Jennifer Dziura is the founder of GetBullish, the online hub for feminist-minded career talk and community. GetBullish began in 2010 as an advice column, and has since come to include the annual Bullish Conference, the Bullish Society online membership community, and the Bullish Shop, offering over 1,700 fun and feminist gift items. Jennifer believes in espresso, prosecco, gravitas, gentlewomanly living, a feminist approach to aging, entrepreneurial skills for everyone, talking openly about money, and helping other women. She is based in Brooklyn.
What motivated and inspired you to start your own business?
The first business I ever ran was making custom friendship bracelets for $2. I loved making something real. But it’s hard to find customers when you’re 9 years old and don’t have the internet!
Now, I love being able to find my people – badass feminist careerists, or feminist productivity badasses, or aspiring future CEOs – no matter where they are in the world. Rather than craft GetBullish to appeal to every working woman and end up with something watered down, I can put a strong message out there – after the 2016 election, GetBullish helped raise $30K for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and other nonprofits that help people harmed by the current administration. I also make products that say things like, “We will dance on the graves of the patriarchy and drink the bitter tears of mediocre men.”
I’ve always had strong opinions (and an inability to STFU about them). This got me in trouble as a young person, but as an entrepreneur, it’s a huge plus.
Tell us about your business.
In 2013, I held the first annual conference, with just 25 people – all readers who had connected with the “aggressive lady-advice” on GetBullish.
Eventually, I started to add more products that I just thought people would find useful – makeup bags, a pretty passport cover. It was when I made the store more about serving the shopper’s needs and less about my brand that it really started to take off. Last holiday season, we sold $47,000 worth of merchandise – and two employees shipped all of it from my basement!
Recently, I hired my first full-time employee and moved the business into an office/warehouse at Industry City in Brooklyn – here’s a post full of office pics (there’s also a nursery for a baby #girlboss).
We launched The Bullish Society in September, so now there’s actually a way to officially “join” Bullish, instead of just reading articles and occasionally buying some pencils.
Of course, none of that would matter without the articles and advice! Here is a gallery of Q&A posts about careers and business, and here are some favorite posts. I also do speaking events on topics like getting paid as a creative, monetizing your blog, and how to be a feminist in the workplace.
Where is your business based?
Brooklyn, New York.
Are you currently running any promos/contests/giveaways that you would like our readers to know about?
Throughout the month of May, you can get 10% off any physical products in the store with code LADYBOSSBLOGGER.
Also, the fifth annual Bullish Conference for career-focused feminists will take place November 2-5, 2017, in Washington, DC. Ticket price is $550, but we’re running a “BFF” promotion – bring a friend (or two or three!) and your ticket price can go as low as $375. Conference dress code: First Woman President, whatever that means to you. Badass women are the future!
Interested in joining us online? When you join The Bullish Society, you not only get a ready-made community for social justice-minded support in your career, you also get some cool benefits like webinars (most recently about 5 Year Plans and Side Hustles), monthly challenges, a gift on your birthday, and free downloads of e-books about lady life hacks and How to Think More Productively About Money. (To get these for free, join The Bullish Society – you’ll find downloads and discount codes inside.)
What were the first few steps you took to get your business up and running?
When Bullish started, it was just a series of articles – it wasn’t really a business. I had made some notes for a book I wanted to write called “How to Make Money Without Becoming a Republican.” I never wrote that book, but all the ideas came out in the articles I was writing.
So in my case, the first step was building an audience and a platform by providing something of value that people felt passionately about.
I wouldn’t recommend that most people start a blog without a business plan, but I do work with a lot of people who come up with an amazing idea for a business or project and don’t have an audience to promote it to – so I think that even people with “regular jobs” should create at least a simple email newsletter (Tinyletter is a great way to do that) to stay in touch with contacts, update them about your work, and have a readymade audience for whatever your next step is.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness of your business and getting new customers?
First I would say: Don’t pay for advertising if you don’t have something obvious to sell that people can buy on the spot!
You really need to know what you’re doing if you plan to, for example, spend money advertising a blog, hoping that people will come to the blog and like it and thereby increase your page views and social follows, and then you’re hoping a sponsor comes out of nowhere and pays you to promote their brand in exchange for money that they pay you because you have so many followers. I mean, if you really think that through, that is an incredibly risky business model! Whatever your business model – and everyone has a business model, even if you don’t think you do – try to write down all the steps that it takes for you to get paid. If it’s too circuitous, try to cut out some of those steps – for instance, by selling your own ebooks, courses, memberships, products, coaching, stock photos or graphics, digital downloads, etc.
