Aug 14, 2015
CINCINNATI — This is a story about three young women who believe in the importance of getting together to express themselves creatively.
They believe so strongly, in fact, that they all quit their jobs to create Gild Collective, a company that is working to encourage women to gather in groups and make beautiful things.
"If you look back over years and centuries, women in particular used to gather far more often than they do today," said Jessie Deye, 30, and one of the company's three founders. "There used to be quilting bees. Now, when you think of what that creative expression looks like, it's a woman sitting behind a computer and scrolling through Pinterest and looking at all those crafts she will never make."
Gild Collective aims to change that through at-home crafting parties.
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"If you look back over years and centuries, women in particular used to gather far more often than they do today," said Jessie Deye, 30, one of the company's three founders. "There used to be quilting bees. Now, when you think of what that creative expression looks like, it's a woman sitting behind a computer and scrolling through Pinterest and looking at all those crafts she will never make."
The company's website has all the tools for a woman to plan a party.
The hostess and her guests use the website to order kits for the craft each of them will make. All the kits get shipped to the hostess, and Gild Collective sends an instructor to the party to help guests assemble them. Guests even pay for the kits online so the hostess doesn't have to worry about collecting money.
"We're giving women a reason to get together that's different from going out for another glass of wine," Deye said. "And we're bringing that creativity back into the mix."
For Deye and Gild Collective's other two founders — Rachel Bauer McCreary and Kelsey Pytlik, who are both 28 — the business is about much more than selling kits to make Morse Code necklaces or ombre foil planters.
It's about bringing women together in a positive way where they can create beautiful things together and build their confidence, Pytlik said.
"As millennial women, we talk a lot of crap about each other, we don't really have each other's backs and there's really kind of a take-no-prisoners attitude when it comes to being a young woman," McCreary said.
Bringing women together to create things they can be proud of — in an environment where they help and support each other — "is a huge piece of our brand to be able to give that to women," she said.
The three friends have been building their business with the help of The Brandery, an accelerator in Over-the-Rhine that gives companies $50,000 in financing and pairs them with mentors and companies to help them build their brands, marketing and design.
Gild Collective, in fact, is the first team of all women founders whose company has been accepted into The Brandery, which gets far more applications each year than it can accept.
Even though Gild Collective was less than two months old when it applied to The Brandery — it was really more of a concept than a business — it was an obvious choice to make the cut, said Rob McDonald, a lawyer with Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP and a co-founder of The Brandery.
"A lot of marketers and brands are trying to get to women between 20 and 35, and Gild is squarely in that market. And the maker and craft space is so interesting, especially in Cincinnati," McDonald said. "For me personally, my girlfriend is active. She attends bridal showers and parties, and hearing about her experiences at those, it seemed clear that women are looking for other things to do at these parties."
Plus, Gild's three founders bring a lot of strengths to the company that complement each other, said Emily Cooper, The Brandery's marketing and operations manager.
"We look very, very heavily at the team when we're looking for companies to accept," Cooper said. "It's pretty obvious how strong the team is."
The three friends together create a team with strong business sense, great technology skills and the passion for design that the company needs, Cooper said.
"The team is just the perfect balance, from their skill sets to their personalities," Cooper said. "The progress they've made in the last nine weeks now has been incredible."
What was little more than an idea in May is now a company that is generating revenue and selling products through its website.
Clearly, the company's founders have hit upon a business idea with a lot of potential, said Christina Bechhold, an investor with Samsung Global Innovation Center in New York. The Brandery linked Bechhold with Deye, Pytlik and McCreary to mentor them.
Millennials are interested in things they can do themselves and in trying new activities, Bechhold said, and businesses that bring people together to paint and drink wine or make jewelry have been doing well.
"They're hitting on some interesting trends that are happening," Bechhold said. "I think with team and timing, they have a lot going for them."
The challenge now is to find the smartest way to grow the business and tap into what Deye describes as the $30 billion crafting industry.
Deye, Pytlik and McCreary are working closely with Melinda Davis, group director of strategy at the branding firm Spicefire, to define Gild Collective's brand and how they want to share it with the world.
That work is focusing on the three Cs of Gild Collective: connection, celebration and creative spirit, said Davis, who, at 36, is part of the target market that the company is trying to reach.
"What's really appealing to me, being in the target, is giving women a reason to come together and be together," Davis said. "We're all so busy. But there's this beautiful history of women coming together in social situations and supporting each other. I think this gives women an outlet they really need."
For Deye, Pytlik and McCreary, that's really what Gild Collective is all about. It's about bringing women together and empowering them, Deye said.
The fact that Gild Collective is The Brandery's first company with an all-female founding team just adds to the friends' motivation to succeed, she said.
"We want to be one of the most successful teams at The Brandery," she said, "regardless of gender."
All portraits used in the story were taken by Zackariah Cole. Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. She has been writing about women- and minority-owned businesses in Greater Cincinnati for more than 17 years. Read more stories by Lucy, send an email, or connect with Lucy on twitter.