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From Classroom to Public Policy To Podcasting | Ep #150

July 5, 2024

From Classroom to Public Policy To Podcasting | Ep #150 Join us on the Second Act Success Career Podcast as we dive into the inspiring journey of Jessica Bowser, who transitioned from being an elementary school teacher to a nonprofit executive, and eventually found her calling as a successful podcaster. In this episode, Jessica shares her story […]

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From Classroom to Public Policy To Podcasting | Ep #150

Join us on the Second Act Success Career Podcast as we dive into the inspiring journey of Jessica Bowser, who transitioned from being an elementary school teacher to a nonprofit executive, and eventually found her calling as a successful podcaster. In this episode, Jessica shares her story of navigating through career changes, overcoming bureaucratic challenges in the workplace, and discovering her passion for outdoor recreation. Learn how she turned her pandemic project into the thriving podcast- Virginia Outdoor Adventures, built a supportive community, and created a business that aligns with her values and lifestyle. Tune into Episode #150 for valuable insights on embracing career change, following your passion, and making a meaningful impact in your community.



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From Classroom to Public Policy to Podcasting | #150



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Second Act Success Career Podcast
Season 1 - From Classroom to Public Policy To Podcasting | Ep #150
Episode - #150
Host: Shannon Russell
Guest: Jessica Bowser
Transcription (*created by Descript and may not be perfectly accurate)

[00:00:00] Jessica Bowser: , I thought I was going to be a teacher my whole life, that didn't happen. , I thought I was going to be in my dream job for the rest of my career. That didn't happen.

Now here I am doing something completely unexpected. So, the one thing I've learned is that there's just no way to know what's coming next. You just have to be open to whatever possibilities might arise. Jessica Bowser. Welcome to the second act success podcast. It's so great to see you.

Thank you so much for having me. It's exciting to be [00:01:00] on the other side of the mic for a change.

[00:01:01] Shannon Russell: Exactly. Yes. Jessica and I met at pod fest in Orlando this year we just kind of ended up sitting next to each other in a bunch of different panels. And, , yeah, it's just so great to have you here.

I think your podcast is so exciting, but let's start from the beginning. Why don't you tell me where your career began?

[00:01:21] Jessica Bowser: Well, I started my career as a fourth grade elementary school teacher and I live in Northern Virginia. So I was teaching the public school system here. And as a 20 something year old, I was wearing my heart on my sleeve.

Yeah, I went into teaching because I wanted to change the world like so many other teachers do, but once I got into it, I realized it. The reality of teaching is very different from that. There's a lot of bureaucracy. There's a lot of red tape. it is a female dominated profession in which the public, , has a lot of opinions about how teachers should be teaching.

And I found that very demeaning and very frustrating because I was a trained professional. I wanted to [00:02:00] go in there to do my job. And I felt like I often was hitting these roadblocks where I was being told to do things that were not in the best interests of my students. , so for me, that was like I really had a hard time.

I struggled with it a lot. I had some students that were struggling that I couldn't find the help for. , and so After some time, I started really getting into the policy and the advocacy side of public education. I thought that I could maybe make a difference that way. , and I'm a little bit of a policy nerd.

I got really excited about the public policy side of things. , actually started taking some doctoral courses at a local university in policy and advocacy and was sort of going down that road. , and then. At some point, seven years into my teaching career, I was spending more time outside my classroom focusing on policy and advocacy always, , involved in a community activity or something going on, , that I thought would be helpful [00:03:00] in, supporting teachers and students and students, parents, , in the community.

And so I. Decided it made sense for me to make the leap into policy and advocacy. I left the classroom, although I never really felt like I left because I felt like my heart was still in the same place. And it was all about supporting students and teachers and their families. And so that's what I did for the next 10 years.

I focused on policy and advocacy and I had all kinds of different jobs and I did everything from government relations to organizing. , my last. position was as a nonprofit executive. I kind of hit this point where I had reached my dream position. There was a, there was a job I had had my eye on for years and I climbed the ladder until I got there and I was super excited about it.

, my heart was totally into it. And then the pandemic happens and 2020 came along and everything changed. And I was sitting at home. [00:04:00] trying to decide what I was going to do next. , and I started a podcast about outdoor recreation in Virginia. And the reason for that was because I've always been into hiking and biking and camping and outdoor rec in general.

