreams.
Business in Heels is a refreshing networking concept for women in business. It started in January 2013 out of a need Jac herself had at the time, as well as a deep desire to empower women. And only a year and a bit on, there are almost 40 franchises around the world and an online following of over 40,000.
Jac has struck a winning formula that helps women connect and support each other.
Jac has struck a winning formula that helps women connect and support each other – in business, health, relationships and every other aspect of their lives to a backdrop of bubbles, scrumptious canapés and desirable goodie bags. “It’s not an event where you sit somewhere formal, wear a badge and behave yourself,” Jac says.
“It’s very much social first, all about women hitting it off and leveraging off that to network.We want to have a glass of champagne, have a giggle about it, check out what shoes you’re wearing and we care where the bubbles is from,” she says.
The concept for the events is fresh and fun with interesting and diverse speakers to help women in all aspects of their lives. Then using social media, Business in Heels keeps women connected and interested to create a supportive community in between events.
“It’s organically kind of made its own sort of sisterhood thing. All these professional women are all positive and supporting and helping each other. It’s unbelievable I’ve never experienced anything like that in any industry I’ve ever been in.”
Jac is clearly onto something and laughs as she says: “It will probably be the most successful thing I’ve ever done.”
The short version includes advice from Richard Branson, a burlesque empire, her mum becoming quite sick, quitting it all to volunteer for charity and couch surfing with her two children and a broken ankle.
The journey Jac has taken to get to this point though, is just as fascinating as her instant success. The short version includes advice from Richard Branson, a burlesque empire, her mum becoming quite sick, quitting it all to volunteer for charity and couch surfing with her two children and a broken ankle.
And the long version …
Prior to Business in Heels, Jac had created a burlesque empire. She produced a number of high profile events around the world, including Miss Burlesque International, The Burlesque Ball, The Ruby Revue and also bespoke events and entertainment for high-end clients. She built on that to become a very successful theatre producer and importer of major shows and productions such as The Hurly Burly Show – direct from London’s West End.
Prior to that Jac was a flight attendant for Virgin for four years.
A few conversations with Richard Branson at Virgin events set Jac on an entrepreneurial path and gave her the courage to starting her own venture.
According to Jac, his exact words were “We’d never want to lose you but for god sake woman go and start a business.”
Richard Branson told Jac … ‘We’d never want to lose you but for god sake woman go and start a business’.
So while on maternity leave from Virgin, she started to build a following of burlesque fans and put on the first Burlesque Ball and off she went into the entertainment industry.
After almost 10 years producing large scale events, it was all starting to take its toll and Jac says there was a series of things that happened that led to her exit from the stage business.
“I think the most pivotal being my mum got really sick with cancer and all of a sudden I just didn’t enjoy what I was doing anymore. I really felt I wasn’t contributing anything. The commercial success wasn’t enough anymore. So I started retiring all my shows that were actually going really well at the time. And as I started retiring them I picked up more charity work.”
Jac began working with the Mardi Gras and helping out with Refugee Week and Naidoc Week.
I ended up couch surfing with two children.
“I just got to a point where I didn’t want to produce anymore. I had no idea what I wanted to do but I just didn’t want to do it, it just sort of hit me.
“So around that time, January last year, everything turned to crap around me. My relationship ended. I ended up couch surfing with two children. I was on a temporary contract with Speigelworld but then broke my ankle so I lost that contract,” she recalls.
So with a broken ankle and broken spirit, Jac couldn’t walk, couldn’t work and her relationship was over. Meanwhile in the background her book publisher kept asking when she’s going to finish her book, Business in Heels.
“He was sort of waiting for this happy ending but I rang him and said I don’t have it,” she says.
At the same time membership renewals for women in business groups were coming in. Jac couldn’t afford them at the time but thought it was actually the very thing she needed.
“I thought it would be a great time for me to put myself in a situation with other women because I felt really lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do.”
So, she put on one herself, using the name of the book!
“I invited my immediate network and it sold out really quickly,” she says.
That was the first Business in Heels event, and the funny thing was that Jac couldn’t actually wear heels to the first one because of her broken ankle.
Jac put on another because of the success of the first. After the third, a woman approached her to teach her to do one in Melbourne so that was the start of the franchising.
I put the word out after that to see if anyone was interested and I had 15 branches within three weeks.
“I put the word out after that to see if anyone was interested and I had 15 branches within three weeks,” she says.“We definitely hit something special in terms of the format and philosophy,” she says.
“You can go to a Business in Heels event by yourself,” she says. “You walk in the door and its buzzing and in two seconds someone’s grabbed you and wants to talk to you.”
The events have a diverse offering of speakers. “It would be quite common to have a sexologist, a nutritionist, or an NLP practitioner. We want to help the women in all aspects of their lives in health, work life balance, relationships, sex life,” Jac says.
What’s equally as awesome about this business is the franchise opportunity. Jac is providing a very viable opportunity for women with some professional experience in events and social media to start their own networking events business in their area.
Jac isn’t fussed about background or qualifications – just experience putting on a commercial event (not your wedding!). Otherwise as long as you’re proactive and understand the social media space it really comes down to the right personality.
“You can’t teach someone to have that personality. You can teach them everything else,” she says.
Once someone takes on a franchise, they’re very much part of the Business in Heels community. There’s induction training and then Jac catches up one on one. There’s training for marketing, social media and publicity. Each franchisee receives a publicity kit and marketing kit, business cards, banners and promotional material.
They probably think we’re the naughty girls of networking but we’re fine with that!
“Essentially (it’s) everything I learnt to sell out a big, big show, I tell them every single tip and trick I used,” Jac says. “Then they’re all connected and supported by the whole community of franchisees.
“We’re also very close with the other networking groups She Business, Women in Focus – that’s because we offer something completely different. They probably think we’re the naughty girls of networking but we’re fine with that,” she laughs.
I then ask Jac what her concept of success and having it all is. “We can’t be perfect at everything. Realising that is the first step. I’m a mother of two children. I’m a long-distance girlfriend, business owner. It’s realising your priorities and working around that,” she says.
We can’t be perfect at everything. Realising that is the first step.
“I think that’s the definition of success for mums – finding something that works for you so you can have your professional life but that it doesn’t detract from your life as a mum.”
Jac Bowie’s tips to success;
- Do a lot of research – what’s the competition? Is there a need? Don’t jump in head first, do a SWOT analysis and business plan
- Get a mentor – especially someone who compliments your skills
- Surround yourself with people who have a positive influence on your business
- Power of networking!
- Aim big with brand – from the beginning – and stay true to the brand and personality
Jac is also an ambassador for Sanfilippo Children’s Foundation – a new organisation established to help those who suffer from an extremely rare disease that affects one child in every 70,000. Through the Business in Heels network, Jac Bowie works to proactively raise awareness and support of the Foundation and Sanfilippo.
To find out more about Business in Heels networking events head to www.businessinheels.com and for information on the Sanfilippo Children’s Foundation visit www.sanfilippo.org.au.