An American Girl in Washington

#blackhack at the Hype

Posted in #treplife, All about moi by AGinDC on 18 November 2012

As most people know at this point, I am working on a new startup called Character’s Closet. It’s basically “How to dress like Olivia Pope for less” dot com. We list the outfits that tv characters are wearing on popular shows and where you can find those exact items as well as similar items at different price points. For any girl who has spent countless hours since SATC came out trying desperately to Google that dress that Serena wore at that one party, you totally get this. Kiah (my co-founder) and I have been working our tails off on CC but, try as I might, I am no tech genius and we are desperate for a Chief Technology Officer (CTO).

As I did my research I realized that a lot of other women are too. So, I thought, why not have a way for startups, especially black founded startups, to find a CTO or at least technical help, and maybe get the app they need built in the process? And thus, #blackgirlshack was born. I quickly recruited my new friend Amanda Spann to act as PR Coordinator and we spent the next four weeks frantically planning our first hackathon, which we decided to host in Atlanta.

Luckily, Amanda is a PR genius and we had the help of the Atlanta chapter of Black Girls Code, the non-profit we decided to give the proceeds to. MailChimp chipped in right away and were absolutely amazing and pretty soon we had sponsors, press, and social media was on fire. It’s shocking to me, but apparently we tapped into the zeitgeist of a movement because #blackgirlshack took off and we have found ourselves at the helm of something pretty amazing. The response to #blackhack was out of this world and became one of those accidental discoveries that has led to some of the world’s most life-changing experiences.

The hackathon itself finally came on Friday and it was pretty incredible. The coders and designers who showed up were amazing, creative, talented and incredibly hard-working. We wanted this to be an opportunity for black-founded sponsorships to get apps built that they wouldn’t normally be able to afford (since Amanda and I both needed something built as well, we knew other people probably had the same problem!) and the founders who showed up had amazing businesses.We also had a team working on a pretty incredible new platform for Black Girls Code which I think is really going to transform their volunteer operations.

24 hours is a long time but it was a blast and went incredibly well. By the end, 6 startups and a nonprofit had websites, apps or platforms built, over 40 black coders, designers, startup founders, etc. had met, networked, designed, eaten and couch-surfed together, two major corporations showed up out of the blue asking if they could sponsor our next hackathon (!), and a movement was born. By the end of the day, I had become the CEO of yet another organization, but this is right up my alley. #blackgirlshack is about women, girls, tech and entrepreneurship. So, basically, me.

In fact, this event brought absolutely everything I do together. We were working for an organization for girls. My new shero built an incredible new database for Character’s Closet. And a DCYEr, Ama Marfo, flew down from DC for the event, got a website built for her AMAZING idea, and she won both first place AND best startup idea. I adore Ama, she was struggling to afford to get her company startup, and now not only does she have a website but a super successful techpreneur who judged the event is interested in funding her! As icing on the cake, Character’s Closet won second place, which was amazing and also meant that we went to Atlanta and all of the prizes went to DC tech companies. =) Why? Because DC tech rocks.

Now I’m flying home from Atlanta (I love $5 Southwest wifi) and my life is a little different than it was before I got there, and looks like it might get more interesting very soon. Funny how you can plan your ass off and it’s the spur-of-the-moment idea that changes everything. I’m buzzing. Winter hibernation is setting in (I only have two more MiT activities and one party to plan for Character’s Closet, a very low tally of events for an average month) and I have time to plan, plan, plan. Love it. AGinDC



Posted in All about moi by AGinDC on 15 November 2012

Five weeks ago I had an idea. I thought, Hey! There are a lot of black startup founders looking for CTOs. And a lot of us can’t afford to have our apps built. I know, let’s have a hackathon for the black tech community and everyone can meet everyone, network, get stuff built, and the proceeds can go to an awesome charity. Two days later, I had created #blackgirlshack. I recruited some awesome friends. We found a venue. MailChimp stepped up immediately to become our title sponsor. We made Venture Beat. Ish got crazy. And now, here I am, in a hotel room in Atlanta, getting yelled at by Chris Matthews and preparing for my first-ever hackathon, which starts tomorrow night.

Life is awesome.

In true AG style, this one-off event has given birth to an organization and we’re planning hackathons every few months all around the country and even internationally.

The funny thing about putting on events with other people is that you often end up hating the people you thought you loved and loving the people you never thought twice about. This is certainly the case here. I threw this event in Atlanta because they have a tech community that’s really trying to get started, the African American tech community is pretty great and because there are so many great colleges and universities down here. And let’s face it, we get awesome stuff in DC all of the time. It was time to spread the love a little bit. What I have found is amazing people who are so excited about this event that they’re just throwing themselves into it. MailChimp has been so chill that they actually asked us to take some of the benefits granted as title sponsors off and said “Just let this be about the event, it’s not about us”. When’s the last time that happened? This is why I send a MailChimp newsletter every single week. The Atlanta Black Girls Code (our nonprofit beneficiaries) team has been absolutely incredible and have enabled us to put on an event in ATL without even once having to come down to the city. Oh yeah, and shout out to Twitter! Thanks Tweet, seriously.

