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Getting Laid Off From A Six-Figure Job Shifted This SHEeo Into Entrepreneur Glory

Meet Jasmene Bowdry of SHIFT StyleHouse.

Meet The SHEeo

With the rise of more and more black women breaking away from traditional 9-5s to become their own bosses, the CEO is getting a revamp as the SHEeo. CEOs are forging their own paths, blazing their own trails, and turning their passion into a profit. Curious to know how she does it? In the Meet The SHEeo series, we talk to melanated mavens leveling up and glowing up, all while redefining what it means to be a boss.

After working several corporate buying jobs, Jasmene Bowdry was tired of going to an unfulfilling 9-5 job, so she stepped out on faith and in 2016 launched SHIFT StyleHouse— a fashion brand offering versatile looks for the modern day Renaissance woman on the go. Using her background as a retail buyer and fashion stylist, Bowdry has built a platform that's empowering women through style. She recently launched her collection inside The Market at Macy's in Atlanta's Lenox Mall.

In this week's feature, meet Jasmene Bowdry of SHIFT StyleHouse.

Courtesy of Jasmene Bowdry

The Stats

Title: CEO & Founder of SHIFT StyleHouse

Location: Atlanta, Georgia

Year Founded: 2016

# of Employees: 1

30-Second Pitch: SHIFT StyleHouse is a fashion platform offering versatile fashion for the modern day renaissance woman. SHIFT is powered by love and determination to empower women through style.

The Details

What inspired you to start your brand? 

After working several corporate buying jobs, I still felt unfulfilled and like I wasn't walking in my purpose. I didn't know how things would turn out after launching. I simply knew I was a lover of fashion and loved seeing the confidence women exuded when they got dressed up, so I stepped out on faith and made my fashion dreams come to life.

What was your a-ha moment that brought your idea into reality? 

I always assumed starting a business was an excessive amount of money, but once I began to research I realized it wasn't and since I had a background of being a retail buyer and fashion stylist, I was like, 'Oh I can totally do this!'

Who is your ideal customer?

Her name is Jurnee. She is a modern day renaissance woman on the go. She's shifting throughout the day and night and she needs versatile fashion pieces that move with her. From kids' soccer games, to brunch with the girls to date night, she's got style, class, a schedule, and NO TIME to change in between it all.

What makes your business different?

My business is different because I really keep my customer (Jurnee) top of mind. Everything is focused on her lifestyle and what she needs. From assortment decisions, to pricing, etc, she is top of mind. So I would say my business is different because it is customer-focused versus focusing on the latest trends.

What obstacles did you have to overcome while launching and growing your brand? How were you able to overcome them?

Lots of obstacles will come when growing your brand. My biggest was resources. When I first launched I used my salary from my 9-5 to fund my business. But then I was let go and had to still make it happen without that additional income. You get real creative (laughs).

What was the defining moment in your entrepreneurial journey?

The defining moment was my brand launching in Macy's new pop-up format, The Market @ Macy's in Lenox Mall (in Atlanta). Just to have that presence and awareness speaks volumes.

Where do you see your company in 5-10 years?

The ultimate goal is for SHIFT StyleHouse to be a global fashion empire that allows customers to shop online and in-store for black owned brands.

Where have you seen the biggest return on investment? 

My biggest ROI is vending and ads. Vending is great because it allows for you to engage and interact directly with your consumers and potential consumers. They can hear your story and touch and feel the products. I love vending! Facebook and Instagram ads generate approximately 30% of my revenue. It allows you to increase your brand awareness as well as retarget customers who visited your website but did not purchase.

Courtesy of Jasmene Bowdry

Do you have a mentor? If so, who?

Sort of! Although we haven't started our one on one meetings yet (laughs) but Necole Kane which stemmed from our Path To Greater Than experience.

​Biggest lesson you've learned in business? 

