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


One Response

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  1. EvolvingElle said, on 21 November 2012 at 10:52 am

    Kelley, that is AMAZING!!! I’m so happy for you! 🙂

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