The idea of Elena's Club was born at a dinner table with friends. Around the table sat four professionals - each with their own area of expertise. Breaking the ice was hard. One person said, "I need a 101 on accounting." Another said, "I need to know more about art." This sparked the idea to create carefully curated courses to young professional womxn, so that they have the fundamental knowledge, and confidence, to join any and all conversations. In their classrooms, no question is a stupid question. We chatted with Emily Naddaf, Co-Founder of Elena's Club about the importance of continued learning for womxn.
1. Can you tell us a bit about Elena's Club and what you do?
Elena's Club offers courses each month to professional women, women-identifying and nonbinary folks, in Toronto (but currently we're accessible everywhere, since we're remote!). We are a "school" that aims to make learning fun and community based. The point is to bridge the gap between someone's personal and professional development, our courses and teachers empower women through education so they have the confidence to join any conversation.
2. How do you decide what type of courses you're going to offer?
We have four course pillars - Lifestyle, Finance, Politics and Professional. Each class falls into one of these categories. We get feedback from our followers on social, or through newsletter surveys, then think about what's occupying a lot of space in the public conversation (US election!) OR timely events (hello, tax season!). We check our network and solicit recommendations on speakers. We vet carefully to make sure that we're able to offer our audience an engaging and informative class. We've been so lucky to have such an amazing slate of teachers who generously volunteer their time and energy in our space.
3. Why do you feel like continued learning is so important?
If you stop exposing yourself to new ideas, new topics and new thinking, you stop growing. You stop really living. Everyone I admire, everyone I have ever wanted to emulate, they love to learn. Being inquisitive is such a valuable character trait - in love, in your job, in friendships.
Beyond the joy of learning - the act of debating, questioning and considering different beliefs or traditionally held ideals keeps things interesting. I feel like continued learning supports our personal evolution not only as an individual, but as a species, it helps us learn to be and do better for ourselves and the people around us.
4. What's the most popular course you offer and why do you think that is?
Our finance courses definitely sell out the quickest! Many people feel weird or intimidated talking about money... There is a major financial literacy gap. At Elena's Club we set the tone - no question is a stupid question. Growing up, I never spoke about money management in my home or learnt about it at school. I get the sense this is the same for a lot of people. Our finance-focused courses aim to tackle big topics in bite size chunks in a comfortable environment. We want people to leave each class feeling confident. I think our finance courses have done this well.
Note from Threads: if this interests you, check out our interview with Wealthsimple Portfolio Manager, Stephanie O'Mahoney, on the importance of investing, here.
5. What has been your favourite course, personally?
That's like asking a mom to pick her favourite child! I love all of our courses for different reasons, but our recent class on unpacking unconscious bias with Dr. Toni De Mello was very eye opening and really changed the way I think about situations, language and the spaces I occupy. She is absolutely brilliant.
6. What do you feel women get out of each course? A sense of confidence? Skills to pivot in their careers? Community?
Space and dedicated time to learn, grow and connect. The energy in the room during our pre-COVID classes was contagious. I would go to bed buzzing so excited about the talk or the new friend I made. I'm not so patiently counting down the days for our community to be together again IRL.