Wilson Kubwayo and Yoseph Ukbazghi launched Simple X in December 2018 in order to help Black professionals and allies network and grow their careers.
They envisioned a series of mixers, events, workshops and podcasts.
The mixers quickly became so successful that Kubwayo and Ukbazghi didn't have much time to develop the other parts of the business. Attendance doubled nearly every event and topped out at 250.
"The mixers just blew up," Kubwayo said. "They became so successful that they consumed all of our time."
But then the pandemic hit.
Kubwayo and Ukbazghi continued to host events online, but they also found time to build out the instructional side of the business, which they've named Simple X Agency.
In January, they'll formally launch the platform, which will consist of 10 virtual workshops on a range of topics including leadership training, personal finance, resume building and salary negotiation.
"Very specific individuals have very specific information and some people get access to that information and some people don't," Ukbazghi said.
Simple X Agency, like Simple X events, will allow participants to pay what they can afford.
The workshops will be live, but also will be archived.
"We want to have a robust-, e-learning system," Kubwayo said. "Log in, have an account, take whatever classes we offer. That's the goal."
Kubwayo said Simple X survey respondents consistently rank professional advancement a top priority.
Simple X continues to look for partners who can help underwrite the cost of creating workshops.
"Affordability is huge," Kubwayo said. "Our hope is that we can partner with different companies to offset the cost. That way we can maintain our pay what you can afford approach."
Workshops will average around two hours. They're designed to be practical.
"They're based on the needs we see," Kubwayo said. "If I want to learn something, how would I like to learn it? I would like to learn in a short format that's very specific."
Kubwayo and Ukbazghi hope to post new workshops two or three times, but will start with once a month.
Long-term, Kubwayo and Ukbazghi may seek accreditation for the workshops. Kubwayo, who holds an MBA, currently teaches at Portland Community College.
"That's definitely a goal," Ukbazghi said. "There’s one component of having tangible information that people can use. There's another where people can put things on their resume and leverage that for potential career advancement."
Simple X will continue to host quarterly mixers.
The next, on Dec. 12, will feature Intel Foundation President Pia Wilson-Body and Microsoft Vice President Lakecia Gunter. The event will include 30 minutes of virtual networking, then a moderated discussion with Wilson-Body and Gunter.
Although the pandemic has squeezed events businesses, Kubwayo said it's also enabled Simple X to expand its reach.
"The pandemic has changed everything," he said. "It's allowed us to think beyond Portland. And we can think bigger in terms of guests and have an even bigger profile."