Charly Machin

Charly is the founder of Driller Queens. Growing up in her UK home, calling a handyman was like swearing — you didn’t do it. After moving to Berlin in 2015, she started Driller Queen’s predecessor ‘Girl with a drill’ in 2017 as a side hustle to her job as a graphic designer. It grew bigger than she had anticipated and in early 2019 it became a ‘full-hustle”. Charly is a handywork all-rounder, has an unhealthy obsession with DIY Youtube videos.

Charly virtually sat down with The Bloom to share her story, and all the exciting tidbits on what it's like to start a badass business (their motto is literally Be the queen of your own castle .... Yasss cue *virtual snaps*!!) focused on empowering and prioritising women*, trans, and non-binary craftspeople. 

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How was the idea for Driller Queens born, and what led you to a “full-hustle” commitment?  

It’s first incarnation, ‘Girl with a drill’ was just me running around Berlin with a drill. I was working full time as a Brand Designer and needed a second income. It got popular, and I couldn’t keep up with the amount of customers (wonderful problem to have). At the end of 2018 I was headhunted to a new job, and 3 months later fired from it - so I decided to make my side hustle a full hustle. 

Walk us through a day in the life of Charly: what does a typical day look like for you?

In the pre-coronavirus: Normally I start the day with coffee and ‘bedmin’ (doing admin from bed, to trick myself into thinking that I’m not actually working). I’d answer enquiries, plan larger projects, work on content, or tackle some of the ever present ‘long-scary-German-forms’ we need to complete.

Then I’d check what jobs I have and what the team has booked in that day and start packing my toolbag. I use a big tool rucksack that carries everything I need so I can zip around on the Ubahn (public transport system in Berlin) easily. If it’s a local job I use a bike trailer - it’s actually an old pet trailer I repurposed - so folks always think I’m carrying a cute dog, and they’re pretty disappointed when they peek inside and it’s a bunch of tools!

I work through my jobs, getting gradually dustier and dustier - often answering customer emails and messages whilst I’m travelling between jobs.

In the post-coronavirus: I wake up and attempt to remember what day it is - my calendar doesn’t have it’s normal anxiety inducing level of entries in it anymore! - I’ve been doing a few one on one mini workshops via video, chatting to potential partners and we’re lucky to still have press requests. I spend a lot of my day automating our systems, building more of the website and improving all the stuff I didn’t have time to before.

Lately we’ve been fine tuning our new safety procedures and we’re on a big hiring push - so we’re still very busy, just in different ways!

What have been some of the most challenging aspects of founding your own business?  

Aside from the aforementioned ‘long-scary-German-forms’, it’s been tricky for us to be taken seriously, as we’re not a tech company. A lot of people see us as a bit of a gimmick, and I’ve been told before that my business is ‘cute’ or ‘a fun idea’. I attend a lot of start up meetings and they can be *very* challenging. 

From a personal viewpoint, we’re 100% bootstrapped, this is my only source of income, and I don’t have a partner to help, so the financial challenge can be pretty stressful. I broke my foot last December, and had to keep working in a moon-boot as it was the only way to cover my rent.

Could you walk our readers through one of your workshops? What kind of work do you offer? Who attends your workshops? Do you see a big confidence shift pre and post? 

We host 3hr workshops in small groups of 6 in a wonderful workshop space in Kreuzberg. The idea of the workshops it is as much about teaching confidence as it is skills with drills. Sometimes people come to us because they have a specific project in mind, other times they just want to pick up new skills.

Our workshops are for all genders, although they are more attended by women*. Here’s what we cover in the workshops:

  • How to use a drill safely

  • How to avoid drilling into pipes and cables

  • Understanding different wall types (aka "help, my Berlin Altbau is made of dust")

  • How to avoid wonky shelves and other easy mistakes

  • How to keep the cost of your home repairs down

  • How to look awesome in a tool-belt 

Afterwards everyone gets to practice on custom built freestanding walls.

Why do you think so many people who are not within the traditional male category are held back from engaging with your line of work?

Studies show that a man will apply for a job when they match around 40-50% of the hiring criteria, with women*, this is closer to 90%. This is even more prevalent in male dominated industries. Creating and hiring for roles that women* feel comfortable applying to is something we’ve put a lot of time and research into - in our recent recruitment push, applications from women* made up over 80% of our applicants.

We’ve recently made the shift to being a truly inclusive company -previously we had no cis-men on the team, and this is changing. We have and always will be a space that spotlights the work of FLINT* craftspeople, but we feel that by being inclusive, it only makes our voice stronger.

We hear you’re in the works of launching some new ventures…Any chance for a sneak peek?

Aaah we didn’t do this in the end! But I’m happy to discuss why we changed our minds.

We (like most businesses) had a very knee jerk reaction to the pandemic and immediately started to pivot into online ventures, for us it was mostly focusing on online workshops. After a while I realised that encouraging people with no DIY skills, to pick up power tools, in the middle of a lockdown… maybe wasn’t the smartest idea. We wanted people to come out of lockdown with their full complement of fingers ;) 

Also, from a personal viewpoint, I hugely underestimated the effect lockdown would have on my mental health - it was way healthier for me to slow the fuck down and to use the time to focus on strengthening the existing parts of the business.*



*And strengthening they have! Driller Queens recently won a big $$ grant from Bumble (it's actually more than just a dating platform y'all - if you're out there starting your own projects/business like Charly make sure to check out their website as they're doing some great work offering financial support to small businesses run by and for women*, trans, and non-binary people. 

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Next Up:  Eleonora Sacco

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