The 4 Tips That Helped Jasmene Bowdry Leave Corporate America To Launch Her Own Boutique


Jasmene Bowdry was living the American Dream. With a lucrative, high-level job in corporate America and enough disposable income to travel whenever and wherever she wanted, the sky was the limit for the fashion buyer. With a promising future working for high-end luxury fashion brands like Saks Fifth Avenue and a constantly increasing bank account, from the outside looking in, it seemed like Jasmene had it all figured out, but for some reason, she still wasn't happy.

Like most of us, Jasmene grew up with the belief that to truly reach a level of optimum adulting, you had to go to school, get a degree, find a good job, and retire. But as Jasmene matured and continued to excel in her career, she began to question this way of thinking. "It really just came to a point in 2015 where I was like, okay, how can I merge these passions of mine? I love fashion, I love business. How can I really merge all of that together and do something that really fulfills me?"

While she had pursued her dreams of becoming a boutique owner in her spare time away from work, reality hit her like a ton of bricks when she was let go from her full-time job and forced to explore other options. Although Jasmene had plans of leaving corporate America in the future, she learned to see her seemingly spontaneous misfortune as an act of God. She explained:

Courtesy of @JasmeneMache

"When you pray for things, God will make them happen in his time, and I was just like well this is just the time; that God wanted it to happen sooner than I did. So, to me, it was a blessing."

It takes a truly ambitious woman to shift her paradigm to see the obstacle in every opportunity, and for Jasmene, the now-owner of SHIFT StyleHouse fashion boutique, that transformation inspired the career of her dreams. As a young girl from Lansing, Michigan with a love for dressing up paper dolls, Jasmene never imagined that celebrities like Tyra Banks and Sarah Jakes Roberts would wear pieces from her boutique thanks to stylist J. Bolin, or that she'd have the opportunity to open her own pop-up boutique space in Macy's next month. But God has a funny way of pushing us into our passions.

Along with preparing for her brand debut at The Market @ Macy's in Lenox Mall on July 7th, Jasmene also spends her time as a business coach who helps women learn the ins and outs of starting their own boutique.

We sat down with Jasmene, who got real about most important things every woman should know when launching their own businesses:

Know Your Audience

So you've decided to get like our girl Jas and step out on faith to start a new business. While your first thought may be creating an Instagram page or finding a web designer, Jasmene advises that we apply a different method. Instead of focusing so intently on the aesthetic aspects of your business, get to know everything you can about your ideal customer.

Knowing your customer and honing in on your target audience to be more niche than broad is key to seeing success in your business. This is part of the reason Jasmene started her online coaching business, The Boutique Teacher. She told xoNecole, "Many times when people start boutiques, they want it for the masses. They want everybody to come shop. And when you're trying to sell to everybody, you sell to nobody."

"When you're trying to sell to everybody, you sell to nobody."

Take Your Time

Knowing your customer isn't just about filling out a worksheet, issa process. Doing the work can mean taking days, weeks, or even months to develop and evolve your business. Jasmene shared that because her target audience drives the core of her business, she uses this information to make any and every major decision that she's confronted with. "I really dove down into like, who my girl was. When I decided that I'm going to rebrand, it wasn't something that happened overnight. It was months of work and research to really understand who my ideal customer was. It was months of finding the perfect pieces that fit along with her lifestyle."

For Jasmene, getting to know her ideal customer meant using her imagination, even giving her target client a name. Once she made the decision to focus on that aspect of her business, she hasn't looked back.

Standing Out In A Crowd

Anyone who's ever dipped a toe in the fashion industry knows that thriving in an oversaturated market is no easy feat. There are new businesses popping up every day, b; so it's important that you find a way to stand out from the crowd. The SHIFT Stylehouse owner emphasized the power of staying in your own lane, because no one can do you like you.

As an introvert with just a dash of social anxiety, at times, it's hard for Jasmene to be in front of the camera. But, according to her, moving in silence isn't always the best move. She told xoNecole that the key to conquering your market is just being you, sis. "Sometimes you gotta pop out. Sometimes you do have to show yourself so that people can see you and understand you because people buy into the stories of the people they buy from; who they trust and love and who they can connect with. So sharing your unique story is really what will set you apart in this industry."

"Sometimes you gotta pop out. Sometimes you do have to show yourself so that people can see you and understand you because people buy into the stories of the people they buy from; who they trust and love and who they can connect with."

Stop Purchasing Vendor Lists

Starting a business is hard, but nothing that's truly worth having will come easily. The same is true when you're starting a boutique, and according to Jasmene, the easy way isn't always the most lucrative. I can admit that I've fallen victim to buying a wholesale vendor guide on a whim, hoping that it would help me fulfill all of my entrepreneurial dreams, but Jasmene informed me that this way of thinking was dead wrong.

"It's deeper than somebody just putting in the names of vendors on a spreadsheet. You need to build a relationship with wholesalers and manufacturers. You need to touch the quality of the product before you decide you're going to try and sell that to somebody," the style curator explained. "I see what a lot of starter boutique owners do is, they have the idea that they want to start a boutique and now they're like, 'Okay, well where do I source the product?' So they think that getting a vendor list is the solution to that."

Jasmene advised that although that vendor list may be specific to one audience, it doesn't necessarily mean that vendor's products will work for your ideal client. Vendor lists have the potential to stunt your growth, and if you're not careful, can be a real waste of money.

Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway

Courtesy of @JasmeneMache

Maybe you think you don't have enough money to start a business. Do it anyway. Maybe you think you're too old to step out on faith and leave your job. Do it anyway.

According to Jasmene, we will never truly feel like we have enough, know enough, or are enough to follow our dreams. Her mantra since leaving her job in corporate America has been, "'Feel the fear and do it anyway.' There's so much greater on the other side of fear. There's so much more outside of your comfort zone, and I was so comfortable working in corporate America. I wasn't fulfilled, but I would think that my paycheck was fulfilling me."

According to her, if she had one piece of advice, it would be: "Take the leap, take the risk. Never get too comfortable. Never. Had I taken risks earlier in my life, then the brand could have probably been so much further. But that's not something I harp on, there are no regrets. Everything happens in the timing that it is supposed to happen."

"Take the leap, take the risk. Never get too comfortable. Never."

If you're in Atlanta this month, make sure to check out Jasmene's brand, SHIFT StyleHouse at The Market @ Macy's while it's available for a limited time in Lenox Mall in Buckhead!

You can keep up with Jasmene via Instagram @jasmenemache and shop her dope collection at SHIFTStyleHouse.com.

Featured image courtesy of @jasmenemache.

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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