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My “Mission Main Street Grant” Proposal: Computer tech skills for older women.

I recently submitted a proposal for a Mission Main Street Grant and received enough votes (265) to go on to the judging phase. This page is one opportunity to expand on my initial and brief submission.

About me: I followed careers in librarianship and in trade publishing with my own freelance writing & editing service. During my journey, I have become increasingly aware of the huge untapped skills available in the pool of older women in our country. You can read more about my concerns on my Little Code Lady website.

My project: I am now shifting my own business focus from freelance writing and editing to online training with the specific goal of upskilling older women so they can use their vast life experiences in writing, editing, and in technology. I am currently writing an online course that I will publish and sell on Udemy.com to be called Computer S.W.A.K. or “Computer Secrets for Women And what the Kids won’t tell you.” The video below gives you an idea of what I plan to present in my course.

I haven’t found anything similar in a course or a business that speaks directly to older women and treats them like the bright, beautiful, smart people they are: Not dummies! I use the language and references of my generation.

I appreciate the fact that many women my age (65-plus) have been busy with life, but never learned about today’s technology. That certainly does not mean that they don’t understand critical thinking or how things work. So, I am starting with the basics and working my way through the many questions friends have asked me about computers and the Internet. It should be fun! And a good income stream for me once I launch.

I believe this should be the first of many courses that I write, and each one should have supplemental materials such as work sheets and textbooks, some of which may be packaged separately from the online course.

Why do I need this grant?


This grant would help me complete the initial online course. I need someone to help me finish up my videos with professional equipment. (My at-home sound quality is poor. Trucks keep driving by at the worst possible times.) Here’s the course intro. Jump to 3:09 if you just want to hear my soapbox message.

Udemy Course Intro from Barbara Jean Walsh on Vimeo.

Then the feedback from my initial course will tell me where to go next with online components. I am confident that I have a market for this program, and I have correctly targeted my audience, but tho really start making money from this program, I need marketing expertise and a a website that goes beyond my own skills.

As I mentioned above,  I also want to create print materials and start offering them for sale as well. I have some solid expertise in self-publishing, but I need staff for that, too. (Everyone needs an editor!)

And top of my wish list: I want a store front. I want a cozy place where those lucky older women living in the Bay Area can go a step beyond with S.W.A.K. and have some face time with each other. They’re like me: We need a safe place to ask their questions, and we do not want some kid spouting jargon at us. We want folks our own age, who speak our language, and who have patience, to sit with us and talk with us, and work with us with respect, dignity, and tact. And while we’re at it, how about a cup of tea or coffee?

Again: Staff is vital, even if it’s just a few hours a week. S.W.A.K. will offer an alternative to the Apple Store and the Geek Squad. I recently did some tutoring for an older friend of mine and she told me she was happy to pay me $50 an hour — because that’s what she would have paid the Geek Squad. I was stunned. And I took her money, and am looking for more clients like her. There’s got to be a way we can have a sliding scale.

We’ll need some new equipment, but some old stuff, too, so we can replicate what people have at home. Desks, chairs, and comfy couches. (Long range: Think franchise here.) And I’d love for each person who “graduates” to come back as a teacher so she can get that first new job on her resume, too. I know how to teach the basics, but there’s so much more these women can do. You know I’m right.

Then what? Part Two is to create the in-person component, and I want that to be going within six months, with first classes open only to people who have completed the online course. (Or who have read the accompanying eBook.)

While this S.W.A.K. space is being developed, we will also be developing new online courses for older women on specific topics that meet their needs.

This grant will allow me to arrange for space, hire a staff person, and get it up and running. Additional revenue will come from course fees, tutoring, and consulting. As we become better established as a business, Sunshine Arts & Letters will happily provide scholarships and special workshops to provide additional benefits to women who cannot afford to pay full price for courses.

On the far horizon: Partnerships with employers who want to tap into this pipeline once they recognize the value of this great workforce.

Who benefits? Me, in income and increasing my sense of worth by allowing me to accelerate this project. The women in my community who want to improve their skills. Their own spheres of influence who will see how they shine. Local employers who will have new candidates for oriented jobs. Tech stores who will have new customers.