VCU graduate learns the art of startup through DIY project – VCU News | CarTailz

Virginia Commonwealth University graduate Summer Lambert bought a house in Chicago in 2020. She hired people to do basic maintenance on the house and found that most were men. Why aren’t more women being trained in basic home improvement and car maintenance skills, she thought?

The idea turned into a business. Lambert founded DIYgrrl, which hosts one-day workshops for anyone wanting to learn basic life skills ranging from changing tires to using power tools. The first class was held at a body shop in Chicago earlier this year. The organization welcomes everyone to its workshops, but the sessions focus on skills that women may never have been taught but need to know.

“The idea was that I primarily connect local experts with women,” said Lambert. “I would invite women who haven’t grown up to learn these traditionally male skills that their brothers may have learned growing up. So it’s like we’re able to step into that role of learning. We can figure out how to do it ourselves and then do it ourselves as we progress.”

Lambert launched an Instagram page and launched a website bathed in various shades of pink. Lambert landed some publicity in the local media. She also told some friends.

The first course took place in the spring and Lambert was amazed at the response. It was full of people Lambert had never met. They wanted to learn new skills. She organized several other courses and is planning a few each month for the rest of 2022.

All classes are practical. The women change a tire or go into the dashboard of a vehicle and change a lightbulb. While YouTube offers similar competency-based learning, it doesn’t offer the hands-on training of a class through DIYgrrl.

Summer Lambert balances her new entrepreneurial endeavors with a 9-to-5 marketing career. (Contributed photo)

“We got very dirty doing it,” Lambert said.

Most courses are free, but experts may charge fees. Lambert said the experts see the courses as a way to meet potential new customers. They can teach basic skills, and those taking the course will hire them for more complicated jobs.

Lambert said her goal right now isn’t to make money. She is learning and trying to understand the potential of the platform.

“I don’t make any money off this,” Lambert said. “I mean, unless someone wants to buy a DIYgrrl shirt. That’s not my goal, at least in the first year.”

The road to entrepreneurship was long. Lambert grew up in Richmond and graduated from the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at VCU with a degree in creative advertising. She worked in advertising agencies in Boston, Portland and San Francisco, where she met her husband. Lambert eventually got a marketing job at a software company. The couple’s jobs were both remote, so they decided to move to Chicago.

“He was from Chicago and I’m from Virginia,” Lambert said. “We wanted to be closer to family. We moved to Chicago in 2020 not knowing what to expect.”

They bought a house together in Chicago and decided to have a life. At the moment DIYgrrl is a side job.

“My 9-to-5 is in marketing,” Lambert said. “It pays the bills.”

Extension of the platform

She intends to expand DIYgrrl to Richmond, Austin and other cities over the next year. Friends have expressed interest in helping her start similar groups in other cities. Lambert is also examining different revenue models and trying to understand if there’s a bigger opportunity.

“My vision for 2022 was to get it off the ground and put out workshops and just make it a thing,” Lambert said. “And I think we succeeded. In 2023, my goal is to expand to other cities, finding ways to become cash positive so I’m not 100% funding this from my day job but still make it a community.”

The plan is calculated and well thought out. She’s been in the startup world, which often focuses on growth at any cost. Lambert is having fun and learning. That’s all she wants at this point.

“I definitely believe in the slow and steady,” Lambert said. “I want to use this time to figure things out and make mistakes. I have to do my own thing and learn and grow from it. You know, DIYgrrl is about learning how to make things yourself. And for me, DIYgrrl is a DIY adventure. I’m figuring out what it takes to start my own business.”