Biggest lesson was to be okay with being uncomfortable. My comfort zone was a six-figure salary at a job I dreaded going to daily. Getting let go was a blessing but I was scared. I had plans to transition to full-time and move to Atlanta. Well, getting let go didn't stop no show. I still moved. I have been going strong for over 8 months as a full-time entrepreneur. I got my brand in Macys. And have amazing opportunities presented to me since moving here that never would've happened had I stayed in my comfort zone.

To keep up with Jasmene, follow her on social media: @jasmenemache and @shiftstylehouse.

Featured image courtesy of Jasmene Bowdry

You may not know her by Elisabeth Ovesen – writer and host of the love, sex and relationships advice podcast Asking for a Friend. But you definitely know her other alter ego, Karrine Steffans, the New York Times best-selling author who lit up the literary and entertainment world when she released what she called a “tell some” memoir, Confessions of a Video Vixen.

Her 2005 barn-burning book gave an inside look at the seemingly glamorous world of being a video vixen in the ‘90s and early 2000s, and exposed the industry’s culture of abuse, intimidation, and misogyny years before the Me Too Movement hit the mainstream. Her follow-up books, The Vixen Diaries (2007) and The Vixen Manual: How To Find, Seduce And Keep The Man You Want (2009) all topped the New York Times best-seller list. After a long social media break, she's back. xoNecole caught up with Ovesen about the impact of her groundbreaking book, what life is like for her now, and why she was never “before her time”– everyone else was just late to the revolution.

xoNecole: Tell me about your new podcast Asking for a Friend with Elisabeth Ovesen and how that came about.

Elisabeth Ovesen: I have a friend who is over [at Blavity] and he just asked me if I wanted to do something with him. And that's just kinda how it happened. It wasn't like some big master plan. Somebody over there was like, “Hey, we need content. We want to do this podcast. Can you do it?” And I was like, “Sure.” And that's that. That was around the holidays and so we started working on it.

xoNecole: Your life and work seem incredibly different from when you first broke out on the scene. Can you talk a bit about the change in your career and how your life is now?

EO: Not that different. I mean my life is very different, of course, but my work isn't really that different. My life is different, of course, because I'm 43. My career started when I was in my 20s, so we're looking at almost 20 years since the beginning of my career. So, naturally life has changed a lot since then.

I don’t think my career has changed a whole lot – not as far as my writing is concerned, and my stream of consciousness with my writing, and my concerns and the subject matter hasn’t changed much. I've always written about interpersonal relationships, sexual shame, male ego fragility, respectability politics – things like that. I always put myself in the center of that to make those points, which I think were greatly missed when I first started writing. I think that society has changed quite a bit. People are more aware. People tell me a lot that I have always been “before my time.” I was writing about things before other people were talking about that; I was concerned about things before my generation seemed to be concerned about things. I wasn't “before my time.” I think it just seems that way to people who are late to the revolution, you know what I mean?

I retired from publishing in 2015, which was always the plan to do 10 years and retire. I was retired from my pen name and just from the business in general in 2015, I could focus on my business, my education and other things, my family. I came back to writing in 2020 over at Medium. The same friend that got me into the podcast, actually as the vice president of content over at Medium and was like, “Hey, we need some content.” I guess I’m his go-to content creator.

xoNecole: Can you expound on why you went back to your birth name versus your stage name?

EO: No, it was nothing to expound upon. I mean, writers have pen names. That’s like asking Diddy, why did he go by Sean? I didn't go back. I've always used that. Nobody was paying attention. I've never not been myself. Karrine Steffans wrote a certain kind of book for a certain kind of audience. She was invented for the urban audience, particularly. She was never meant to live more than 10 years. I have other pen names as well. I write under several names. So, the other ones are just nobody's business right now. Different pen names write different things. And Elisabeth isn’t my real name either. So you'll never know who I really am and you’ll never know what my real name is, because part of being a writer is, for me at least, keeping some sort of anonymity. Anything I do in entertainment is going to amass quite a bit because who I am as a person in my private life isn't the same a lot of times as who I am publicly.

xoNecole: I want to go back to when you published Confessions of a Video Vixen. We are now in this time where people are reevaluating how the media mistreated women in the spotlight in the 2000s, namely women like Britney Spears. So I’d be interested to hear how you feel about that period of your life and how you were treated by the media?

