On March 24, 2011 I walked into Cantina Tortilla Grill in Birmingham, Alabama to have dinner with about a dozen women I’d never met before. We talked about writing, blogging, social media and more. We talked about our current writing projects and the projects we dreamed of pursuing. And with this meeting See Jane Write was born.

Six years later See Jane Write is an award-winning business that has taught me so much about writing, blogging, branding and — most of all — myself.

Here are six things I’ve learned from my six years of running See Jane Write.

Collaboration > Competition

We’ve all heard the saying that comparison is the thief of joy and most of us know this adage is true. But in the age of the Internet with people curating Pinterest perfect lives and Instagram illusions, how does one not fall into the trap of comparison? Through See Jane Write I’ve found the answer. Collaboration is greater than competition and collaboration starves the monster of comparison. Whenever I am tempted to envy another female writer or blogger, I seek ways to collaborate with her instead. I resist the urge to see her as competition and view her as my fellow  “writeous babe” and in the end we all win.

Your story is your secret sauce.

I believe that every woman has a story worth sharing and this is at the heart of all that I do. But for years I didn’t trust the power of my own story. So when people would learn about me through See Jane Write and ask me to come speak at an event, I’d fill my talks with case studies, facts, and figures. And those talks always fell flat. It was when I started incorporating my own stories into my presentations that my public speaking became inspiring and started to really make a difference.

Being authentic is always the best answer.

See Jane Write didn’t begin as a business. It started as a small social group for women who write. Once I got serious about making it a business I was finally able to take myself seriously as a businesswoman. This had its perks. My girl boss attitude kept impostor syndrome at bay (most days). But it had its drawbacks, too. I suddenly felt I couldn’t be myself, that I couldn’t write about my bad days, that I had to be Superwoman 24/7. But when I have been transparent and shared my struggles with the women of See Jane Write I have almost never regretted it. Just after my husband and I bought our house I wrote a newsletter explaining why homeownership means so much to me. Growing up my family hovered just above the poverty line and eviction notices were hardly unfamiliar. So a part of me never thought I’d ever own a house. But 2015 was the year I decided to go after the impossible in all areas of my life and in 2015 I became a homeowner. I was reluctant to share this with my email subscribers. “Don’t tell all those folks your business, Girl!” a voice inside my head said. “People will think you’re looking for pity,” said another. But I hit send and I’m so glad I did. I received dozens of replies from people thanking me for sharing my story, People found my story powerful, not piteous.

She who writes teaches.

One of the hardest things about managing See Jane Write is juggling it with my teaching career and I’m not just talking about the difficulty of finding time to do it all. For years I’ve treated Mrs. Bowser the teacher and Javacia the writer/entrepreneur like two different people. I treated writing and teaching like two different worlds and as a result often felt I was living two different lives — which is utterly exhausting! Within the last year, however, I have realized that my writing and teaching lives go hand in hand. My teaching extends far beyond the classroom and into See Jane Write workshops and into freelance articles and into blog posts. In my classroom I have posted the Ethiopian proverb “She who learns teaches.” And now I have a proverb of my own — “She who writes teaches.”

Cultivating community is my superpower.

As a teacher, I thrive on sharing valuable information about writing, blogging, and branding with the women of See Jane Write. But this is not what makes See Jane Write special. Let’s be honest, almost anything you want to know about writing, blogging, and branding you could find through an e-course, a webinar, or even a Google search. But what you won’t find is the community that See Jane Write offers, a community that will help guide you through the wealth of information out there and support you as you strive to learn and implement it all. See Jane Write isn’t simply a membership organization. See Jane Write is a tribe.

When you help others you help yourself.

I’ve been blogging in some capacity for nearly a decade, but I didn’t start getting serious attention for blogging until I started See Jane Write. By focusing on the success of other women who write and blog I indirectly made myself more successful. I started See Jane Write and started winning awards. I started See Jane Write and got offered a column in B-Metro magazine and a number of other freelance writing gigs. I started See Jane Write and found myself getting featured in the very publications I grew up reading. And this is why one of Zig Ziglar’s most famous quotes is among my life mantras: “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”