ASU alumna, former professor shares challenges of entrepreneurship and the power of storytelling
Early in her academic career, Arizona State University alumna and former faculty member Laura Bush developed an appreciation for the power of memoirs and autobiographies. Over time, this passion for personal storytelling grew, leading her to start her own business with the mission of helping others share their stories with the world.
Bush started her higher education journey at Brigham Young University, earning a bachelor’s degree in English in 1986 and a master’s degree in English and American literature in 1989. Bush worked as an English department faculty member at BYU for five years until she decided to pursue her lifelong dream of moving to the Southwest from Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and applied to work at ASU. Starting in 2000, she worked at ASU for 12 years in a variety of roles including as an instructional professional, lecturer, and manager of curriculum design and innovation. While at ASU she also received a PhD in English in 2000.
Throughout her career, she has published a number of articles in scholarly and nonscholarly publications as well as her own book in 2004, “Faithful Transgressions in the American West: Six Twentieth-Century Mormon Women’s Autobiographical Acts.”
After becoming a published author and building a successful career in academia, Bush decided to challenge herself and forge a new path as an entrepreneur. In 2012, she founded Peacock Proud Press, a company that offers resources to writers and authors including coaching, editing, and more recently, publishing and e-courses.
“Having written my own book and going through that process over a 10-year period, being professionally and traditionally published at a university press, and working with professional editors, I was set up for knowing a great deal about the book writing and publishing industry,” Bush said. “My degree from ASU gave me all the skills and credibility and authority needed to attract clients who want to write quality books. I see myself distinguished in that way. There are very few people who have a PhD in English who are doing what I am in the book publishing industry.”
As is the case for many small business owners, her first few years in business were challenging, but were made more difficult with a diagnosis of breast cancer in 2013.
“I lived in fear probably for the first three to four years. Thankfully I have a really good network of friends and family, but also some pretty good grit,” she said. “I knew that I could rely on my mom and my twin sister. When I got into financial challenges, just knowing they were there was so helpful. I ended up having to take some small loans out. It was really very scary and I understand very well why startup businesses generally don't make it. But I knew I could depend on myself, because over the years I had developed a very strong work ethic.”
Since surviving cancer and successfully keeping her business afloat, she has continued to grow Peacock Proud Press, offering a wide range of services for clients around the world and publishing more than 20 books. To date, many of the books she has published through Peacock Proud Press are stories of female empowerment, highlighting women who have overcome adversity in their lives.
This fall, Bush will be recognized for her accomplishments by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as one of The College Leaders for 2020. She shared about her experiences at ASU, her advice for English majors and her goals for the future.
Question: What initially interested you about your major?
Answer: I took a short story class in my undergraduate program and I loved it. I had been a zoology major. I hated chemistry. I wanted to go into forestry. Then I became a public relations major and took a communications class and hated the marketing aspect of it, which now is ironic and funny to me. But you know, you do all sorts of things when you're 19. Once I took that short story class though, I loved it. From then on, I was an English major for life.
Q: What do you most enjoy about being an entrepreneur?
A: I think one of my highest values is freedom — freedom and independence for myself and other people. That's what I want for other people in the world, and that's what being an entrepreneur gives you. It's like the liberation from bureaucracy. I get to choose and create my future and there's nobody telling me I can't do that. It's only my own internal voice that might say I can't. So I love that and I love being my own boss. It's great to be able to determine my own schedule, even though it's a myth that business owners have complete freedom. You know, I have a very packed schedule, but it's of my own making.
Q: What advice would you give to students studying English in The College?
A: See how an English degree can help you in many different fields, and find ways to translate your education into a real-world career. There are so many different career opportunities with an English degree. Now that the world has shifted to an online environment, I wish I had done more things with computer literacy, marketing, business, maybe even adding those as minors.
So my advice would be to seek out internships in very practical places so that you can support yourself.
Q: What do you hope to accomplish in 10 years?
A: I want to publish more books that reflect a diversity of experience and amazing legacies. I want to continue to publish books that do good in the world, that inspire other people. One of my goals is to create more passive income in my business, and do more online courses where I'm generating income, not just by myself. That's what successful entrepreneurs are doing — they have built businesses where they're not having to do all the work — other people are doing the work or they've developed passive income. I want to continue having freedom and eventually retire while doing work I love.