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

Summer Lambert, a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, bought a house in Chicago in 2020. She hired people to do basic house maintenance and found that most of them 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 started DIYgrrl, which runs one-day workshops for anyone looking to learn essential life skills from how to change a tire to handling power tools. The first course was held earlier this year at a body shop in Chicago. The organization welcomes everyone to its workshops, but the sessions focus on skills that women may never have learned but need to know.

“The idea was that I mainly connect local experts with women,” Lambert said. “I would invite women who weren’t raised to learn these traditionally male skills that their brothers may have learned growing up. And it’s kind of like we can let ourselves into that role of learning that. We can figure out how to do it ourselves and then do it ourselves in the future.

Lambert has launched an Instagram page and launched a website, which is covered in different shades of pink. Lambert advertised in local media. She also told a few friends about it.

The first class was held in the spring and Lambert was amazed at the response. It was filled with people Lambert had never met. They wanted to learn new skills. She has organized several other classes and is planning a few each month for the rest of 2022.

All classes are practical. Women change a tire or step into the dashboard of a vehicle and change a light bulb. While YouTube offers similar skill-based learning, it doesn’t give the hands-on training of a class through DIYgrrl.

a woman wearing a paper boy hat and yellow jacket smiling
Summer Lambert balances her new entrepreneurial pursuits with a career in 9 to 5 marketing. (photo added)

“We got really dirty doing that,” Lambert said.

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

Lambert said his goal at this point was not to make money. She learns and tries to understand the potential of the platform.

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

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

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

They bought a house together in Chicago and decided to make a living. For now, DIYgrrl is a side gig.

“My 9 to 5 is in marketing,” Lambert said. “That’s what pays the bills.”

Expand the platform

She is looking to expand DIYgrrl to Richmond, Austin and other cities next year. Friends have expressed interest in helping him start similar groups in other cities. Lambert is also exploring various revenue models, trying to figure out if there is a bigger opportunity.

“My vision for 2022 was to put it together and release workshops and make it a thing,” Lambert said. “And I think it was a success. In 2023 my goal is to expand it to other cities, find ways to become cash positive so that I don’t fund this 100% from my day job, but still make one community.

The plan must be calculated and deliberate. She’s been around the startup world, which often focuses on growth at all costs. Lambert has fun and learns. That’s all she wants at this point.

“I definitely believe in slow and steady,” Lambert said. “I want to use this time to figure things out, to make mistakes. I need to do and learn and grow doing my own thing like this. You know, DIYgrrl is all about learning how to do things on your own. And for me, DIYgrrl is a DIY adventure. This is me figuring out what it takes to start my own business.