Welcome to the second post in our #FemaleFounders series. We’re super excited to have Chelsea Slater founder of the iconic Liverpool Girl Geeks and Innovate Her in our hot seat. We spoke to Chelsea about her go-to digital marketing tools, how she came to found two Liverpool institutions and why she became a #FemaleFounder.
1. Why did you start your business? What spurred you on?
Starting my first business really was a fluke! Honestly, I didn’t think that Liverpool Girl Geeks (LGG) was going to be a business back in 2013 and was started because I was one of the only women I knew working in tech and I wanted there to be more of us. I loved my job, started a twitter account to inspire others and it went from there. Liverpool has a great community, and it was that community that enticed me to start the business officially in 2015, alongside Jo Morfee and Rebecca Jones my good friends. They asked (now that they were inspired) how they would get a career in tech, so LGG transformed into something that provided courses, meet-ups and a membership for businesses that is growing today.
I was one of the only women I knew working in tech and I wanted there to be more of us.
2. What are the unique challenges you have faced as a female founder?
To be honest, being a female founder hasn’t been too much of a challenge. It’s more my baby face that’s a barrier! I’ve faced a lot of ageism (is that a word?), I get a LOT of unasked for advice about future careers or businesses I “might have” due to the fact people think I’m just starting out. I do have Imposter’s Syndrome quite often, which I think happens more to women than men, especially when people ask me to speak in front of an audience about my business or about diversity in tech. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m an expert in these subjects now.
3. What were the steepest learning curves during your first year in business?
Social businesses have a tendency to not be taken seriously, so that was the main challenge. When I left my job to pursue this full time, I had to carefully structure our messaging and our products, so that they were commercial enough to sustain my monthly outgoings. This meant making sure people knew that we weren’t volunteer-led and that we meant business! My main role now is to consistently work this out, we’re growing as a company and have more and more responsibility not only to deliver our services but to pay our staff, I think this will always be a learning curve but hopefully one that’s not as steep as it was that first year, we’ve learnt a lot.
4. What is your favourite thing about founding your own company?
I’m an extremely visual and ambitious person, so put them together and you have your dream job as a director of a business you own, especially within a business that has a social purpose. At Liverpool Girl Geeks (and now InnovateHer) we’re making a real impact, so knowing that I started it makes me incredibly proud and seeing the work that we do, makes me even prouder! I love coming to the office and seeing what we’ve turned into.
We’re making a real impact, so knowing that I started it makes me incredibly proud
5. What is the best business advice you have been given by someone else?
This is hard because I’ve had so much good advice and many mentors along the way that I am so thankful for! I think the best-combined advice is about public speaking and that I had to just go for it. I used to be a terrible public speaker. I’m a real introvert, and before any talk I did, (which you have to as a founder) I had sweaty palms and butterflies x100. It made me want to hide away and sack it all off, but persistence is what truly got me over it. I sign myself up for public speaking appearances now and I’m slowly but surely growing to love it!
6. What business tools can’t you live without?
Trello, Google Drive and Facebook Messenger. Anything that helps me organise my busy life are now my go-to tools. Trello sorts my entire life out and keeps me on track with projects, finance and any other thing on my to-do list, the Google Drive is the best online filing cabinet you could ever purchase and facebook messenger is where the team chat is, keeping me updated whilst I’m on the go.
7. When you’ve got a tough business decision to make what would be your first steps to solving the problem?
Go to my business partner Jo, if I can’t solve it, she’ll be able to. Our skills sets are very different but compliment each other entirely, which makes the best team. We make sure we have time for weekly team meetings so any decision within the business can be reflected upon. In the rare case Jo and I can’t solve it, we have a great board of directors who advise us on our business whenever we would need it.
8. Who are your heroines and why? Give us two.
Frida Kahlo – She’s such a badass. An incredible artist and feminist. I’m saving up for a tattoo of her on my shoulder!
Maya Angelou – Do I need a reason why? Read her collection of autobiographies and you won’t need a reason 😉
9. What piece of advice would you give yourself if you were starting your business now?
Take it slow. In this fast-paced world of social media and technology, it’s hard not to jump in and swim, which I did with LGG. Our second business InnovateHer was built much more slowly, over about a year from concept to launch. We hosted focus groups, we invested in a brand and got a trademark, which is definitely how I would advise anyone to start a business now.
Take it slow. In this fast-paced world of social media and technology, it’s hard not to jump in.
10. What’s your go-to marketing tactic for your small business? Why?
Pick one social platform and do it well before diving into them all! Get to know your audience via that platform and see what they engage with and make sure you’re always analysing which posts are performing best otherwise you’re wasting your time.
Chelsea Slater, LGG and Innovate Her founder. Follow LGG on @lpoolgirlgeeks
Follow our #FemaleFounders series
We’ve got a whole host of exciting Female Founders lined up for the hot seat! If you want to keep in the loop for #FemaleFounders on Instagram and Twitter. Did you miss our last post? Don’t worry, you can read our interview with girls Who Grind Coffee here.