EO: What I said earlier. I think that much of society has evolved quite a bit. When you look back at that time, it was actually shocking how old-fashioned the thinking still was. How women were still treated and how they're still treated now. I mean, it hasn't changed completely. I think that especially for the audience, I think it was shocking for them to see a woman – a woman of color – not be sexually ashamed.

I hate being like other people. I don't want to do what anyone else is doing. I can't conform. I will not conform. I think in 2005 when Confessions was published, that attitude, especially about sex, was very upsetting. Number one, it was upsetting to the men, especially within urban and hip-hop culture, which is built on misogyny and thrives off of it to this day. And the women who protect these men, I think, you know, addressing a demographic that is rooted in trauma that is rooted in sexual shame, trauma, slavery of all kinds, including slavery of the mind – I think it triggered a lot of people to see a Black woman be free in this way.

I think it said a lot about the people who were upset by it. And then there were some in “crossover media,” a lot of white folks were upset too, not gonna lie. But to see it from Black women – Tyra Banks was really upset [when she interviewed me about Confessions in 2005]. Oprah wasn't mad [when she interviewed me]. As long as Oprah wasn’t mad, I was good. I didn't care what anybody else had to say. Oprah was amazing. So, watching Black women defend men, and Black women who had a platform, defend the sexual blackmailing of men: “If you don't do this with me, you won't get this job”; “If you don't do this in my trailer, you're going to have to leave the set”– these are things that I dealt with.

I just happened to be the kind of woman who, because I was a single mother raising my child all by myself and never got any help at all – which I still don't. Like, I'm 24 in college – not a cheap college either – one of the best colleges in the country, and I'm still taking care of him all by myself as a 21-year-old, 20-year-old, young, single mother with no family and no support – I wasn’t about to say no to something that could help me feed my son for a month or two or three.

xoNecole: We are in this post-Me Too climate where women in Hollywood have come forward to talk about the powerful men who have abused them. In the music industry in particular, it seems nearly impossible for any substantive change or movement to take place within music. It's only now after three decades of allegations that R. Kelly has finally been convicted and other men like Russell Simmons continue to roam free despite the multiple allegations against him. Why do you think it's hard for the music industry to face its reckoning?

EO: That's not the music industry, that's urban music. That’s just Black folks who make music and nobody cares about that. That's the thing; nobody cares...Nobody cares. It's not the music industry. It's just an "urban" thing. And when I say "urban," I say that in quotations. Literally, it’s a Black thing, where nobody gives a shit what Black people do to Black people. And Russell didn't go on unchecked, he just had enough money to keep it quiet. But you know, anytime you're dealing with Black women being disrespected, especially by Black men, nobody gives a shit.

And Black people don't police themselves so it doesn't matter. Why should anybody care? And Black women don't care. They'll buy an R. Kelly album right now. They’ll stream that shit right now. They don’t care. So, nobody cares. Nobody cares. And if you're not going to police yourself, then nobody's ever going to care.

xoNecole: Do you have any regrets about anything you wrote or perhaps something you may have omitted?

EO: Absolutely not. No. There's nothing that I wish I would've gone back and said to myself, no. I don’t think at 20-something years old, I'm supposed to understand every little thing. I don't think the 20-something-year-old woman is supposed to understand the world and know exactly what she's doing. I think that one of my biggest regrets, which isn't my regret, but a regret, is that I didn't have better parents. Because a 20-something only knows what she knows based on what she’s seen and what she’s been taught and what she’s told. I had shitty parents and a horrible family. Just terrible. These people had no business having children. None of them. And a lot of our families are like that. And we may pass down those familial curses.

*This interview has been edited and condensed

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Feature image courtesy of Elisabeth Ovesen

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