Gild Collective shifts its focus from home craft parties to workplace empowerment

Helping women build networks and confidence

CINCINNATI -- The owners of Gild Collective, who once made money facilitating in-home crafting parties, have changed the direction of their business.

They still offer crafting-party kits on their website, www.gildcollective.com, but they’ve set their sights on a different market -- the one for team-building workshops for businesses and other organizations.

As WCPO.com previously reported, Kelsey Pytlik, Rachel Bauer and Jessie Deye left their full-time jobs to found Gild Collective 18 months ago. Deye left the company in January to pursue other opportunities, Bauer said.

At that time, the business model worked this way: Party guests ordered craft kits on the website, which were shipped to the party host. A Gild Collective instructor attended the party to help guests with the craft work.

Why the switch?

The company’s mission has always been to bring women together to create confidence and community, Pytlik said, and the owners felt they could make a greater impact focusing on businesses.

Last year, Gild Collective became the first all-female company to complete a course with the local startup accelerator The Brandery. That was generally a fantastic experience, the founders said, but it also opened their eyes to the need for their services in the corporate world.

What do they offer?

Workshops with guided discussions that generally last from two to four hours. Each ends with a creative project, such as making a leather card-keeper, that serves as a bonding experience.

The workshops are customizable for a group’s particular needs, but have one of three basic themes: creating a culture of mentorship of women, building self-confidence for women and overcoming unjust movements.

Women participate in a Gild Collective workshop at Rhinegeist in July. The workshops end with the participants making a craft together that they can take home.

“We’ve seen how important it is for women to empower themselves and each other,” Pytlik said. “And these issues are particularly important in the competitive workplace.”

How many workshops have they done?

Since they started offering pilots in May, they've had four, including two with Procter & Gamble. They formally launched the service, and revamped their website to reflect the new emphasis, earlier this month.

In August, Gild Collective did a workshop on mentorship for ASPIRE, an Asian Pacific American affinity group at P&G’s innovation center in St. Bernard.

After the lunchtime discussion, the attendees made two Morse code necklaces, one that spelled out a message to themselves and one a message for someone they wanted to succeed.

It was something the attendees weren’t used to doing in a work situation, said Sammy Wang, who works in research and development at P&G and organized the workshop. And that made it fun.

The workshop was something any group that wants to build community would benefit from, she said.

How do they make money?

Each business pays a facilitation fee, plus a per-person cost for supplies. The fee varies depending on the size of the business.

Gild Collective’s owners have found that most large companies have a budget for this kind of team-building exercise.

Companies see value in developing women as leaders, Bauer said. The more engaged and valued female employees feel, she said, the more likely they are to give their all to the company.

Who are the investors?

The Brandery made a $50,000 investment, which was matched by a small group of angel investors after The Brandery’s demo day last year. None of the founders have had to invest their own money.

Gild Collective dealt with more than 1,300 customers in its previous incarnation, and it’s always brought in revenue. The owners say they pride themselves on doing creative things to make the business work.

Their plan is that Gild Collective will begin to turn a profit within six months.

How are they marketing the business?

Among women’s networking groups and former colleagues. They’re also trying to decide whether there’s a particular industry or particular company size that really needs what they’re selling.

One important lesson learned from The Brandery experience was the value of tenacity and working with what you have.

There’s a slogan within the startup community they like: “Be the cockroach. Be the thing nobody can kill.”

“We have no interest in being the flashiest company,” Bauer said. “We want to be the company making headlines because we are making a real impact on the people we’re serving.”

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