My Digital Life: Chloé Watts, Founder & CEO at chloédigital
Chloé Watts isn't just a girl who can code (although she's been doing that since she was 15). She's a tech CEO at the helm of one of the world's most trailblazing companies and she's inspiring the next generation to do the same.
Only 26% of computing jobs are held by women, and this number has been on a steady decline for years. Add intersectionality into the conversation and the numbers are much, much, much lower.
As a young, Black, female, tech CEO, Chloé Watts is smashing tech leadership's glass ceiling. Having taught herself how to code as a teen, the London-based entrepreneur is passionate about growing female-led businesses and breaking the pattern of under-representation in the industry by showing the next generation that a career in tech is not only achievable but accessible.
Chloé founded her namesake business in 2014, and in just six years, chloédigital has become the leading tech support and digital strategy membership programme for influencers around the world, with 300 members entrusting Chloé and her team with their strategic planning, digital infrastructures and more. Having admired Chloé for many years, I was more than thrilled when she agreed to answer my burning questions for FashDigiDigest. Read on to discover the habits of a successful tech-preneur. Note to self: must set alarm for 6 a.m.
NH: How did you first learn to code and what led you to start your own business?
CW: When I was 15, I had a Myspace page, and you had to code to make your page look cute, so I taught myself. I then started to help up and coming bands and artists to create their pages and soon went on to start designing websites for friends and small businesses. After uni, I worked as a Developer for my main job, but always had freelance clients on the side. I became known as Chloé Digital; the go-to girl to help you with your website. This eventually led to the introduction to influencers looking for technical support for their websites and the idea for chloédigital, a membership programme that offers ongoing tech support and digital strategy for influencers, was born.
I officially launched in 2014 and now we have over 300 global influencer members. We offer three service packages, Premium, VIP and Luxe, and also offer larger projects outside of these products for site & app development.
NH: Tell me more about chloédigital and its evolution!
CW: When chloédigital started it was about teaching people how to be tech-sufficient. The ethos around that time was that if you wanted to have a blog then you should be able to do it all. The industry changes so fast and by 2015 (a year on) bloggers soon realised they had to find support for the elements of their business they just simply didn’t have time for anymore. That’s when the service really evolved to being a technical support system; we covered this for them so they didn’t need to worry. In a lot of instances, we were our clients' first hire, they then went on to hire editorial assistants and agents.
Once we built trust with clients, they then started to ask us about strategic guidance. They would have a brand partnership and be unsure how it was performing or would like guidance on how to make a post perform better. We pivoted again and that’s when the strategic arm developed and we increased our products/services to suit these demands and requirements.
This year we have seen a shift again. There is a huge focus on e-commerce now and content creators are becoming less reliant on brand partnerships and more on building their own services and products in the form of courses or apparel. This is something I have been working with my team on for three years, I have encouraged clients to think beyond brand partnerships for a while and this year seems to be the change needed to make this a reality.
NH: Talk me through an average day in your working life.
CW: The morning is the foundation of how my day will go. If I do my morning routine then everything else seems to fall into place.
I wake up at 6.00am and the plan is that 6.00 - 9.00/10.00 is my Zen time and time just for myself. I have a hot water and lemon and a glass of water. I read a chapter of Confident Woman Devotional and read an affirmation every day. I then write in my journal about what that has led me to think about and I write a gratitude list.
Then it’s time for exercise. Chloe Ting is my vibe! I LOVE her. Then breakfast – I do intermittent fasting so don’t eat until 10.00.
Then I get into work mode. I recently heard a motto/piece of advice that has become my new rule of thumb. Money Making Activities (MMA) Should make up 60-80% of your day as a business leader. For me that would mean seeking and liaising with new partners who we are developing product with, working on the larger projects and evolving and assessing our business goals.
The tasks outside of this are Slack messages, emails and internal meetings. I find that if I split my day with the MMA 60/80 rule then I can give full focus to all elements of my business and team, at the right time.
I usually finish my working day at 6.00pm, unless there’s a big launch with US clients and then I work late. But usually its 6.00 and I make dinner and watch a YouTube video to relax.
NH: You founded chloédigital in 2014. What are the biggest ways you've seen the influencer space change since then?
CW: I have always encouraged our influencer clients to think like a business and beyond being too heavily dependent on brand partnerships. I am really seeing this come to play now and truly believe that the majority of influencers will have a service, course or product by 2021. I think this reality felt really far away for so many influencers a few years back and they felt they needed an audience of a million to make this work. The reality is, if you have an engaged audience and know them well, you can build an e-commerce arm to your business that is exactly what your audience want. This creates so much more possibility for influencers. I am passionate about women building the life of their dreams and that requires building and developing long-term strategy. I feel this mindset shift of thinking beyond brand partnerships, and into creating a long-term vision for what influencers can deliver themselves, is a really positive shift.
NH: What advice would you give to young women wanting to embark on a career in tech and/or start their own business?
CW: Passion leads to perseverance. Nothing comes easy but you build resilience, commitment and drive if you are passionate about the work you are doing. I would encourage young women considering a career in tech to play around with what sector they might want to be in, whether that’s fashion, finance or the food space. Every industry is reliant on technology now and so the roles are there but you need to know what makes you excited.
I would also advise that you should be always learning and developing at all times. Never rest on your laurels. If you're always learning what’s new, then you and your skills will always be required.
NH: As a busy CEO, what are your favourite digital tools?
CW: I live for tools – my favourites are:
Slack above everything else; Airtable (I call it spreadsheet on steroids); Grammarly; Typeform for creating forms, surveys, quizzes; Mailchimp; Hubspot; Keynote; Canva
NH: What are your favourite social media accounts to follow, for work and inspiration?
CW: The Break Social, Lydia Millen Home, Black Girl Workouts
NH: What are your favourite brands to follow? And are there any brands you've discovered via social media?
Kai Collective, Claude Home, Klur
NH: What was your first email address?
NH: What podcasts are you currently listening to?
CW: I like a good mix of old school founders' stories like the ones you hear on Masters of Scale. Then more female-focused, young entrepreneur stories from Second Life. Then something uplifting like Happy Place and I also recently discovered Take Flight, which I’ve been enjoying a lot for the business side too.
NH: Are there any physical things you would never, ever swap for their digital counterparts?
CW: Journaling - I need to put pen to paper.
NH: What's next for chloédigital?
CW: As our customer evolves so does our product. As I mentioned, the e-commerce service for influencers is a huge focus, and we see this developing and becoming even more relevant throughout 2021.
Follow Chloé and chloédigital on Instagram
Interview by Natalie Hughes