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a place where I was surrounded by a forest. I was really into like the birds and the wildlife and just the peacefulness of it. I was used to that. I was drawn to that. I had connected with nature when I was young. And so I had that strong connection. And over the years I was posting like on social media, for example, whenever I would Go camping or hiking or visit a new place.

And my friends started to say to me, you know, you really ought to write a book or start a blog. And I thought, yeah, that's a great idea, but who has time for that? You know, I had a full time job. I served on six different boards and commissions. There was not time for, for writing books and blogs. , but during the pandemic, [00:05:00] suddenly I was at home like everybody else trying to figure out, you know, what I was going to do.

And I don't know where exactly the idea of a podcast came from, maybe because I myself had just started listening to podcasts for the first time. And I wasn't so naive that I thought, Oh, this is going to be easy. I knew it wasn't going to be as easy as it seems upfront, but I decided to give it a shot.

, I launched the podcast, , in spring of 2021. I was sort of building up to it in 2020, launched in 2021 and it just took off. And I don't think anybody was more surprised than me. But when I think back on it, the circumstances were right. You know, people were, , still having to mask up everywhere they went.

They were looking for places to go that were close to home because we still couldn't travel. , we needed to be safe and the outdoors were considered a safe place. place. , and then also there were people who just never knew what was in their own backyards because they never took the time to explore.

And now that people had the time and they were stuck at home, they were going, Oh, [00:06:00] I had no idea this state park was right down the street from me. Or I didn't know that I could rent a kayak at this place. This just a few miles from my house. So I think the, the timing was right. And it just sort of went from there.

[00:06:14] Shannon Russell: And it's all still within the same realm of education and helping others. And that's

[00:06:22] Jessica Bowser: absolutely.

[00:06:23] Shannon Russell: So let's just rewind a little bit. So you're in the classroom and you're just hitting these walls. Was it mostly? Politics happening? Was it dealing with the parents when you really wanted to be dealing with the kids?

What was your main struggle that made you say, okay, I need to fight for the rights of these kids and these teachers?

[00:06:41] Jessica Bowser: It's funny because when I tell people that I was a teacher and then I left the the response that I almost always get was, Oh, I can't imagine how hard it would be to be a teacher right now.

These kids and their attitudes and their parents and parents think they're right and they defend their kids and nobody defends the teachers. I [00:07:00] never experienced that. , and I'm not saying that other people don't. Yeah. I did not experience that, I worked in a title one school for a few years, and then I moved to a different school that was right on the border of title one.

Like it almost qualified, but didn't quite. And what I found was that the parents were wonderful. The kids were wonderful, but also I had a really laid back. calm, peaceful classroom. You know, I was the teacher that the administrators gave all the problem children to because I was often, yeah, I was considered the only teacher that could handle them.

Just because I have a real laid back demeanor and , I really enjoyed working with the parents. , I really found that parents are very supportive of teachers, but really what it all comes down to is relationships, you know, and I didn't wait until parent teacher conferences to build those relationships with the parents.

[00:07:48] Jessica Bowser: I was reaching out to them from, you know, day one , of school. and, getting to know parents because honestly, once you meet the parents, it's like everything about that child just clicks. Like you [00:08:00] realize, Oh, now I know why this kid is the way they are. And so I really enjoyed, constant communication with parents.

And that's a skill and a lesson that I learned that has served me well all throughout my career. Even now as a podcaster, like when I work with sponsors and advertisers, or even my guests or small business owners. It's all about those relationships. And if you can establish relationships, you're going to get much farther.

So, I really enjoyed that aspect of it. But yes, it was , the bureaucracy and the politics of it. I never could imagine. walking into a courtroom and telling a judge how to do her job. And I certainly couldn't imagine walking into a hospital and telling doctors how to do their jobs.

Yet everybody had an opinion about how teachers should be doing their jobs. And oftentimes the people who were making those decisions, , are politicians or administrators who were never teachers themselves. They were never in the trenches doing the job and didn't understand how it worked, but they were making these decisions based on.[00:09:00]

What they thought public opinion was or, you know, what they thought was going to get them public support rather than what was in the best interest of students and teachers. And so, yeah, I got really frustrated with that. And then just the confines of a classroom. I'm a very independent person.

