Six women standing in front of a car in a garage
VCU grad Summer Lambert's DIYgrrl workshops have attracted participants eager to learn valuable life skills. (Contributed photo)

VCU grad learns the art of the startup through DIY project

Summer Lambert, who received a creative advertising degree at VCU, has a new business that holds classes designed to teach women a variety of life skills.

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

The idea turned into a business. Lambert started DIYgrrl, which hosts single-day workshops for anyone looking to learn essential life skills ranging from how to change a tire to handling power tools. The first class took place earlier this year at an autobody shop in Chicago. The organization welcomes anyone to its workshops, but the sessions focus on skills that women may not have ever been taught but need to know.

“The idea was that I connect local experts with women primarily,” Lambert said. “I would invite women who weren't raised to learn these traditionally masculine skills that maybe their brothers had learned growing up. And so it's kind of like being able to let us step into this role of learning that. We can figure out how to do it ourselves and then do it ourselves moving forward.”

Lambert started an Instagram page and launched a website, which is covered in various shades of pink. Lambert landed some publicity in local media. She also told a few friends.

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

All the classes are hands-on. The women change a tire or get inside the dashboard of a vehicle and change a lightbulb. While YouTube offers similar skills-based learning, it does not give the hands-on training of a class through DIYgrrl.

A woman wearing a paper boy hat and yellow jacket smiling
Summer Lambert is balancing her new entrepreneurial pursuits with a "9-to-5" marketing career. (Contributed photo)

“We've gotten very dirty doing this,” Lambert said.

Most of the classes are free, but experts can charge. Lambert said the experts see the classes as a way to meet potential new customers. They can teach basic skills, and the people who attend the class will hire them for more complicated jobs.

Lambert said her goal at this point is not to make money. She is learning and trying to understand the platform’s potential.

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

The road to being an entrepreneur has been 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 at ad agencies in Boston, Portland and San Francisco, where she met her husband. Lambert eventually landed a marketing job with a software company. The couple’s jobs were both remote, so they decided to move to Chicago.

“He was from Chicago, and I am 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 make a life. For now, DIYgrrl is a side gig.

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

Expanding the platform

She is looking to expand DIYgrrl into Richmond, Austin and other cities next year. Friends have expressed an interest in helping her start similar groups in other cities. Lambert is also exploring various revenue models, trying to understand if a larger opportunity exists.

“My vision for 2022 was to get it up and post workshops and just make it a thing,” Lambert said. “And I think that has been successful. In 2023, my goal is to expand it into other cities, find ways of becoming cash positive so that I am not 100% funding this from my day job but still make it a community.”

The plan is to be calculated and deliberate. She has been around the startup world, which often focuses on growth at any cost. Lambert is having fun and learning. That is all she wants at this point.

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