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Female Disruptors: Jill Bourque of RushTix On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

No Surprises. — One of my bosses at a company I worked at years ago had this on his wall. The idea is that in business we need to think through all the pitfalls ahead of time so we can be prepared. I think about this a lot right now as livestreaming is a bit of high-wire act — it’s all live and in-the-moment with a lot of technical challenges.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jill Bourque.

Jill Bourque is CEO of RushTix, where she leads a talented team building the biggest comedy club on the planet (no joke!) to bring together thousands of fans for the shared experience of hilarious live comedy up close and personal. Today’s premier comedians want to connect with their fans around the world, and fans love their best-seat-in-the-house intimacy of RushTix’s shows.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Before I founded RushTix I was a stand-up comedian and improviser. I got into producing by way of an improv show I created called “How We First Met,” which became really popular, playing in 23 cities around the world over 15 years. From there I began producing bigger live comedy shows.

RushTix was a ticket membership company up until March 2020 — with live events evaporating we did a “pandemic pivot” into livestreaming ticketed comedy shows. Since April, we’ve produced over 50 livestreams.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We’re taking live events and bringing them online while still keeping that feeling of community. It’s not like watching TV alone — the RushTix experience is very dynamic and interactive for the attendee. I call it “Real Time Social” — it’s different from the experience we have on social channels like Facebook because the RushTix livestream experience is all happening in the moment.

I think that we are going to have a huge shift towards community and empathy — and I want to help people experience that in our shows. Facebook and Twitter create a lot of divisiveness — people bond over what they hate. At RushTix, people bond over what they love. Laughter creates a special kind of community that brings people together.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This was back in my early twenties when I went out as a solo consultant in marketing. I spent many weeks perfecting my business cards and logo. I had this notion that it was so important that my business card be just right. Now I realize that the most important thing is to get yourself (or your product) into the market and just start trying things. I was scared to get started and shifted my focus on my business cards instead of the “scary” thing of finding clients. The lesson is to face the “scary” thing, recognize it, and get to the other side. It’s incredibly empowering to face down these kinds of mental obstacles and find the way through.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

When I worked in financial services I had a boss by the name of Peter Stickells. He was very entrepreneurial and got me thinking about starting a business. Even though I had a relatively junior role, he listened to all my crazy ideas and let me run with them, which I think that was an instrumental part of my early career — getting the freedom to take chances and see what works.

I had an idea for a new kind of financial product which was way ahead of its time. He gave me the runway to try it out and put me in touch with the right people to make it happen. And while ultimately the idea was too early, it really inspired me to try out other ideas and see where I could take them.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

There’s a lot of grey ethical areas in how some industries such as transportation and delivery services have been disrupted. Each case has nuance. For example, as a consumer, I love that I can tap my app and get dinner or hail a ride. But the gig economy has created some instability in the job market and I think it contributes to the economic divide in our society. I have two teenage sons and it’s something we discuss quite a bit and I don’t think there are easy answers.

One thing that I would say is that any industry that is disruptive towards the environment and worsening the impact of climate change is definitely not good.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

No Surprises.
One of my bosses at a company I worked at years ago had this on his wall. The idea is that in business we need to think through all the pitfalls ahead of time so we can be prepared. I think about this a lot right now as livestreaming is a bit of high-wire act — it’s all live and in-the-moment with a lot of technical challenges.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

RushTix has been busy right now, but I’d like to do some mentoring when my time frees up. I’m especially interested in mentoring women who want to start a business but don’t have the network yet

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

I think the biggest challenge women face is the social norm of “playing nice”. There have been many cases in my career where I’ve gotten pushback for being bold and assertive, and 100% think that a man had done the very same thing he would have been rewarded. Although I do think things are starting to change. I love to see women like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who are pushing back and showing young women that is a good thing to be bold and assertive.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

The book that had the most profound effect on me is the “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It’s for anyone that wants to find their own creative voice.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

One of the things that completely changed my life was learning improv, especially the very basic premise of “Yes, and” which is basically taking (your own or) someone else’s idea and building on it. This is such a powerful way of thinking as it creates collaboration and empathy. I feel really strongly that our culture needs help finding ways to really listen and understand each other. Improv is an amazing way to build those skills. And it’s also so much fun. We could all use some more fun!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”
I think the magic formula for all things is just pure persistence. Don’t. Give. Up. Keep trying, especially when it’s hard — that’s the real key. Push through the resistance and see what’s on the other side. I’m not sure if I’m overly optimistic or just stubborn but this trait has gotten me through so many challenges.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



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