I don't like having somebody over me, telling me what to do, when to do it. I mean, teachers can't even go to the bathroom, right? Like we can't even leave our classrooms to take a restroom break, nevermind going out to lunch or deciding when you're going to come and go. And I really struggled under those confines.

So I work much better when I can make my own decisions and set my own schedule. And so for me, that was just a better option.

[00:09:40] Shannon Russell: Well, you had seven years. You really helped those kids and those families for that time. And then it's interesting that you started getting more involved in advocacy and in your community and then taking that step. What was that like when you left the children and you got into your first role?

In [00:10:00] advocacy and you were starting to learn things differently because that's a corporate environment. That's very different than a school environment,

[00:10:07] Jessica Bowser: right? It was definitely a change. I worked primarily for nonprofits, so that That was different too, but it was also very freeing. Like suddenly people wanted to know my opinion.

And I was working in nonprofits where not everyone had been a classroom teacher. And so people were coming to me and saying, what do you think of this? Is this going to work? You know, what are your thoughts on that? And I was like, wait, somebody cares about my opinion. And I couldn't believe it. It was, it was very empowering.

So suddenly I felt like I was in the right place doing the right thing. I enjoyed working with the community as well, like community leaders, , because there's a lot of people out there who work for other nonprofits who also care about public education, even if that's not their primary focus, that make wonderful allies.

So it was really exciting to start building my network , and working with folks that way [00:11:00] too.

[00:11:00] Shannon Russell: Yeah, so you were very connected within your community in Virginia then, it sounds like.

[00:11:04] Jessica Bowser: Yes, and even towards the end when I, had reached that executive level, , you know, working with elected officials all the time, working with board members, and it's a little wild.

It's kind of a hair on fire environment. I mean, I would get fired. phone calls from elected officials at 1130 at night. And, you know, my cell phone would be ringing at these crazy hours because something happened and they needed to talk to me right then, or that was their only time to talk because they were too busy.

And, you just accept that they're going to call you when they can call you. And if that's 1130 PM, then there you have it. And it never really bothered me. I had people telling me like, you shouldn't be answering your phone at that hour. Don't set that precedent. , but I was so. you know, Into my job and what I was doing.

And I felt, really strongly that I was, you know, doing good things. I would take the calls every single time, and that was fine. But it also meant working late hours, you know, working weekends, holidays, you know, if something happened, my phone was ringing, and I needed to be available.

[00:12:00] And that was just the way it is.

[00:12:01] Shannon Russell: But at least you were making a difference. And, and then the pandemic comes and was your nonprofit closed during that time? What kind of ended that role for you during 2020.

[00:12:13] Jessica Bowser: Yeah, there was a transition point there. Things got a little crazy and I started questioning, am I really still into this?

At that point it had been, Over a decade. I can't remember exactly how many years since I had actually been in the classroom and I was just starting to feel like, I think I need a change. like being at home. I like seeing my spouse every single day.

I like not having. , my cat give me those sad eyes when I'm walking out the door every morning. Like, where are you going, human? , you know, there's, there's those things, right? Yeah. Like actually knowing what my house looks like in the daylight. Yeah, it is. And sitting outside on my deck and enjoying the change in the seasons and getting to know my neighbors [00:13:00] and like.

Things that just, I was missing all along and I think like many people, I didn't realize I had been missing it all along and I just wanted a more laid back, peaceful existence as opposed to the hair on fire world that I had been living in.

[00:13:15] Shannon Russell: So it was your choice to say, okay, I'm going to take this time to make this shift and then podcasting erupted.

I feel like that's what happened with me too I love listening to podcasts. If they can do it, then I can do it. And I really have something to say and something to talk about. And it just, you just go for it and you see if you enjoy it. Then years later, you're still doing it.

[00:13:37] Jessica Bowser: Yeah. You know, it's funny when it comes to podcasters and I think content creators and, and honestly, probably any career path, you know, they talk about imposter syndrome and how a lot of people feel like they're not an expert in something. And therefore, you know, they shouldn't be posing as one or people, , wouldn't care what they have to say.

, I don't know, maybe I just have a different. , census [00:14:00] of self esteem, but I was like, no, I never felt that like I never had that imposter syndrome. You know, I'll be the first person to tell you I'm not an expert in anything, but I do build relationships with people who are experts.

And I feel like I'm the go between, you know, I take the information that people want the community to have and I put it out there. , and so for me, it's, part educator. Part communicator, , collecting and putting together the information that people want and, and putting it in a format that they can digest.

[00:14:30] Shannon Russell: And part advocate too, because you're advocating for your community. For absolutely,

[00:14:36] Jessica Bowser: yes, it's funny how the skill set transferred because I did not expect that either. You don't think of podcasting as having, you know, a certain skill set. think of maybe broadcasting or radio or, you know, something where you're talking into the mic.

, that's really only a teeny tiny part of it, right? Like that's the part that you hear, but it's what's going on in the background that you don't see or hear. , so some of the [00:15:00] skills that have transferred over are. Communications, , building relationships, networking, , and then being organized, you know, as a teachers or have to be super organized, , being on top of things and just having an incredibly strong work ethic because when you're working for yourself, it's really easy to be like, Oh, it's the first 70 degree day and spring.

I just want to go out and hike. But I can't write like I know that I have to stay home because there are certain things that I need to do. And especially with the type of content that I put out about outdoor recreation, people assume that I spend my whole life outdoors. And maybe I spend an hour on a microphone.

But the reality is, like everybody else, I'm at a computer pretty much every day. And actually, I'm probably at my computer more than most people are because I'm running a small business. I don't have a nine to five. I am working from the time I get up to the time I go to bed. Seven days a week. It doesn't matter if it's a weekend, a holiday.

Like I am here grinding [00:16:00] away and that's just the way it is.

[00:16:02] Shannon Russell: And that's how your business will grow, right? You're putting all of yourself into it and so much love and sweat and tears.

[00:16:09] Jessica Bowser: That's what they say. Although there's something to be said about work life balance. I haven't gotten there yet. So if you're going to ask me any questions about work life balance, I am not the person to ask about that because I have almost none.

[00:16:20] Shannon Russell: And I don't think it truly, truly exists, I have to say. I might be in the minority, but I think it's the fact that you are controlling your time. Like, yes, you are, but you enjoy the work you're doing. And there's something to be said about working around the clock as a small business owner, that it's your clock, your time, your work.

You're not doing it for someone else. You're not being told to do it. And so that if you did want to go and hike in the middle of the day, on a Tuesday. That's your call, right? The only person who's going to yell at you is yourself.

[00:16:48] Jessica Bowser: that's true. That's, that's how it is in theory. Right. But there are definitely times where I'm like, what am I doing with my life?

I mean, I'm not going to lie. I'm a realist. If that's going to come through in this conversation, [00:17:00] I'm absolutely a realist. And there are definitely days where I'm like, what am I doing with my life? Like if I had a nine to five, I could. Do my job within those hours. And then I could have a life outside of it as opposed to just working, working, working all the time, which is what I'm doing now.

And I would have job security and I would have benefits. And, you know, , maybe I should do like, there are definitely days when I'm like, maybe that would be a better option, especially when somebody sends me a job posting for something that I, know I might be a good fit for, and then I really struggle.

Cause then it's like, okay. This seems like an easy out, but at the same time, I've put all of this hard work and effort into the podcast \ , and getting that to a place where it's functioning as a business. Do I really want to throw that all out the window? And struggle is real. The struggle is real, especially when I'm having a rough day and I'm like, gosh, I don't know how much longer this is sustainable for, but what keeps me going is.

When I [00:18:00] get a message from a listener saying, Jessica, your podcast means so much to me, this got me through the pandemic, or this helped me deal with, or a death in my family, or, you know, I had a strained relationship with my adult child, and then we Got some ideas about hiking outdoors and we started doing that together.

And now we're rebuilding our relationship. Like I get these messages that I never imagined would come out of this project. I mean, this was a pandemic project. This was something to do for fun while I was at home trying to figure out what to do with my time. It has turned into something entirely unexpected.

I mean, it has impacted people in ways that I never could have imagined. , and also I have found myself in an interesting position where I get to educate people about things that That's it. Park rangers and agencies that manage our public lands, like they want people to know, they want the public to know, but they don't have the platform to get the information out.

