Lansie Sylvia has been a geek about town for some time now. She’s always hard at work making some good in this world. Her newest effort is Philly Give and Get.
Basically, if you have an itching desire to learn something, you can head to National Mechanics on April 25th to bid on one of the many experts to be auctioned off for a professional date to somewhere spectacular. What makes the event even better is that all the proceeds go to The Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology.
I got a chance to chat with Lansie about this awesome event, so I’ll let her fill you in on the details.
What gave you the idea for Philly Give and Get?
Back in January, I needed to learn more about SEO, so I posted a message on the Indy Hall Basecamp along the lines of, “Will trade fancy beers for SEO advice!” Several days later, I was sharing a round of Yards with three SEO experts, and I found out the real answers to my questions…not the vague suggestions some consultants will spout at you, but actual real-world advice from real-world experts. I learned more in one hour with them than I did in ten hours of Google-ing on my own. It was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in a long time.
Being a lover of all things nonprofit, I immediately started thinking of ways that this community resource could be leveraged to bring new people together, and benefit a good cause. Many white-boarding sessions and fancy beers later (thanks, Flying Fish!), Philly Give & Get was founded. It’s an event that benefits everyone – the winning bidders get to learn a new skill, the Experts expand the community’s knowledge of their work, and all the proceeds go to charity. It’s a win, win, win situation.
What made you choose PCAT as your charity recipient?
Because it’s an amazing program! There isn’t enough space on this site to talk about how impressed I am with the work that the Philadelphia Center for Arts and Technology is doing. It’s a very effective program, and because it’s located way up in Northeast Philadelphia, I don’t think it gets as much love as some of its Center City peers. We hope that this event is a platform for more arts and technology entrepreneurs to find out about PCAT, and donate their time, talent, and treasure to them.
What were some of the challenges you faced while trying to get this up off the ground?
Philadelphia has one of the best possible problems a city can have: there is so much going on, it can be difficult to cut through the noise. We are thrilled to be part of Philly Tech Week, but there are over 80 other awesome event that week as well, so we’re working on ways to stand out and become a highlight…the event that everyone is like, “Yup. Totally going to that!” The biggest challenge was, and is, getting the word out and making sure people know about what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it. Luckily, we have an online team (Kara Lafleur, Nick Eubanks, and Zach Russell) who built a gorgeous website, so all the information is out there for people to share.
You’ve lined up some serious local talent to auction off already. Who are some of the people we can bid on for a “date”?
We are so lucky and honored to have an amazing roster of talent for our inaugural event. It’s a gosh-darned dream. From the tech side, we’ve got Johnny Bilotta, who is a modern Renaissance Man when it comes to all things digital…user interface, graphic design, online art direction…you name it. We have Yasmine Mustafa, who many people are familiar with as one of the driving forces behind Girl Develop It Philly and TechGirlz.org, two local organizations that aim to help women get into technology.
Our arts Experts include BJ Stallwood, the dynamo founder of Cipher Prime, plus the three incredible ladies who founded Skout Media. The full roster also includes Alexandra Golaszewska, Becky Collins, Eric Steele, Meg Widholm, Nick Eubanks, and Alex Hillman. It is a seriously dynamic, impressive group of Philadelphia-area professionals with its roots in the Philly arts and tech scenes. Plus, they are all super cute.
People aren’t only bidding on a professional person to talk to, but also an activity. What gave you the idea to include such interesting locations for the professional meetups?
Standard “professional networking” events are usually very dull and awkward places filled with bad Chardonnay and even worse conversations. It’s hard to really meet and interact with someone in a meaningful way. Likewise, cold-calling a consultant to set up a three-hour meeting might not be the best way to actually learn a new skill (plus it would cost you a pretty penny). We wanted something that was one-on-one that people would actually want to bid on.
The winning bidders at a Philly Give & Get event receive two things that are very valuable: three hours of time with an Expert, plus the opportunity to do something awesome. Experiencing something new together breaks down a lot of barriers that we can put up without even knowing it. After you’ve hung upside down from a trapeze with someone, it’s a lot easier to ask them, “So what the heck is Search Engine Optimization anyway?” You’re no longer strangers. You’re partners in crime.
What do you hope people get from their day out and about with their professional date?
First and foremost, we hope people have a really good time. If every Winning Bidder walks away from this experience meeting an awesome new person, learning a relevant new skill, and participating in a super-fun and unique event, we will consider the entire enterprise a success.
I also want to make sure that my generation of Philadelphians become enamoured with our nonprofit community. I want them to fall head over heels, bonkers, IN LOVE with donating time and money to organizations that are working everyday to make this city the amazing place that it is. Giving back to the community should feel awesome! Participating in philanthropy should be fun and exciting and invite the donor into a new community that welcomes them and engages them! Unless our generation finds a way to make philanthropy fun, people aren’t going to give back as much as they could. It’s that simple.
Is smooching required?
No smooching required! However, if Philly Give & Get starts a few romances, I certainly wouldn’t mind.