I’m back with some more amazing, geeky girlbosses! Last week we talked with the fabulous, Geekie Award-winning fashion blogger, Melificent, and this week we’re talking with the founders of Geek Girl Brunch, Jamila, Rachel, and Yissel. GGB has completely exploded recently, with chapters opening up around the world for geeky women to come together, enjoy their shared love of all things fandom and geek, and enjoy some tasty breakfast food. After all, we all know how magical breakfast foods can be.
More than a regular brunch date, Geek Girl Brunch has proven to be a tight-knit, supportive community that is not only working overtime to support its members, but it also working to help those in the communities surrounding GGB chapters. These women haven’t just started a brunch club, they’ve created a global community dedicated to loving and supporting one another and giving back to their communities. I’m incredibly honored to get to feature them in this series. So let’s get to the interview!
Kendall: How did you three meet?
Rachel: Shout out to The Way Station! We all met at this awesome bar.
Kendall: What gave you all the idea to launch Geek Girl Brunch?
Jamila: Almost 3 years ago I had brunch with fellow geek blogger Kristin and dubbed it Geek Girl Brunch. It was a blast! We figured the more the merrier, so we invited our other geek girl friends to the next brunch. After a few brunches we tossed around the idea that we wanted to start making Geek Girl Brunch a “bigger thing” and open it up to more geek girls. We didn’t want to keep all of this fun to just our group! We officially launched in NYC in May 2014, but soon enough geek girls all over wanted to be part of the Geek Girl Brunch. Less than a year later we were officially international!
Yissel: At that inaugural group brunch I knew I wanted to see it grow. Jamila was on the same page. Fast forward to our Doctor Who brunch, when Rachel joined us. We ended up being the only three there. By this time I’d already created a shared tumblr for the group, and Jamila had bought a domain. With Rachel onboard and just as eager, that brunch became our first planning meeting. Over the past year, GGB has really exploded. It’s all over the US and even all over the world.
Kendall: Did you all expect it to catch on like it has?
Rachel: No way!
Jamila: Not at all, I’m still blown away by how much it’s grown. But it goes to show that there was a need for an IRL space for geek girls!
Yissel: I think we’re still a little shocked at our growth. It’s a testament to how large a need we’ve been filling.
Kendall: What was the biggest hurdle you all faced with launching GGB? How did you overcome it?
Rachel: I think we’re still working through our biggest hurdles. GGB got bigger than we ever thought it would, faster than we ever thought it would. We’re basically playing catch-up all the time. We also want to make sure that the decisions we make about GGB are the best decisions we can make, and that we are making all the GGB Brunchettes our priority. Sometimes we all disagree about certain directives or what we think is the most important current project. Communicating openly has really benefitted our decision-making processes..
Jamila: Ditto to everything Rachel said. This is all on a volunteer basis, so our work at HQ, our officers and other Brunchettes who help out all do it because they believe in GGB. Most of us are working or in school and have side projects on top of the Geek Girl Brunch work. Not to mention spending time with family, partners, children and friends! So finding the time to manage it all has been a learning experience for sure. We’re working on sharing the workload more. We have a wonderful community of women who are down to help which is beyond helpful.
Kendall: In founding GGB, what is a mistake or misstep that you made that you wish you could tell your past self (or others trying to create something similar) to avoid?
Rachel: One shared email! Yissel and Jamila can confirm that I have a history of struggle with the GGB emails. I can’t really check it throughout the day. I can get overwhelmed when I go into it in the evenings. I never thought we would deal with the volume of emails we get every day. And at least 75% of those emails are from people who don’t know that we’re just 3 geeks with day jobs. They think we employ whole departments of people!
Jamila: I would have probably recruited more help for GGB HQ sooner. Although we have over 2,000 members and over 60 chapters worldwide, we’re only now getting around to having more HQ positions. My advice would be to make sure as you grow, your workload stays manageable. If you more need help, ask! You’d be surprised at how many people would love to help.
Yissel: Just one?! PACE YOURSELF. Go one step at a time. Research, research, research. Go through all the legal stuff first. We are making-and have yet to make important decisions now, that we should’ve made at the start. GGB has in many ways, become bigger than us. Now we’re having to double back to find solutions to old problems. The thing about starting something like this, is that no one ever tells you how exactly to prepare for it. That’s why we’re still figuring things out. What we were offering, there was overwhelming demand for, so it often feels like we rushed into expansion, before we’d perfected it. I will say, it’s nice to have a growing community of people helping us to do just that.
Kendall: What is one of the most challenging parts of starting a website, business, or a blog?
Jamila: I feel like a broken record but make sure you have the time to dedicate to whatever you’re starting.
Yissel: Finding that niche. What is that you can offer that no one else does? How will you do that? When I started Fashion + Geekery for example, there was no one blogging about high end designers taking inspiration from geek culture, and the resulting collections. Like GGB, it was a simple concept that no one had yet approached.
Kendall: Where would you like to see GGB going over the next five to ten years?
Jamila: I hope to have chapters on all of the continents! Although Antarctica may be a bit difficult.
Yissel: GGB Tokyo. GGB Milan…. Yearly national meetups. #BrunchCon anyone? Brand partnerships would be amazing. Collaborating on capsule collections with fashion and beauty brands… that’s my hope.
Kendall: You guys have also co-founded several other projects. Jamila, you’ve started Straight Outta Gotham and Girl Gone Geek Blog. Yissel, you’ve founded Fashion + Geekery and Rachel you’ve co-founded FireandLunch. Can you all talk about some of the other projects you’ve founded, and how you manage to keep yourself sane when you’ve got so many different projects going at once?
Rachel: FireandLunch is a group that came together via a mutual love of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series. We often found ourselves discussing the books over meals hence the name. We organize fan meetups (called Moots in the ASoIaF fandom) and we document all our adventures as fans of ASoIaF. We’ve met so many awesome fellow fans through FireandLunch. It has been very fun and has given us all a chance to really explore our shared fandom.. We also produce a podcast called The FireandLunch PieCast. There are 6 of us so scheduling is our biggest obstacle. We go to events, travel, blog, record and edit a podcast. We can get extremely busy, especially during the viewing seasons of HBO’s Game of Thrones series. We work mostly in email and shared google docs and we try to cycle responsibilities amongst ourselves.
Jamila: Girl Gone Geek Blog was launched in 2010 and it’s where I blog about my geeky obsessions and musings. It’s pretty much what birthed a lot of my other geeky endeavors. Straight Outta Gotham is a Tumblr blog where I curate geeky rap lyrics shared as gifs and memes. It’s a lot of fun, I have bigger plans for it as well. The good thing about Girl Gone Geek and Straight Outta Gotham is that they are my creations and I only answer to myself. So there isn’t pressure to make sure I blog or post frequently if life is hectic.
Yissel: Fashion + Geekery stemmed from a desire to remove the intimidation factor of high end fashion, by demonstrating that designers were geeks too. I suppose I wanted to do the same for the closet geeks among the fashion set, by showing them it’s okay to like this geeky thing. There are many geek fashion sites out there, but they’re run by geek girls (some fabulous ones at that) that only covered budget to moderate level clothing, without much insight beyond price and availability. What I cover is mostly young designer and designer markets, from the perspective of someone with a background in fashion. So I will go into detail about inspiration, brand history, fabrication and design development. I wish there was another me to focus on that blog. I’ve devoted so much more time to GGB lately, that I neglect F+G for long periods. Fortunately Jamila had written a post a while back about getting over bloggers guilt that helped me. I’ve learned to forgive myself for not posting often. Rachel has even contributed a post to my blog, offering her insights as an art history major. I hope to enlist other knowledgeable contributors in the future.
Kendall: What inspired you to create so many different spaces for yourselves on the internet?
Jamila: My blog Girl Gone Geek (although it probably represents me the most) wasn’t the best platform to host some of my other interests. So I made new ones!
Yissel: I wanted to put my BFA in Fashion Design to good use. I saw a need and I wanted to fiil it!
Kendall: Have you dealt with any negativity from starting either GGB or any of your other projects? How have you dealt with it?
Rachel: Negativity comes in many forms. There’s the obvious – people saying things directly to you at an event or on social media or in an email. I try to learn from every experience and do something about whatever it was that made someone have a negative experience. At GGB we have a code of conduct that makes dealing with a lot of things pretty clear cut, but I also allow myself to dismiss feedback if it is obvious trolling or unhelpful. I can’t please everyone and sometimes people are just hateful. I really focus on positive comments. Doing more of what makes the people I’m reaching happy. I think the more insidious kind of negativity is being taken advantage of by other people. When you are starting something new many creators feel pressure to say “Yes” to anything. Any kind of partnership or acknowledgement. But many people out there are just farming you for content or trying to use you as free labor. If it doesn’t match up with your goals for the project, if there isn’t a mutual benefit – say “No”.
Jamila: Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Kendall: What advice would you give to other women looking to follow in your footsteps?
Rachel: Starting up a project with your friends can be really hard but really rewarding. So absolutely go for it. Communicate, always! Tell each other when you disagree (I feel like a lot of young women have a hard time telling their friends that they disagree.). But tell each other when they are awesome too! It’s a give and take and it’s cliche but communication is key!
Jamila: Communication, delegation and organization are essential.
Yissel: Don’t underestimate the power of planning. I can’t stress enough that research is an integral part of any venture. It’s also possible to go it alone, but you’ll be grateful for a team. If you get overwhelmed and you need to step away, you’ll have people ready to step in, and the work continues. Lastly, it so important to network as much as you can, and maintain healthy relationships, because along the way, you WILL be calling in favors! People like Leslie Stewart*, our pixel princess, and a co-founder in her own right who helped us at the beginning by creating our logo and our website are a prime example of this. Make ALL the friends.
Kendall: Where can we find you all online?
Kendall: Anything parting thoughts?
Yissel: A couple times a year, Geek Girl Brunch will host events that the Geek GUYS can attend too! We also launched an initiative a while back called #GGBDoBetter in an effort to promote outreach, to highlight girls that give back to their communities. We also have a page on our site called “Help Beyond Brunch,” to raise awareness of more serious issues that you may feel uncomfortable talking about in a brunch setting. The page offers a list of resources, should you need to reach out for professional help beyond our capabilities.
*Leslie aka Stewie will also be featured in this series. So stay tuned!!!
Thanks so much to Jamila, Rachel, and Yissel for taking time to talk with me. If you haven’t already, check out the Geek Girl Brunch site to see if there is a brunch chapter near you–if there isn’t consider starting one in your area! All the info you’ll need is on the GGB site. Don’t forget to check out the other posts in the series as I continue to talk to amazing women creating a space for themselves, starting businesses, and pursuing creative careers. Be sure to use the hashtag #RealJob to follow along on Twitter!