And [00:19:00] I have become that platform in a lot of ways. And sometimes that's conservation. Sometimes it's safety. Sometimes it's responsible, recreating, , all the things like that people don't know about when they're outside recreating, or they just don't think about it. Like even. the policy side of it. Like, you know, getting back to the policy and the politics.

, our public lands are public, right? So, they need to be funded and the Virginia General Assembly doesn't fully fund our Virginia State Parks , and other resources. And most people don't know that. So, you know, they go to a state park and They're like, oh, the pool is closed. You know, this place stinks.

We're not coming back and they leave. They don't think to call their legislator and say, please fully fund our parks so that we can have all these amenities back. , so it's that type of messaging that I get to share too. And. just informing people about , if these places mean something to you and you want them to exist for your kids and your grandkids, then here's what you need to do.

[00:19:58] Shannon Russell: So your podcast, if we haven't [00:20:00] mentioned it yet, is Virginia Outdoor Adventures. And so you talk all about recreation and the outdoors in your community in Virginia or the whole state of Virginia, I should say. And so you started your episodes just about this, were you hiking and then coming back and talking about it?

Like what was the evolution of this podcast? And I really want to lean into the fact that you do have sponsors and this is a business and you're making money from this podcast, which isn't always the way. So really tell me about the evolution of making this podcast project a business.

[00:20:31] Jessica Bowser: Yeah, it's definitely been an evolution because I had no idea what I was doing in the beginning.

I honestly did not know what direction I wanted to go in. I didn't know what my audience was interested in. I knew that I wanted to have guests on every episode. And so I just started with my network. I literally reached out to almost every person I knew and said, I'm starting this podcast about outdoor recreation in Virginia.

Who do you know that might be a good guest and started getting, references and, and, you know, different names started coming to me. And then I [00:21:00] would ask those people, who do you know? And then pretty soon it mushroomed. , but initially I was just interviewing people who I thought were interesting.

Some of them might've started a nonprofit. Some of them might have done the AmeriCorps program. Some of them might just. be people who are really enthusiastic about kayak camping, you know, maybe, , somebody rode their bike across the country. It was just, you know, who do I think is interesting here? And then I would interview that person and then I would watch.

The stats and I've learned over time, like how to, pay attention to what people really want. So it has evolved. , and now I mostly focus on places to go and things to do because I've learned that that's really what people are looking for. And then I weave in other information that might be of importance.

, for example. I had somebody ask me recently if I would do an episode about Search and Rescue. And I said, I would never do an episode about Search and Rescue because hardly anybody would listen to it. If I put out [00:22:00] an episode about Search and Rescue, that's not places to go and things to do. Like it might appeal to a few people, but it's not going to appeal to my general audience.

So instead what I have done in the past, I did an episode about waterfalls of Shenandoah National Park. And the guest was a ranger who also happened to be, , the lead for the search and rescue team in the park. And he talked about safety and he talked about what happens when somebody goes on a waterfall hike and they're unprepared and has to be rescued and, and the resources that go into that rescue.

So the information is there and people are learning at, you know, from that, but that's not the focus of the episode. It's like, the teacher means like, how do I get people to learn about this stuff? And how do I draw people in without, , turning them away because they're like, Oh, I don't need to know about search and rescue.

[00:22:48] Shannon Russell: Right. That's a downer. I don't want to talk about that. That's so smart. And I love that you really did. Study the stats and look at what your audience wants. [00:23:00] And a great thing to mention for any wannabe podcasters that are listening is that you niche down you didn't talk about outdoor adventures in the great us you really studied , and Focused on Virginia.

So that makes your audience very focused. And for people who might think, Oh, the more you put it out there, the broader you are, the more reach it's not, it's kind of the opposite of that. You learn that you want to niche down in any business really. And then you really target to those, those listeners. And yes, yes, well,

[00:23:33] Jessica Bowser: yeah, you're absolutely right.

When I first started this, I had people telling me that I needed to do the whole country or I needed to do the whole East Coast or I needed to include all the neighboring states. And some of the people who told me this, I mean, , one friend of mine is a multimillion dollar business owner, and he started from scratch.

And the guy is really smart. And I was like, That's not what my gut is telling me. My gut is telling me from my [00:24:00] experience working in the community, that community matters and people care about their neighbors and what's nearby to them. And that has so far proven to be true. And. There is no shortage of podcasts or social media accounts or creators out there who are trying to cover everything.

I honestly don't know how they could possibly do it. And for me, like when I have a guest on my show, I meet with that guest in person before they come on the show. It gives me an opportunity to get to know them, but it also means that I'm going to where they are so that they can share with me what their passions are and, what matters to them and I can actually experience it with them so that when we're talking about it in an episode.

That relationship has already been established and listeners hear it and I can talk about it from some vantage point of Experience instead of just asking a list of random questions and letting them answer it We can actually have a conversation about the experience and what it's [00:25:00] like and then I think listeners go Oh, wow, this is something that I can do, you know right here in my backyard and also it helps really identify folks as This part of this larger community, we are all Virginians here, like in Virginia, and this is our backyard.

And this is something that we should be proud of. We have beautiful landscapes here, everything from the ocean and the Chesapeake Bay to the valleys, the lakes and the Appalachians. I mean, there's, there's a huge variety and we have a rich culture and history here, and it's something to be proud of. And that's something that I want people to connect to because when they make a connection.

they're going to come back.

You know, with my podcast, people feel like they're part of this community. Everything that they're hearing is something that is accessible to them. It's not a big bucket list dream. You know, it's something they could do this weekend if they want. And I think that resonates with folks.

[00:25:52] Shannon Russell: Yeah, you've done a great job of really narrowing.

And then how is that [00:26:00] to your sponsors? Because I really want to dive into how you are making money from this pot through your sponsors and through who are also community businesses. And just talk to me a little bit about that.

[00:26:12] Jessica Bowser: Yeah, absolutely. That niching down has everything to do with my ability to monetize the podcast.

And, and to be clear, I monetize in the podcast, because as you know, like, it's not free. Some people think that a podcast is as simple as talking into a mic and then putting it out there for the world to consume, but it It comes with a lot of costs, , and those costs need to be covered. And if I'm also not going to be working because I'm investing all this time and money into a podcast, then I, you know, I have to make it worth it.

, but if I hadn't niched down, I don't know that I would have any advertisers or sponsors or very few. , and the reason why this works so well is because podcasting can reach a very niche audience. And if you. If, if you're an advertiser or you're looking to advertise [00:27:00] and you want to hit a target audience, I and any other podcaster should be able to provide the data to show who is listening to their show.

So if I have an outdoor brand that is selling tents. Obviously, you know, my audience is going to be very open to an ad about tents or sleeping bags or, , you know, an alpaca hoodie or whatever it's going to be. , but it's not just brands. , I have a lot of tourism, they're called DMOs. That's a .

, an industry term. It stands for destination marketing organization. So there are regional DMOs all around the state, and they are also trying to get people who are interested in outdoor recreation to come to their locations. And not just because, , they want to hike or whatever, but the outdoor industry is a multi billion dollar industry.

When people travel to hike or to camp or, you know, to visit parks, they're spending their money. , in that area, they're bringing money to the region. So they're, [00:28:00] staying in hotels or in cabins, they are buying gas for their car. They are eating out. They might do some of the local attractions in the area.

They might hire a guide, , or do a tour. So there's a lot of money to be spent in an area. So tourism DMOs are also really interested in working with me because they can reach people who are already right here in Virginia. So if, you know, if there's a small county somewhere in Virginia and they're trying.

To expand their local economy, to include outdoor recreation. This is a great opportunity for them to do that. Also, podcasting is not expensive compared to other forms of advertising. I mean, if you were to run an ad in a big magazine, like outside, for example, or Blue Ridge outdoors, I mean, it's 16, 000 or so for a quarter page ad.

And then you don't even know who's looking at it and. of the people who look at it, how many are acting on it? There's no way to measure that. , in [00:29:00] podcasting, it's different. I know exactly how many people have downloaded and listened to an episode and I can provide that data to sponsors and advertisers.

So they know who they're reaching. , they know what they're paying for. And that's really appealing to a lot of folks, but it's that target audience. And it's that return on investment that's measurable that's that I'm able to do it. Now you've probably heard the industry standards. , you know, they say that, what is it?

20 per ad for every thousand downloads or something like that. I was monetizing at 30. 300 downloads an episode years ago. I mean, when I hit that point, that's when I got my first sponsor and it was the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources that actually reached out to me and said they wanted to work with me.

