By Melinda Fakuade
In January 2019, Jess, a U.K.-based public servant, joined Bumble Bizz on a whim. She wanted to make new connections and find a potential collaborator for a side hustle idea that she’d been hoping to bring to life. Plus, many of her friends had recommended it as a fun way to meet people, so she figured why not take a chance?
That same month, Mikaela, a creative lead in marketing, also joined Bumble Bizz, the Bumble app’s professional mode. She was eager to widen her network, but working as a creative, Mikaela tended to meet people in fields similar to hers and was interested in getting to know people from different industries.
When Jess swiped through Bumble Bizz and came across Mikaela’s profile, right away she felt like they’d get along well. She liked that Mikaela had a positive outlook and a wide range of professional experiences. Plus, they both coincidentally had an animal balloon in one of their photos (for Mikaela, a unicorn; for Jess, a llama), so it seemed meant to be. Jess reached out first and the two began chatting.
A few weeks went by, and their Bumble Bizz conversation eventually fell to the back of their minds—that is, until the pair unexpectedly bumped into each other at a networking event and found that they hit it off in real life even better than they had online.
They made plans to meet up for a drink a few days later. It was there that Jess told Mikaela about her big idea: to create a community celebrating and supporting professionals through networking and events. While Jess had worked in the start-up sector before, she’d never tried to launch a company on her own. She knew she needed to build the business with someone who could bring an artistic edge to the project. She thought Mikaela could be that person.
Mikaela was immediately interested in Jess’ idea, and “many cocktails” later, they began dreaming up their community-building concept. By the time the two parted ways, they had a name in mind: Growth and Grace Collective. Mikaela hurried home to design a logo that very night.
In August 2019, Jess and Mikaela formally launched Growth and Grace Collective, which focuses on helping members grow in three main ways: professionally, through training workshops and networking; mentally, through self-care sessions and mentorship; and holistically, through yoga and natural nutrition sessions. Even though the two have kept their day jobs, in their first year, Jess and Mikaela were able to put on over 70 events for 2,500 people. And their events have been hosted around the world—as Jess puts it, “from Kenya to Singapore, Paraguay to Israel.” Many are also accessible online. At first, it was just Jess and Mikaela figuring it all out; now they have a team of over 10 people.
Jess and Mikaela credit the success of Growth and Grace Collective to the fact that they come from separate sectors and backgrounds. While Jess comes up with broad ideas and vision for the community, Mikaela figures out the nuts and bolts. Their differences have also meant that they’ve had to work through some friction—for example, Mikaela is great with deadlines, while Jess sees them as more of a loose goal. “I would say it’s definitely been a learning curve,” Jess laughs. “But I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s all growth.” And Mikaela feels the same way. “Jess helped me become a better leader, a better listener, and in general, a more rounded professional,” she says.
In March 2020, Growth and Grace Collective went completely virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mikaela and Jess wanted to create a safe haven from the stress of the virus, so they decided to hold weekly seminars and masterclasses on digital skills, self-promotion, breaking into specific industries, and challenging the existing narratives about social mobility. Plus, the online sessions were all free. The series was a huge success, and a testament to how far Jess and Mikaela have come. With the U.K. lockdown set to end this summer, the two are excited to see what the future holds for Growth and Grace Collective. Still, Jess says she’s kept her Bumble Bizz profile live, just in case: “Because I’m like ‘who else can I find?’ It’s like catching Pokemon—it’s great!”
Main photo credit: Amanda Summons