In 2015, Andrea Lewis, strategic adviser for Geeky Girl Reality, noticed how crucial it was to support women in STEM, and how many scholarships, awards, hackathons, corporate programs and specific efforts there were available to them – often without their knowledge.
As a "geeky girl" herself, Lewis wanted to use her experiences, insights and knowledge to address this call to action. She brainstormed with her junior research team, exploring ways to improve already existing women-in-STEM programs, thus creating Geeky Girl Reality, a company dedicated to helping young women start their careers in this industry.
"Upon our first look at the data, we immediately saw the need to showcase all the STEM programs and opportunities emerging," said Lewis. "In 2017, we launched the Geeky Girl website with a list of 'gigs' – be it scholarships, internships, all the things the 'in-between' young woman interested in STEM might need."
Today, Geeky Girl Reality's goals remain the same: to support and advance women in STEM. Here's why and how they stay dedicated to their audience and what you as an entrepreneur can learn from them.
Bridging a gap
The best way to ensure your business stands out to your target audience is by choosing an issue close to your heart and finding ways to solve it.
Take Lewis, for instance, she drew from her personal experiences and became the resource she once needed as a young woman in STEM so that she could help others in her shoes achieve their dreams.
"It is well documented that the gender gap is slow to be closed, so we decided to use our skills and knowledge in STEM areas to support girls who might feel the world is a bit unfair," Lewis said. "Our research gathers stories from young women about their life experience. We have replies from young women around the world. They all crave to know what opportunities are out there that might fuel their STEM passion."
If you identify a gap you're interested in bridging, support those affected by it. Gather like-minded individuals with the same drive to help. Join local groups. Volunteer your time. Offer funding. Use these proactive measures to create a business that will make a difference.
There will never be too many organizations dedicated to the specific problem you're looking to solve. Lewis noted that "if there are 100 women-in-STEM programs, then we need 1,000. And if there are 1,000, then we need 10,000."
The same goes for any social issue. Never give the excuse that "enough companies already exist with this motive" or "there are too many competitors with the same plan." No one has the exact experiences you have, and, therefore, no one can create the exact business you create. Channel your passion into the business, and you'll find success – and help others do the same – in no time.
Choosing your target audience
Once you know the issue you want to address, you should then determine who your target audience will be and what they'll need from you.
For example, "Our target audience is that woman in STEM when she is just a 'geeky girl,'" Lewis said. "Perhaps she's at university and looking for work or just about to go to university ... She loves science or tech, or math or biology, and her passion for geeky things is so natural that it can only burn brighter with encouragement and support."
Lewis explained that GGR invests in this demographic because they are the future of women in STEM. In other words, "She was me, and I was her," she said.
It helps to relate to your audience on a personal level. You should care about them, understand their struggles and support them through it the way you would've wanted someone to help you with your past self.
How to stay dedicated to your audience
Once you choose your audience, it's crucial that you dedicate yourself to them for the long run. This shouldn't be difficult, as they will likely show their support for your mission as much as you show yours for theirs, and, together, you will create a sense of community.
"We receive a great deal of praise and support when we share our mission and our research report, so it reinforces our belief and pushes us further," said Lewis. "We see the young women who engage on our site, and we read the amazing personal stories they share with us … The passion from their experience makes it impossible to lose sight of why we are doing it."
Work until you receive that same feedback – until you notice a shift in the right direction. Then use that as passion to keep working. "Any real social change takes time," said Lewis. "Look at where we are with gender equality and inclusiveness in general; it will take many organizations and time to make an impact."
You don't want to make progress and then remain at a standstill, stopping your efforts short once you reach a comfortable level. Always push boundaries, and ask yourself what more you can do for your audience and, in turn, for yourself.