#Blue1647 Matters: My Story

Photo by Phorever August. Shout out to the Soul Speak open mic community

I think Keith Gordon started something amazing with his article about Blue1647 Matters. Reading his story over a month ago, I found a lot of similarities to my own experience at Blue and thought that I’d take my stab at sharing.

I found out about Blue1647 at a panel discussion Emile Cambry spoke at hosted by ImBlackInTech. Note: It was the best ZMOT Eventbrite decision I’ve made. If a person of color needs to network, ImBlackInTech is the place to be. At the time, I had just started my company and was looking to host my first Chicago Business Lab so I needed to network.

I was passionate about wanting to find a space that would be open and welcoming to community members. At this point, I had just moved back to Chicago from Kingston, Jamaica, was travelling for work, recovering from the brutal winter, and had no connections outside of the Soul Speak open mic community. I pitched to my idea to every space I could find on the south side. And it just wasn’t happening. Chicago is a must have connections type of city.

The first ever Chicago Business Lab hosted by Atkco, Inc. Photo by Phorever August.

I ended up connecting with Emile Cambry on LinkedIn and having a 15 minute discussion about what it takes to start out in the city. He gave me two pieces of advice that I hold on to today. 1) Always have content- photo, video, etc — so you can tell your story 2) Sometimes you are going to have to build connections outside of Chicago to gain legitimacy in Chicago.

Taking advice point #2 and pitching Atkco at Global Social Business Summit in Berlin, Germany after winning the Young Challenger award.

I became a member 2 weeks later and decided to host my first event at Blue1647. I was still working full time and could not be there everyday, but the price point was worth it to have access to the facilities. In addition, I am big on supporting people doing good work. If possible, with financial contributions. Businesses don’t grow on friendship.

Recent Ahh Fest performer, artist, John the Author stopped by business lab with daughter to test product protypes. Shout out to the Soul Speak open mic community. Photo by Imia Holston

Since becoming a member, I’ve participated in workshops, attended countless Blue events, and even joined my company’s corporate citizenship committee that supports the Civic Analytics program. I’ve met women that I’ve partnered with for Queens Brunch, I’ve made friends, I’ve even had opportunities to represent Blue at my company when we were nominated for the non-profit partnership of the year award. Also, Blue’s staff is the business. The most hardworking, supportive, down to earth people who really help to get things done.

Chicago Business Lab participants brainstorming on ideas. Photo by Phorever August

Most recently, I pitched a lab concept to Chicago Ideas that was just a dream of mine. I put together a business case and went to the organization with my idea. When everything came together and Chicago Ideas gave me the Yes, I had no space. I live on the southeast side of Chicago, so in my head we were going to bring Chicago Ideas to the east side. Or you know, South of Roosevelt. I could not find a space that would work and my lack of budget to rent space for a non-sponsored, non-revenue generating event did not help.

Photo by MEEEE! Shoutout to the smart phone.

I got to the point where I felt like I could not host the event. And one day, I just hit Emile Cambry up on twitter. And he said yes. With ease. Without asking any questions. At. All. The best part is Blue1647 is South of Roosevelt. And Blue has technical capabilities that will allow us to stream this event live, nationwide.

In closing, I want to talk about this idea of gender equality in the work that we are doing to progress communities. As a woman running a women’s community, I have to be humble enough to know that supportive men will play a role in getting things done. Blue1647 is very supportive of the gendered part of community work. Just ask 1919 members, Stem Girls Social Network, or Latina Girls Code. Some of the initial support and ideation for Queens Brunch came from male run brands, shout-out to Mr Jones Edition, AdThrill, Blue1647, ImBlackInTech, Tech While Black, and for that I’m grateful. I’ve been exposed to very real opportunities, implemented strategies and systems, and gotten answers to burning questions talking to the men who run these brands. I’ve been to countless all male panel discussions and though I felt a way about representation, I listened, learned, took notes, and followed up. That is why we are hosting these events. To learn and apply to our lives.

Though we have a panel of all women, this is my open invitation for men to engage with How to Close the Gap. The women joining us are the type to listen to and take notes from. You can find more information at www.queensbrunch.com.

Graphic design work done by http://themoonroseagency.com/

Queens Brunch for Women | January 28th at 1 pm | Chef Sara’s Cafe

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