Making a safe place for women in business: Humaira Ahmed on Locelle

Humaira Ahmed (Photo Credit: David Thompson)

Starting a company and starting a family both take adjustments to your life and your network. Humaira Ahmed experienced both with raising her family and also later creating her own company, Locelle.

Locelle, pronounced ‘Lok-elle’, is a networking application targeted towards women in business. Humaira was inspired to start the app after she had her second daughter. Her friendships were changing from different interests and she was feeling challenged with meeting like-minded women in business.

“We go to so many networking events, but how often do you actually leave a networking event with a meaningful connection?” said Humaira. “It’s hard to meet people, so I just wanted to do something about it.”

And she did. Humaira was able to find a way to help herself and other women to feel less isolated using her educational background in Software Engineering and Communication.

Creating the App

Locelle connects women based on their jobs and common interests using machine learning. For example, Match IQ would see a preference for coffee meet-ups based on past behaviours or experiences. Her team developed Match IQ to help connect women, which is a software that considers interests and location. The goal of the platform is to provide women a chance to meet role models and form connections in both a personal and professional way.

Humaira Ahmed speaking at the Hervana Locelle app launch (Photo Credit: @wonderful_ida)

The technology industry is still primarily male-dominated and Humaira wanted women to have a place to find support and solidarity. She’s kept Locelle as a female-only platform because she wants women to feel comfortable to share and be open with other women. If the platform was open to men and women, Humaira felt the dynamic would change to be more like a dating app and be less open.

The Challenges of a New Company

Humaira started the company in November 2017 while also raising her two daughters, ages one and three years old at the time. She’s found it challenging raising both her family and her business, but she still makes sure to dedicate time with her husband and daughters.

“I could work 70-hour work weeks and still have work to do,” said Humaira. “I’m not going to glamorize it, it’s really hard, but we focus more on quality time and it’s more engaged too.”

Another major challenge that Humaira has faced is money. As with many start-ups, the initial investment period is crucial for any business and Humaira wants to find investors who believe in the platform’s mission statement and continuing her vision.

“My biggest fear is that I put all this work in, all this time, all this money, and nobody would use it,” said Humaira.

But people are using it, including companies that encourage their employees to use the app, and even CEO’s. The app currently has over 570 users located in Seattle, Victoria and Vancouver, with the majority being women in Tech. Some have even deleted the app to later re-download it!

Humaira Ahmed at the Hervana Locelle app launch (Photo Credit: @wonderful_ida)

Adapting to the Feedback

The feedback she has received from users has validated her work because she sees the positive impact of the app for many women. Some people have even approached her in person to let her know they saw her Locelle video posted on LinkedIn.

Through the feedback, Humaira has been able to narrow down the company’s focus. The target audience is shifting towards women in STEM, and giving younger women a chance to connect with older mentors. Women are also starting to connect across different companies and openly communicate about issues they personally experience at work.

Humaira strongly believes in fostering solidarity and risk taking among women and wants Locelle to be the platform for women globally. She currently has plans to expand Locelle into Europe along with her new brand ambassador, Melanie Ewan.

Expanding Locelle globally would create more opportunities for women to connect and for young girls to access solid role models, which is a main goal of the app and Humaira herself.

“I truly believe we can’t be what we can’t see, so I feel a huge responsibility to tackle my fears and be that role model and CEO of a tech company that I always aspired to be — for myself, my kids and other women entrepreneurs. If I can do it, so can they.”