I also have to thank Steve Jobs yet again. Without my iPhone, shit would not get done. But with it, I coordinated rides for MiT Community Service day, checked on DCYE board applications, made a few connections that may lead to consulting jobs, found a yummy restaurant near my hotel, didn’t get lost once and even talked to my mom all while shopping at Costco, picking up boxes, and touring new facilities. Without my iPhone, I would be a sad sack working in a cubicle. With it, I’m an entrepreneurial force.

Pour a little out for my homie.

And now I’m going to chill and watch MSNBC (not having cable makes staying in hotels soooo much better now) before my 32 hour  awakeathon begins.

Good night!



Posted in All about moi by AGinDC on 13 November 2012

Okay, so it’s been forever since I’ve written. I can’t help it! Life has been cray and by the time I’m done working at 3am, I just do not have the energy to blog. But winter is nigh and it’s time to recommit, so here I am, trying again. Of course, considering all of the ways that there are to keep up with me, I doubt I’ve been missed. I love Twitter.

So what have I been up to? Well, I don’t know if I’ve written since I started my new startup, Character’s Closet, this summer but yeah. Did that. Working on it now. Went to LA the week after my birthday (I’m one year to 30!) and had some awesome meetings. The “Silicon Beach” scene in LA and Santa Monica is pretty incredible and I’m super excited about spending a lot more time in SoCal. Well… a little more time in SoCal. Like, most of winter.

This is Brenna Whitaker at the W Hollywood. My new favorite Sunday night thing.

I also spent my one year to 30 with the fam in Seattle, which was great. I don’t get to see them nearly enough, which is sad when you have the cutest and most brilliant three-year-old niece ever known to man. My mother cooked so much food that I literally did not stop eating the entire two and half days I was home. I haven’t eaten since. I wish.

What else? Michelle in Training is going so well! The girls could not be more amazing, the program is working out exactly like I hoped it would and is so exciting. I highly recommend checking out our website to enjoy the moments when teenage girls are actually enjoyable. Although yes, they do frequently give me a headache. =) I have lunch with them every week at Dunbar and it’s hilarious because they are such teenagers but really marvelous girls. It’s interesting dealing with girls who are both teens and who come from such highly stressful home environments, one day I hope to have a social worker on hand but for now, I can already tell that just being consistent and caring about them is making a difference. When we first started I showed up at school every week, told them what we were doing, and told them we’d pick them up Saturday morning and they’d sort of just stare at me blankly and were never ready on time. Now, they know I’m coming to school, they harass Ms. Evers, our teacher liaison if I’m not there yet, they tell everyone in the school about what they’re doing, and they’re (almost) ready to go when we show up. In class on Saturday they asked if we can have “MiT College”. We told them we should probably try to get through 10th grade first, but it was really exciting to know that they’re thinking that far ahead and want us with them.

Right now my life has been taken over by a new project, #blackgirlshack. After attending a conference for black women with startups last month I realized that a lot of us are looking for CTOs and/or need betas of our apps built that we can’t afford to get done on a bootstrapper’s budget. So I thought, “let’s have a black hackathon!” and #blackgirlshack was born. Our first one is this friday in Atlanta and the response has been overwhelming. We’re doing it as a fundraiser for Black Girls Code and the support of the sponsors, the press and the public for the event and the organization and idea itself has been amazing. We’re already planning our next event (March in Newark!) and this has clearly taken on a life of it’s own.


Beyond that, I’m working on bringing back the consulting arm of LilyPad. I spend so much time helping people and businesses on a daily basis, something that I love and am actually really good at, that I thought “I should be doing this for a living”. So, LilyPad Consulting is back, and hopefully I’ll start bringing in clients soon! Stay tuned at I’m re-fabbing the LilyPad website so that’s the best place to get info for now.

Beyond that, MASSIVE RELIEF at the 2012 election results. Mo’bama indeed. I am really enjoying living on H St. The access to busses to New York, trains to the airport, walking almost everywhere and Dangerously Delicious Pies cannot be beat. I may not live here forever (I’m coming back to you, Adams Morgan!), but at this time in my life, H St is the bizness.

Also, do not see Cloud Atlas. Worst mistake I have made in my life since AI. Trust me on this.

Back to work. I’ll do my best to keep up more.


That Moment When You Feel Like an Accidental Hooker

Posted in All about moi, Just another day in DC by AGinDC on 11 November 2012

For anyone who has ever seen Secret Diary of a Call Girl, you know the story of how Belle became an escort. She had a one night stand and the next morning the man was gone but there was money on the nightstand. Just like that, a prostitute was born.

The same thing happened to Carrie Bradshaw, but she chose the high road, marrying just one man for money instead.

I had my own version of this happen a few weeks ago. No, I didn’t get paid for a one night stand and go running to the new DC Madame. What I got paid for was completely legal.

A few months ago the director of a wonderful non-profit here in DC emailed me out of the blue and asked me to MC an awards banquet that they were holding this fall. Totally shocked and honored, of course I said yes. The day arrived, I mc’d the banquet, had an awesome meal and a great time, and as I left for home she gave me a thank you card. Oblivious, I threw it in my bag and headed back to H St. It wasn’t until I got home and opened the card that I realized there was money inside! What? There I was thinking I had volunteered and I got my first paid speaking gig! Thrilled and surprised, I realized that I had just had my very own Belle du Jour moment. And I didn’t even have to take my clothes off.

I love DC.


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