Jessie Deye is the founder of Gild Collective, a unique craft business based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The company makes it easy for women to get together with their friends and have a craft party. Gild Collective designs on-trend DIY projects, gathers the necessary supplies, and puts them into project kits that can be ordered online. Guests order their kits on the Gild Collective website in advance of a craft party, and the party hostess gets her kit for free. Gild Collective ships all the kits to the hostess and provides detailed step-by-step photo and video instructions for the project, so the participants can express their creativity while enjoying a fun get-together with friends.
Why did you start your business?
I worked for seven years in retail and retail consulting. I spent a few of those years working in retail analytics, so I had a keen interest in how you can apply data to growing retail businesses. But, I always had a bit of an entrepreneurial lean. I’ve had a few businesses on the side, but nothing I ever dove into full time.
This opportunity came about after some conversations with two close friends progressed. We recognized the opportunity for this was a lot bigger than some of the other small business pursuits I had explored in the past. We decided to take our idea and a bunch of research on the potential of the market to some folks at a startup accelerator in our hometown of Cincinnati. They really liked what it was we were interested in building, and they believed in us as a team, so they decided to accept us into their summer cohort.
How did you get the funds to get going?
All of our financing at this point has been from the accelerator. The way the program works is that they invest $50,000 in exchange for six percent equity in your company. Personally, the only investment has been our time. We’ve quit our jobs and no longer have a salary. We just pay ourselves enough to put food on the table, but that’s about it.
Have you heard of business credit?
We are not yet using any lines of credit for the business.
Managing the Business
What’s most challenging about running your business?
The most challenging thing is the emotional rollercoaster of starting and running a business. You’ll feel a range of emotions from, “We’re going to make it! This is going to be incredibly successful!” to “This is the worst decision I’ve ever made in my life. What was I thinking? We’re going to fail.” That range of emotions happens probably about five times a day. It’s incredibly challenging to learn how to manage that.
How do you finance your business to manage cash flow or growth?
Managing our cash flow is deeply complicated – more complicated than we had initially thought. We carry inventory, and there are some unique things about the business that we’re running.
We started out by utilizing Xero, the accounting software, and did everything ourselves by using the basic features of that software. Then, we were lucky enough to win an award, which was a grant for accounting services. If we had not won that, we would have invested in small business accounting services to help us make sure our books are staying in order.
Obviously, the ultimate goal is always to have more coming in than going out. As a startup, your monthly revenues are often not more than your expenses, which is the case for us right now. We do know how much we’re burning through each month, so we know our runway, or how much time we have until the money runs out. That has been guiding our fundraising strategy so we can work toward raising a seed round, which will extend that runway as we continue to test and learn and get the business off the ground.
Do you use trade credit from your vendors or suppliers?
We do not.
What’s the biggest mistake you made early on?
We make mistakes every day. I’m sure we’re making mistakes right now that we can’t even understand the implications of.
The biggest mistake I think anyone can make with a brand new company is coming in with an idea of what you’re going to build and just expecting it’s going to work, as opposed to considering your original business idea as more of a hypothesis. New businesses should say, “I think this is going to work, but before I can say so with any level of certainty, I have to test it.” Businesses should launch small to test, learn, and refine the product and the business model.
Our business model has changed substantially, for the better. We thought we would be building one thing and, though it hasn’t changed drastically, we’ve changed how we’re executing the business. The reason things have changed is because we launched something and measured things with very specific tests. We tracked the data and moved forward accordingly. But, it took us a while to get into the groove of the idea of testing and measuring and not being married to the idea we originally launched with.
What’s the smartest thing you did in your first year?
Initially, we were moving slow. As we’ve grown, we’ve learned to adapt very quickly. We’ve learned to see new trends and be very attuned to what the customers are saying, what the data is telling us, and we’ve adjusted accordingly. We had to let go of the reigns and let the customers and the data dictate what our company should look like.
What’s the most rewarding thing about owning a business?
I have never in my life worked harder at something. I’ve never lost more sleep or had more headaches. But, still, I’ve never loved something more or felt more rewarded with the work I’m doing.
I think what’s interesting and unique about running your own business versus working for someone else is that every extra hour you put in or hour of sleep you lose goes toward making your business better. So, you have an incredible passion to grow this thing you started. It’s incredibly rewarding.
What does the future look like for your business?
We just launched a voting tool on our website. We launched in Cincinnati, and we’re running a contest to see what city we’ll be launching in next. You can earn rewards and discount codes by sharing that on your social media accounts. After that, we’ll take a look at the data to see where there’s an interest in our business, and continue to launch in new cities and grow the markets.
What advice do you have for someone starting a business?
My biggest advice is that you just have to go for it. I spent seven years working in the corporate world, thinking that I wanted to start a business. I felt like I had to have all the answers and have everything figured out before I could take that plunge. The thing is, you won’t have any idea of what you’re doing, but you’ll learn as you go. You’re never going to have all the answers and it’s never going to be the right time. But, if you’re passionate about something and you really believe in it, you just have to go for it.
This article was originally written on September 28, 2015 and updated on November 2, 2016.