And I said, would you be willing to be a sponsor? And when they said yes, I knew things were going somewhere. I was like, I don't have that many downloads compared to most podcasts. But I have an audience that they're trying to reach, they're mostly, , [00:30:00] or they historically have had a lot of hunters and anglers as their supporters and their followers.

And they are trying to reach a broader audience of outdoor recreationists. They have over 40 wildlife management areas across the state. They want people to use it for something other than hunting. And so my podcast was a way for them To start getting that messaging out as well as messaging about the work they do with wildlife in the area.

A lot of wildlife comes back to tourism. There's a herd of elk that have been reintroduced in Southwest Virginia and the tourism dollars that are coming into that area. , , from people who want to go on these tours to see the elk is huge. And so like this platform is a way to get that information out because most people are like, we have elk in Virginia?

I had no idea. , so yeah, it's really being able to reach a target audience that makes all the difference.

[00:30:51] Shannon Russell: And I like it too, because you're serving your listeners as well. They're not getting these ads for something that has nothing to do with your [00:31:00] content. So it's all really aligned. How many times do we listen to a podcast and there's some random ad for a senior living community or something that just doesn't pertain to us?

[00:31:10] Jessica Bowser: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:31:11] Shannon Russell: Exactly. And so I think that's just really symbiotic how you have everything working together and tying back to you educating and helping your community. It just all comes back to it , and this passion project. COVID project to now you've got this business that is really supporting you and your family and you seem so happy you're doing what you want to be doing.

[00:31:37] Jessica Bowser: There are good days and bad days. I would call it a roller coaster. Honestly, it's, you know, people see the good upfront. I'm not going to get on Instagram live and be like, you guys today really. Um, you know, maybe I wake up to a message from somebody saying, I just love you. Listen to this episode and it was so fantastic and thank you so much for everything you're doing for the [00:32:00] community. And then I open up my email and I find out that one of my advertisers has pulled out, And then I'm like, okay, there's a whole chunk of money that I was depending on that's now gone. And then I get another text message from somebody saying, Hey, we really love you to be our keynote speaker at our upcoming tourism conference. And then something else crazy happens, right?

And it's like, it's this up and down and up and down. and down. And if you can't ride the emotional roller coaster, you should just get off of it because it's, this is really what it is like on a daily basis. It like, it's the constant grind, but then it's also the, really high highs and the really low lows.

And, , It's rough sometimes. It's rough.

[00:32:39] Shannon Russell: Yeah, I completely agree. You don't know what your day is going to be like until you're there. I have to say, whenever those really negative down times or those disappointments happen, I just take a breath and shut the computer because I have the ability to do that and you can go for a walk.

You know the places to go in Virginia. Just go outside and just [00:33:00] reframe because it's one day and tomorrow will be different. So it's, you're right. It's a roller coaster of emotions all the time. And that is with probably running any size business, , big or small, but being a solopreneur. You know, it's you.

It's, it's me. That's it. That's, that's who's on our team. And so , you're handling the brunt of everything yourself. So it's a lot, but

[00:33:24] Jessica Bowser: It's truly a lot. And, you know, podcasting, I view it as three different jobs. There's the content creation. There's the promotion of every episode and of the show as a whole.

, and then there's working with the sponsors and advertisers. So the monetization piece, each of those three things should be a full time job by itself. And here I am trying to do all three of these things , pretty much on my own. I do have an editor so that it, that takes the task off my hand that.

off my hands that I just couldn't deal with on my own. Like, I don't want to do it. So I have somebody else help me. And then I have somebody who helps me with, , just random tasks. [00:34:00] Most of them are like communications or, , smaller things, , and that helps a lot. She's wonderful. , but I have found that a lot of things I just have to do on my own.

Like I, I've had a business coach for a while and I talked to my business coach about this and I said, I need help. I'm drowning. And she looked at me and said, girl, nobody's going to sell it better than you.

That's just the way it is.

[00:34:21] Shannon Russell: Yeah. That is the main part of your job is those relationships and the selling of your product, your podcast.

[00:34:28] Jessica Bowser: Yeah, exactly.

[00:34:30] Jessica Bowser: I'm learning as I go.

