The El Paso business community is getting a fresh, feminine makeover thanks to the new organization Chica Chat.
“We’re here to empower each other, and to help each other, and to provide a safe space for women,” Chica Chat treasurer Ashley Valdez says.
The nonprofit organization brings together young women who are entrepreneurs to provide them with the tools and knowledge for success.
President Zoë Gemoets says she was reading the book “Work Party: How to Create and Cultivate the Career of Your Dreams” by Jaclyn Johnson when the idea for the group came to her.
“At the end of the book she asks, ‘what are you doing to help the women of your community?’” so I was like ‘damn, what am I doing?’ I could totally do this,” Gemoets explains.
She reached out to Valdez, Anais Chavira, now Chica Chat’s secretary and Lola Vaughn who serves as vice president of the group, and in just a few months they’ve taken Chica Chat from an idea to a fledging non-profit organization.
Their Instagram account @letschicachat started in December and has more than 800 followers. Gemoets estimates that the January 10th launch event drew close to 80 women and there were 30 people at the second meeting in February. The first two meetings in their monthly “Working the Net” series attracted a variety of women from business owners to accountants to bloggers.
“I think the point is to create a space monthly where girls know, on the first Thursday of every month I’m gonna be able to attend something that’s meant for me, that’s gonna help me grow as a person,” Vaughn says.
Chica Chat’s founders hope to connect business-minded women in El Paso in ways that are mutually beneficial, including linking small business owners with photographers and graphic designers who can help them market their businesses.
Meetings will occasionally feature business women from El Paso as guest speakers to share their knowledge with the budding entrepreneurs.
Barracuda Public Relations owner Marina Monsisvais, who was the guest speaker at the group’s February meeting, says she feels Chica Chat is filling a void that was missing in El Paso when she entered the business world.
“When I was starting out, I think that having something like this would have been tremendously helpful,” she says. “How neat would it be to outside of your personal circle to have that other group of young, empowered women who are doing something that you can bounce ideas off of,” Monsisvais said.
Chica Chat’s women are working to combat the idea that women need to compete against each other in order to succeed.
“We need to stop tearing each other down,” Valdez says. “We’re here to help each other.”
This supportive approach is especially apparent on the group’s social media, where they refer to their members as their “hustlin’ sisters” and their “chicas.” They put out calls for them to “be strong” and improve their community. They post words of affirmation in the form of colorful graphics that remind their followers that they’re made of “brains and beauty” and an “inspiration to someone else”.
“I think if we can push the message that we’re all sisters, that we’re all trying to prosper together, it’s really important to foster that environment because it trickles down,” Vaughn explains.
While women of all ages are welcomed at Chica Chat, millennials are the target audience. “Millennials are just a completely different generation. We’re constantly trying to push each other up the totem pole and help each other out,” Vaughn says.
In the future, the women behind Chica Chat hope to be able to fund a co-working space for their members through grants, complete with photography areas for women in the group who are social media influencers and a daycare area for working mothers.
Vaughn, a mother herself, says that ultimately, she wants Chica Chat to foster a supportive culture for future generations of El Paso women.
“The goal at the end of my day is to create an environment that trickles down so that when my little girl is 23, she’s in a loving sisterhood environment here in El Paso,” she says.