LeeLee James, Owner of Twirling Tech Goddess encourages radical diversity and inclusion by making the process of learning about technology more fun, accessible, and relatable to people underrepresented in STEM. As she puts it, “the family that SLAYS together, increases their socioeconomic status together.” LeeLee uses cutting edge tools and technologies to create fabulous wearable items then puts it through her patented Twirl Test to make sure that its stage ready.
LeeLee’s Twirling Tech Goddess business model was inspired at a time when she was considering dropping out of her Computer Science program at CU Boulder.
“I was feeling like I was constantly having to prove my value and worth in this technology space as the only black queer person in every room that I entered. I was having to teach people about my identity and deal with microaggressions, people not acknowledging me, or misgendering me.”
With the encouragement of a professor, LeeLee enrolled in a wearable technology course and started really enjoying the curriculum, even though she says, “I was still struggling to find people like me to look up to and talk with.”
It was on a hike one day in Boulder that the idea came to her to create a YouTube channel combining what she learned in her wearable technology course and her passion for creative design.
“I realized that the process of doing this will stimulate my learning and its okay if it’s something only I am interested in. I could look to myself and be inspired.” LeeLee’s YouTube channel has since garnered thousands of views.
To get her new business venture off the ground, LeeLee reached out to CBCA’s Colorado Attorneys for the Arts (CAFTA) program for help forming an LLC and legal advice around trademark and intellectual property issues regarding her Twirling Tech Goddess web series.
“This was something I cared so much about. It had so much meaning, and I didn’t want to mess it up, so I did a bunch of research and found CBCA [Colorado Business Committee for the Arts]. I applied to CAFTA and got the service I needed more than once.”
CBCA’s CAFTA program is a pro bono legal referral service connecting artists, performers, cultural organizations, and creative businesses to volunteer attorneys. The program is designed to advance the entrepreneurial skills and professional capacity of Colorado’s creative workforce.
“I knew it was going to be hard to show people that I was serious about Twirling Tech Goddess. Getting
my LLC really helped people take me seriously and let them know what was up.”
LeeLee returned to CAFTA after the first experience to seek advice on contracts and compensation for a videographer. “I was only able to know that is what I needed because of my first pro bono experience [with CAFTA.] I felt like I was being taught the whole time and shown the way. I have no idea what I would have done if I didn’t have the guidance that I got from the lawyers. We were all unemployed. It was the middle of the pandemic. The world felt like it was crumbling all around us just about every day.”
Even before the pandemic, Colorado’s diverse arts, culture and creative sector was under-resourced and under-valued. The challenges of starting or running a small business are often more acute in the creative industries and specialized resources are less available. CAFTA nearly doubled its educational programming outreach in 2020 in response to the pandemic.
Since receiving services from CAFTA, LeeLee has continued pursuing the web series and has some new projects in the works including a video series called Tech Out where she gets out of the lab and explores creative technology in the wild. Her first stop was Meow Wolf. She is also starting a series called The Climb where she’ll be having intimate conversations in nature. “I want to show black people being active outdoors and provide that representation where it isn’t a lot of the time.” Nature is where LeeLee derives much of her inspiration for her creative designs. She is also finishing her Computer Science degree at CU Boulder and now working in the campus lab where she created and filmed her first three web series videos.
“Now it is great seeing people make out checks to Twirling Tech Goddess LLC. It makes me feel so much validation and ownership. Ownership is the best word for it.”