[00:34:31] Shannon Russell: Yes. So one question now, now that you have this podcast, you're making money from it.

Can you imagine yourself back in the classroom?

[00:34:42] Jessica Bowser: I couldn't have imagined myself back in the classroom 10 years ago. Yeah. , and it's funny because I, I hung on to it for a really long time. Like I had all of my classroom supplies in a storage unit for years. I was paying for the storage unit. I even, , renewed my teaching license.

So I, you know, and that requires like [00:35:00] taking classes and, and showing that you've met certain requirements. I renewed it until I couldn't renew it anymore, and was a lot. It was hard for me to let it go. I think there's an emotional connection. I mean, that career, it does something to you.

It changes you in a way that is difficult to describe. I mean, it's been More than a decade since I've been out of the classroom, but I still have dreams where it's the first day of school and the kids are lined up outside my door and I'm not ready. I don't have my classroom ready. I don't have my lesson plans ready and I'm panicking.

And all these years later, I still have that dream on repeats. So, you know, it was hard for me to let it go, but I also don't. I don't see myself ever going back. I mean, I've thought about it. I've thought about just subbing, you know, like being somebody's long term sub. I can't even imagine that the, the profession has, it's, it evolves so fast and so rapidly that I feel like I would be stepping into unknown, unfamiliar territory.

And , I [00:36:00] miss the kids.

You know, there are things about it that I really do miss, but I don't see myself back in there full time with somebody telling me what to do around the clock. I enjoyed it when I did it and I have no regrets, but I also realized that it was time to move on and I don't have any regrets about that either.

[00:36:17] Shannon Russell: I love that you have reflected on it because you are still a teacher. Right. You can always say, I did this and it led me to this next step and it led me to this third act. , and so everything happens and you just take those skills with you and you've used them so well. You've utilized them in both of your careers since then.

And yeah, keep going.

[00:36:37] Jessica Bowser: Yeah, that's exactly right. You just, you learn from past experiences and you carry them forward with you.

[00:36:43] Shannon Russell: Name one thing that these different chapters in your life have taught you.

[00:36:46] Jessica Bowser: If there's one thing I know for sure is that I never know what is coming next.

You can't predict it. And that's not to say that goal setting isn't a good idea or having a vision for where you want to [00:37:00] be two years, five years, 10 years from now. I've always had those visions. I've always had goals. Not one of them has. This almost has come true. I don't think , maybe in small increments, but you know, if you would have asked me five years ago when I was just getting into my dream job, if you know what I would be doing five years from now, if somebody would have said, you'd no longer be in this field, you'd be a podcaster.

I would not have believed it for a second. I don't know if I would've known what a podcast was, you know? So, , I thought I was going to be a teacher my whole life, my whole career. That didn't happen. , I thought I was going to be in my dream job for the rest of my career. That didn't happen.

Now here I am doing something completely unexpected. So, the one thing I've learned is that there's just no way to know what's coming next. You just have to be open to whatever possibilities might arise.

[00:37:55] Shannon Russell: So Jessica, where can my audience connect with you?

Whether they're in Virginia or not, [00:38:00] where are all the places to follow you?

[00:38:02] Jessica Bowser: You can find me on Instagram and Facebook at Virginia Outdoor Adventures. If you want more information about the podcast or about me, that can be found on my website, which is virginiaoutdooradventures.

com. And if you're looking to listen to the podcast, Virginia Outdoor Adventures is available on Apple podcasts, Spotify, and anywhere you listen to podcasts.

[00:38:22] Shannon Russell: Yay. You just said it just like a podcaster. That's right. And I'm going to link to everything. And I just love that we got to connect and at the podcast conference and that you're here sharing your story.

You really have evolved in such a special way throughout your career. And I love everything that you're doing. And I'm so proud to know you. So thank you for sharing.

[00:38:44] Jessica Bowser: Thank you, Shannon. It's been a pleasure to be here. It's been a pleasure getting to know you too, and I value this relationship. You are also doing amazing things for our community, and I thank you for that.

[00:38:56] Shannon Russell: Thank you, Jessica. Excited for what's next for both of us.

[00:38:59] Jessica Bowser: [00:39:00] Yes, that's right.


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Sisters in Success: A Journey in Business and Podcasting | Ep #149

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