But back to your question – while I do pay for Facebook and other ads for selling physical products, I rely almost entirely on articles, word of mouth, and social shares to grow the conference and The Bullish Society. People come to an event or join a group because they know someone in it – or because they want to know those people.
What have been your biggest challenges so far?
Well, I had a baby five months ago, and I also have a three year old. I wrote a (super not relatable, I know!) post about taking zero maternity leave and how that worked out awesome for me as an entrepreneur (but I definitely support paid parental leave policies as a government benefit, as in Scandinavian social democracies).
How did you overcome these challenges?
The US comes in dead last for parental leave policies, day care benefits, etc. — in this society, you’re on your own to somehow make parenthood and a career work together. So start planning as early as possible (even if you’re single) if you want to have kids and an awesome career/lifestyle. While some women have managed to find an amazing company while already at home with kids and no real network or resources, things are a LOT easier if you get your company off the ground years before you even think about having kids – and then automate, create systems, and delegate.
I’m fairly new to managing other people and I’ve never been great at delegating, but being on bed rest and recovering from a c-section have been very useful in building those skills. If my company can be run by me in a hospital from an iPhone without falling apart, then what if instead of coming back to work and resuming those duties, I keep delegating them – and use my freed-up time to grow the company.
How do you keep motivated through difficult times?
I’m less motivated by “get that awesome lifestyle!” than by avoiding things I loathe. Destroy what destroys you. On a personal level, I hate being underestimated, I hate not having enough childcare, and I hate feeling like I’m slipping somehow from my former, sharp shelf. Do not go gentle into that good night.
On a broader level, I hate patriarchy, racism, colonialism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of oppression that are entrenched in structures from the government and the workplace right on down to elementary schools. The major problem of our age is that we have access to unprecedented amounts of information, and yet we lack a proportional ability to do anything in response to that information. We feel barraged by injustice, and also powerless.
A lot of women’s empowerment literature is just that: “empowerment.” Empowerment is largely about our feelings, and making full use of rights and opportunities we already have. That’s not enough. Women and other marginalized people need actual power. Empowerment doesn’t scare the patriarchy. Women need real POWER. I’m just one person, but I think I’ve motivated a couple thousand like-minded people to gain more power and use it for good.
Of course I don’t want to get too highfalutin here – we also ship out a lot of socks. Keeping it real here in the warehouse.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs?
Everything is harder than you think it will be and takes longer than you think it will. Try to set up business systems so easy they feel like you’re kind of getting away with something – and then you’ll still end up doing a ton of work. For instance, if you plan a business where you personally do all the work indefinitely, you’ll get overloaded and it won’t scale. If you plan a business where you outsource most or all of the work, you’ll still have to manage people, jump in when they get sick, etc. Try to make it easy, and it’ll still be hard. So don’t try to make it hard!
What is your favorite business tool or resource?
Shopify is a big fave. Our online store is in Shopify, and anytime I want to add a feature – customer wish lists, or translating prices into foreign currencies – there’s an app in Shopify’s app store for it. So easy, and the site looks amazing.
I’m also a huge fan of Mighty Networks, where we host The Bullish Society. On Mighty Networks, you can create your own social network – and you own it (not Facebook). Plus, it looks beautiful! Here’s a video interview I did about it.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
- Welcome to the Anti-Racism Movement–Here’s What You’ve Missed by Ijeoma Oluo.
- I’m Judging You by Luvvie Ajayi.
- Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me by Deirdre Coyle.
What are you currently learning about for your business or looking for help with?
I am always looking to spread the word about GetBullish, feminism in the workplace, and what we can all do to make the workplace better. I love doing podcast interviews. Ask me to be on your panel! Bring me to your company! I have a mission, y’all.
What social media outlets do you use? List them below.
Instagram @getbullish, @jenniferdziura
Twitter @getbullish, @bullishcon, @jendziura
Pinterest @getbullish, @jendziura
Websites www.getbullish.com, shop.getbullish.com, school.getbullish.com, www.bullishconference.com
Membership Site www.bullishsociety.com