At LORI.biz, we’re all about getting more women to consider entrepreneurship as a career parth. A couple years ago I had a chat with Kylie Toh, Founder of Chic Geek (a Calagary based initiative) and realized that her organization and ours have a lot in common. I thought I’d share with you what they are doing and what they are about as well as some insight from Kylie.
What is Chic Geek?
It is a welcoming, supportive, beginner-friendly community for women in technology and entrepreneurship. Chic Geek exists because we want to see more women as makers, builders and creators, leveraging technology to change the world. When we started in 2013, there weren’t enough supports for women who were interested in exploring technology and entrepreneurship, so we launched 3 programs to help build digital literacy and connect our members: a Mentorship Program, MeetnTech and Geeky Summit!
How did it come to be?
Chic Geek started as a personal experiment. I was looking for in-person resources to help me learn to code and at the same time, felt profoundly lonely in the startup scene as I was often the only young woman at events. I met my co-founder and decided to throw an event to celebrate women in technology and see what kind of reception we got. Our first event was oversold and we continued to host events until a community, a vision and a team very organically emerged.
What do you wish to achieve?
At Chic Geek, we envision a world where more women are makers, builders and creators, leveraging technology to positively impact their communities, their cities and the world around them!
We want to see more women who are confident learning new technologies; implementing tech in their professional roles, pursuing technical careers, or creating tech-enabled businesses. Part of our mandate is to profile more women as leaders, role-models and mentors in technology to inspire other women and show them what’s possible.
What were the struggles/challenges in building this non-profit?
Chic Geek is a completely volunteer-driven organization and I’m humbled every day by the dedication, passion and enthusiasm of the team. Building an organization on volunteer power alone is a difficult task – finding the right people, building talent, engaging and recognizing them in the way they deserve has been one of the hardest challenges at Chic Geek and it will continue to be as we grow.
You’ve worked in Montreal in the past, can you compare the two startup ecosystems (Calgary/Montreal)?
The Montreal startup ecosystem is more mature than Calgary’s – there are more flagship startup companies and inspiring grassroots initiatives to support the community. I haven’t been to Montreal in a while, but I know the Calgary startup ecosystem is largely focused on creating spaces (physical hubs where startuppers can work together and connect) and talent (building the local talent pool).
One thing that the two startup ecosystems have in common – and I believe this can be said for all startup communities – is a willingness to give back. There are so many individuals who are willing to go for coffee, make an introduction, help you out, that you feel like you have a ton of support. It’s amazing to be part of a community where everyone is committed to giving back.
What have you observed when it comes to women in business?
Women make amazing entrepreneurs. Some of the most inspiring women I’ve met manage to be parents, partners and entrepreneurs. As an entrepreneur myself, one of the things I struggle with is dreaming big. I can be hesitant to think boldly and set audacious goals out of fear that I won’t achieve them. Sometimes I need to be a little more optimistically delusional. That’s something I think a lot of women in business, whether you’re an entrepreneur or working for a company, could use. Be a little delusional – it helps you dream bigger.
What is your advice for women who are thinking about taking the leap?
Your business doesn’t need to be perfect before you launch. Being an entrepreneur and running a business is a constant experiment and you’re going to learn as you go, every step of the way. Don’t spend years building your business in your head. Put yourself out there, take the leap, and do it!
The best thing you can do is adopt an “experiment-first” mindset. It’s a willingness to try new things, be curious about all opportunities, and unafraid to take risks because if you fail, you know it’s going to be a positive learning experience anyway.
Where do you see The Chic Geek in 5 years?
I envision Chic Geek chapters across Canada, with online content, resources and learning opportunities available for people around the world. We’re running Geeky Summit, our full-day conference celebrating women in technology and entrepreneurship, in cities across the country and have a paid team and volunteer team that make it all a reality.
What are accessible resources we can use to learn how to code or to learn more technology based skills?
Ladies Learning Code is a great starting point to learn to code. Their in-person workshops are safe, welcoming and fun. Find an event near you at ladieslearningcode.ca
As a non-technical, I started learning to code with HTML & CSS (the language used to build and style websites). I found this was a great starting point because it was visual and easy to apply. If you’re an online learner, Codecademy has a great HTML & CSS intro course (https://www.codecademy.com/learn/learn-html-css) and Khan Academy also has an HTML & CSS for webpages (https://www.khanacademy.org/computing/computer-programming/html-css).
What a great organization. If ever you’re in Calgary and want to dive into the tech and entrepreneurship sector, you should definitely hit up one of their event or workshops!
Be sure to follow them here: