Bláthnait Ní Mhurchú talks to GirlCrew founder Elva Carri
‘Incredible, Impressive and Amazing’…. listening to GirlCrew founder Elva Carri’s own words as we chat on this late Autumn evening, leads me to believe she could very well be describing herself. Instead, she is gushing about the bustling worldwide group of women making GirlCrew what it is today!
Fresh from an absolute GirlCrew Hootenanny with 19 Events spread over four days in Dublin to celebrate the launch of the eagerly awaited GirlCrew App, she is the Waterford wonder-tech entrepreneur who has stormed Silicon Valley in a female frenzy of girl power and genuinely gorgeous good vibes!
Over three years ago, on the eve of International Women’s Day in early March 2014, Elva Carri asked the Universe to provide when an R Kelly dance session was going down in the Twisted Pepper, Dublin and she needed some fellow wing women to hip roll the night away to some smooth, mellow RnB sounds.
“So I put up a shout out on Tinder. I changed my gender settings to a male so I could be seen by all the girls looking for guys and put up a pink picture saying, ‘I’m female, I’m straight, I just want to go out. There’s so much doubt on dating apps in general that I thought it was never going to work. So I just swiped right on everyone; it was such a different experience than swiping on men… But I matched with a 100 people by the next day”.
Elva then added everyone to a secret Facebook group in Dublin and GirlCrew was born! “I took it off Tinder when there were about 200 members in the Facebook group.’ With such a rapid growth from simple beginnings, Elva simply couldn’t keep up with the rise of GirlCrew, so she just had to, in her own words ‘go with it’!
Flash forward to conversing with Elva today, and she boasts with beaming pride that they have just reached an unbelievable milestone of 100,000 GirlCrew members in 46 cities worldwide from dear old Dublin to sunny San Francisco! ‘We decided over pizza that the three of us could do it.’
No (wo)man is an island, and there is more than one driving force behind this hugely successful social start up! Her fellow GirlCrew Glam Squad Go-getters are co-CEO Pamela Newenham and CMO Aine Molloy. Pamela Newenham, originally from Cork but now based between Dublin and San Francisco brought in-depth tech, journalistic and business skills to the GirlCrew platform.
Coupled with Mayo native Aine Mulloy’s background in publishing and digital marketing, the tech trio are the epitome of what a bold business dream team should look like – and to top it off they are all incredibly lovely! Initially in the early days. Elva explained, there were a lot of late nights! Following several weekly evening meet ups, endless Spaghetti Bolognese and bonding over brainstorming sessions the girls knew they were about to embark on a special journey together!
So how does it work I ask? ‘At the moment, it all works through closed/secret Facebook groups in various cities. The groups vary for example from Mums group, Over 40’s group, Event only groups and we even have Mixed Gender groups’! While it’s great to bring people together, Elva notes that it’s ‘important for groups to be over a certain size to really work’!
‘With the GirlCrew community, it’s not all about jumping into the next event or activity; there are chats groups that can range from life advice (Lord knows that always helpful) to recommending a good hairdresser in a certain area. As the group started with single ladies in the early days, there is still a few dating related chats. However, there is a very secret specific group just for those chats, and you will need to email Elva @email@example.com just to be added to that!
The community thrives on its core value – friendship, from day to day coffee dates, weekly meet ups/activities, to GirlCrew ladies organizing trips away in Ireland and even abroad. For the professional female travelling alone, GirlCrew members can often provide a warmer welcome than a cold hotel room after a lengthy meeting, which makes hugely appealing whether it’s work or pleasure.
Elva tells of one GirlCrew member from Cork who travelled to Liverpool for work and reached out to the Liverpool GirlCrew group – In a couple of minutes there was a dinner date arranged, and she was introduced to a whole new set of friends and flying home with freshly made memories! Elva clarifies that the reason the groups are so successful is of course because of its energetic members but also that there really is no commitment to be anywhere at any time, the members have ‘free reign’ as adults and can come and go into groups as they please!
So how on earth does one manage a network of 100,000 plus GirlCrew members in 46 cities while working out of the Guinness Enterprise in Dublin city (GirlCrew home base)! Elva points out that while they ‘hop in and out of groups through the app’ to keep an eye on things, she sees a certain admirable ethos carried through the GirlCrew network driven purely by its members.
There are no rules other than to be respectful of other’s views, opinions, backgrounds and beliefs and the dream team have no problem intervening if that’s not happening. Elva believes that they have ‘set a good precedent from the get-go’ and have appointed ‘admin’s’ made up of active GirlCrew members in each group to help keep forums in check!
“Turn off notifications -You shouldn’t let your phone tell you what to do.”
Every budding entrepreneur needs a little downtime, but something tells me it’s not going be that straight forward with Elva! When I asked what exactly she does too during ‘off – tech time’ she admits ‘I practice Yoga….at 1 am just before bed!’ As well as Midnight Yoga, Elva also likes to hang with family and friends and makes the most of this time outside of her busy work schedule which leads us to discussing life at home with her family crew!
‘The first and only time I was ever grounded at home, was for drilling holes through our ceiling, without permission, in an attempt to get us online’ Originally from Waterford and now living in Dublin, 33-year-old former Fine Art student Elva’s entrepreneurial passion and risk-taking kicked in from an early age.
Hailing from a creative background, – Her mother is an Art Therapist/Counselling Psychologist, and Father restores antiques, Elva’s business savvy streak has certainly benefited from the broad experience of the Carri genes. Middle child Elva describes her two sisters as both ‘motivated and driven,’ and equally has voiced her parents’ wishes for all three girls to ‘Do what makes you Happy’!
Elva’s father imparted wisdom very early on when she was about to embark on a solo journey, and that was to remember that ‘as an independent entrepreneur, you will always be required to be part of your business’! I get the impression the “passionate” Elva really doesn’t mind this, as someone who ‘loves the buzz’ she is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. In recent years, Carri was nominated for Image Businesswoman of the Year (Digital) for her work founding Girl Crew.
Like any successful business, Elva re-iterates that ‘it’s all about the numbers” …. The ‘fast-paced moving team’ has outgrown the original three members and now consists of 2 developers, 3 part-time in Marketing, Administration and Community management including 1-7 local admins assigned to groups who really help each other out voluntarily and provide a backbone to the rhythm of the digital platform.
Regarding profitability and making money, Elva talks about having to stick to the ‘5-year plan’ and continuously working towards their goals as a team. “The funding is covering the wages at the moment. We’re bringing in revenue, and the app is a big part of that. While we’ve found ways to monetise on Facebook, there’s more sustainable for monetising once you’re on your own platform.’
She confesses that they have their fair share of ‘technical difficulties’ however in terms of her own business advice she keeps it very simple. ‘When the road gets’s a little shakey or an unexpected knockback kicks in, you just need to pick yourself back up and keep going’ and advises all future/prospecting entrepreneurs to ‘Be sure about your business decisions!’.
The GirlCrew trio have had their fair share of shining achievements firmly stamping their position on the digital tech platform. In 2016, in commemoration of ‘Friends Day,’ Facebook flew a film crew to Dublin to document GirlCrew’s successes and featured the video on Facebook Stories for their 12th anniversary. They then flew Elva, Pamela, and Áine out to California to meet Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg and celebrate their company’s birthday with a small group of select Facebook users from around the globe.
‘We were treated like queens’ Carri discloses, describing their trip as personalising their impression of Facebook for the giant networking site that it is. The trip in reality, humanised their experience in so much as Facebook as a business has a team of people behind it just like any other and one which Elva describes as ‘genuine to the core’!
Returning home, the social start up struck lucky again and won the overall Top Prize in the Irish leg of the international competition Start TLV.Following these successes, GirlCrew was selected to represent the European Union at the 2017 SXSW Interactive in Austin, Texas.
The social network was one of more than 220 companies that entered the competition organised by Startup Europe. Only 10 were chosen to join the EU delegation which was a fantastic accomplishment for Elva and her team.
When we discuss the plans for expanding GirlCrew, the tech landscape is looking very healthy. With GirlCrew members now across numerous cities worldwide, including Dublin, London, New York, San Francisco, Toronto, Edinburgh and Melbourne, the plan is to continue this growth and concentrate on developing the US market. Pamela is set to move to Silicon Valley in the Autumn to do a little groundwork regarding increasing their presence in the US.
The GirlCrew app is available on iOS and Android, and they have recently launched a Premium version in Dublin. The Premium version allows members to attend pre-organised, hosted events and avail of numerous discounts with online and local businesses. Member-organised events are still running within the standard groups.
Elva talks about the benefits of using Premium describing one positive aspect such as feeling the joys of ‘heading to dinner and not thinking about booking it.’ With funding from several angel investors and Enterprise Ireland in the bag, the Girl Crew app is right on track along with Elva’s ‘modest’ ambition of it becoming a global phenomenon.
I ask Elva if she has a personal inspiration, a person she admires in the business spectrum, and she keeps a close eye on Indian American businessman and Philanthropist, Manoj Bhargava. He is the founder and CEO of Innovations Ventures LLC, the company known for producing the 5-hour Energy drink.
An innovator, and a monk, Bhargava pledged 99% of his net worth to improving the well-being of the world’s less fortunate through contributing and campaigning for climate change regularly ‘giving back’ …. Ironically as Elva ‘admits’ he also just happens to be a man!
“I have Tinder to thank for the two most important loves of my life.‘
Before we parted ways, I had to quiz Elva on what we all really want to know – amidst all that vigorous swiping, has she finally met ‘The One’? And while Elva’s first love will always be GirlCrew, she reveals to me that Tinder has indeed provided a second time round and with that came the ‘Great, Wonderful, John!
While skepticism may prevail on the online dating spectrum as to who is genuine or not, it turns out Elva Carri is living proof that Tinder true love firmly exists. Not only this but in her own right, she is an exemplary inspiration to all ladies around the world, proving that female empowerment exists to the core of a solid active community, especially when it comes with your very own ‘Crew’!
How to Join?
So, you might ask how does one join and become a GirlCrew member? You can simply join the group for your local area such as Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway (for free), and you can see what events are happening, read posts and comments from other members, write posts and create events.
You can also join international GirlCrew groups such as Trips & Travel, Careers, Entrepreneurs, Fashion & Beauty, Dating & Relationship Advice and Staying In. In the dedicated groups, members share tips, advice, and knowledge on everything from getting a new job to finding a good restaurant for a first date.
GirlCrew is situated @ Suite 3, Guinness Enterprise Centre, Taylor’s Lane, Dublin 8
Visit GirlCrew @ www.girlcrew.com
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