Last week, Gild Collective celebrated its third birthday. In honor of three years, we decided to write a post looking back on where we have been. It has been a challenging and humbling ride!
How would we describe the business during the first year?
Kelsey: Fluid and Ever Changing. After a 3 hour conversation over chili, we decided to start a company and run full force into building a company. We made big changes daily and sent a lot of “we’ve made some adjustments…” emails. We spent a lot of time buried in craft supplies that we spent too much money on, and learned a lot about how to (and how not to) build a business.
Rachel: Shocking; hard; heartbreaking; CREATIVE. The first year in business was a total and complete whirlwind. We started off at a SPRINT that had us tripping and falling all over ourselves for the first 12 months. Every step of the way I found myself shocked by many things, but mostly how hard I could push myself. We experienced a lot of heartbreaking failures in the first year, but looking back I overwhelmingly remember it being incredibly creative. Every day was a creative challenge for our team, as we were constantly coming up with new ideas, new solutions, and new offerings for our little company.
How we describe ourselves in the first year?
Kelsey: Skeptical Sponge. I was ready to take everything in, learn, and adjust—but always with the question of “but HOW will we do that?” in the front of my mind. Each change and shift seemed fluid from the outside, but I struggled with the constant change in direction. I think Gild has made me better at this, but in 2015 I wanted a clear path with few obstructions!
Rachel: Faking it til I made it. Honestly, there is a part of me that will always be doing this. In that first year, though, I distinctly remember feeling like a fraud. I had NO idea what I was doing! How could anyone have thought I was qualified to do this? I made so many “best guess” decisions that turned out to be terribly bad calls. Just ask the hundreds of GIANT shipping boxes that are still taking up space in Kelsey’s basement.
How would we describe the business during the second year?
Kelsey: Taking Form (with Ambiguity). All of our shifts and changes led us to our biggest shift of all (in-home craft parties to corporate women’s leadership creative workshops). After exhausting most other options to make the in-home parties work, the decision to transition felt easy, but the reality of it was much harder. We knew we were building something we cared about, but were still unsure of if it would work.
Rachel: Exhausting. After the first year that was full of shocking twists and turns, we were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Also exhausted? Our bank account. We ended the first year of Gild in the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” phase of a young business, which left us spent in every sense. The initial energy we had in the first year inspired by the sheer newness of being business owners had worn off, just in time for us to find Gild’s true direction and calling in the women’s empowerment space. We had to work against every instinct to curl up and rest. We had SO much to learn and do, and we now knew from experience how hard it would be, especially because we had no idea if it was actually going to work.
How we describe ourselves in the second year?
Kelsey: Blind Optimism. Truly, blissfully, blind. I honestly don’t think I can tell you why I was so SURE we could make the “new” business model work, especially when all of the parts that seemed like they would be easier came with brand new challenges to figure out. I think I felt like we were getting closer to the business we were meant to have, and that was enough for me to believe in.
Rachel: Afraid to hope. The second year of Gild was by far the most challenging of my life, both personally and professionally. Looking back, I realize that the challenge came primarily from how intertwined my personal and professional life had become– a realization that I believe all business owners must face at some point. I was so afraid during this period for so many reasons, and found myself afraid to hope that things would turn out alright. Personally, I had decided that I wanted to be a mom. Almost immediately into that journey, I learned that I have polycystic ovarian syndrome and that I would not get pregnant without the help of a fertility specialist (which I knew would be anxiety ridden, heartbreaking, and expensive.) Professionally, I was terrified to keep working as hard as we had and fail. Kelsey and I’s relationship was tested in a million different ways during this year, but I think the biggest obstacle for us to overcome was my personal doubt. I’ll always be so thankful to her for getting us through it.
How would we describe the business during the third year?
Kelsey: Solid Foundation, Ready for Growth. We had fully made the shift to our new business, gotten all of those excess craft supplies (see year 1) off our hands and were moving forward with a “good base.” We had some small wins and were ready for some big ones—ready to grow and ready to share what we had built with the world.
Rachel: Finding our footing. We had spent the majority of year two surviving against all odds. We had started it with very little money and a complete change of direction for our business, and had somehow come out of it alive. With that came a sense of accomplishment and confidence that we had not experienced before, brought on mostly by the kind words of the clients that we had worked with. People liked what we were doing, and people needed it. Year three is when we began to listen to our own advice about the importance of confidence as women in the workplace. We began to listen to our inner voices as we fine tuned our mission, goals, and target customers. We started to believe about ourselves what others had been believing for months– that we are great at what we do.
How we describe ourselves in the third year?
Kelsey: Determined. Even more than in year 1, I think this is the year that I worked the hardest, cared the most, and felt laser focused on making it work. Each “failure” felt like the end of the world and each success only got a moment of celebration before trying for the next one. Pretty sure this is how “burnout” happens, but I think we caught it in time! Going into year 4, I’m working towards “passionate and relaxed” as my mantra.
Rachel: Exhausted (in a different way) and cautiously hoping. Just two days past Gild’s second birthday, I found out that I was pregnant. The exhaustion that comes with a pregnancy was a total shock to my system, especially when paired with the exhaustion that comes building with a business that is growing. As someone who struggled to get pregnant, I also found myself cautiously hopeful that everything would turn out alright with my baby. With every ultrasound or time I heard the heartbeat, my optimism grew. It was very similar with my business– with every client we booked, every workshop we successfully facilitated, my optimism grew. I gave birth to my daughter, Louise, on November 14, 2017. When I did, I left Gild for maternity leave with the utmost confidence that it would continue to thrive without me. And it did! (THANK YOU, KELSEY AND TEAM!)
Kelsey: My overall emotion when I think about Gild Collective now is pride. I feel proud…
- Of starting a company
- Of sticking with it until we made it into something we believed in
- That we’re making a difference in people’s lives
- That we are a small part of the larger conversation that is so desperately needed around gender diversity (and diversity in general)
- That we have such amazing team members and that we’ve given them an opportunity to pursue their passions in a flexible way
- That I have grown and changed so much as a person—I am more resilient, more flexible, and more rooted in purpose
- And of course, that I got to do this whole thing with my best friend and that we’ve weathered all types of storms together and are stronger because of it
Rachel: I can’t say this any better than did Kelsey. However, I will also add that along with the pride we both feel, I feel a little scared, too. I am scared because now we have built something that we are both truly proud of, and it matters more than ever before. I am scared of what this next year will bring, a year in which we are both determined to find balance and let go of a bit of control.
But mostly, I am thankful and I am excited. And I know that Kelsey is too.