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Like many people, Jillian Walker found herself craving connection when the world locked down last spring due to COVID-19. Since then, she’s missed having conversations with friends over coffee and networking with other professionals. Most importantly, she’s missed face-to-face interactions and opportunities to learn more about others. So, she quite literally created her own solution, which she now calls Trace Indy.
Trace Indy is a social channel and non-profit that highlights women in the Indianapolis community and beyond, showcasing the cool things they’re doing and how to support it. How it works is Walker invites her subjects to coffee over Zoom and asks them about their journeys, where they find challenges, and ultimately how they want to be remembered and leave their trace. She records their conversation and posts it to YouTube for others to enjoy as well and network.
“Through Trace Indy, I want to introduce you to amazing women in our community and beyond,” she says. “What are you building, creating, and growing that will leave a mark on our community?”
Although it’s not her full-time job, Trace Indy is her biggest passion project. During the day, Jillian works for OnBoard as a customer success manager and supports non-profits to engage and retain their boards.
We connected with Walker to discuss how she started Trace, the best place to grab a bite in Indy, and how she ended up getting a tattoo with nearly 100 strangers.
Maven superpower: Connection. I always know the right person.
Tell us about how you started Trace Indy.
It started during COVID-19. When everything locked down, I just really missed connection and I missed connecting with women and celebrating them. It was a totally selfish project. I just wanted to continue to have coffee and connect with women, so I started inviting them over Zoom to coffee, and I recorded it. Then I shared it. It is little nuggets, they’re like 20 minutes max, sometimes only 10 minutes. But I ask them who they are; what they do; what really drives them; where they’re finding struggles; where they are finding delight. I also ask them how they think the community can show up, then ask them how they’re going to leave their trace.
Where would you like to see Trace Indy in the future?
This is a big question. I didn’t realize the response I would get! I recently registered Trace as a not-for-profit and I’m currently working out what the next step will be and how I can help connect more women and share their stories with a bigger audience. I’m excited to find out!
What made you decide to register Trace Indy as a non-profit?
The reason why I did it is because it became so popular. So many women have been sharing amazing stories and asking what they can do next or who they connect with next or just trying to have a louder voice in the community. And so, just dipping my toe in starting a non-profit for that and figuring out how we’re going to find a larger megaphone for women in our community.
You emphasize a lot on asking people how they want to leave their trace. How do you hope to leave your trace one day?
I’m still a work in progress and always learning. I hope part of that trace is connecting others. Our city has amazing women in it, just think of the magic that could happen if we collaborated even more!
You’ve talked a lot about women supporting women. What does that mean, exactly? And why is it important to you?
Women are the driving force in our community. And so, they are breadwinners and they are family leaders and they run households and do all the emotional labor plus regular labor. And to support and encourage them in different ways and to highlight and amplify what they have to say is just so important to me.
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Name three characteristics you base your career on and live by.
Communication, transparency, honesty.
Tell us about something people might not know about you.
A few years back iMoca did a community project called “Love Letter to the World” where almost 100 people in our community (including me) got a line from the poem tattooed on them. I love when I see one in the wild and we give a little smile and a nod.
What’s your favorite place to grab a bite in Indy?
With the pandemic, I don’t drive into the office often, but when I do all I want is the Breakfast Trap sandwich from Cleo’s Bodega. Trust me, get one.
With summer coming to a close, what are some last-minute activities we should be doing around Indy?
As a family, we love Indy Parks. We also look for less traveled places like the EcoLab at Marian University.
What’s your go-to coffee order?
Right now, I’m addicted to the Biscoff Latte from MOTW Coffee & Pastries. It makes me smile just thinking about it!
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you bring with you?
My family (does that count?), sunscreen, and I’ll need someone to invent the self-charging phone.
Samantha Kupiainen is a regular Indy Maven contributor.
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