The Agile Startup Week 17: Demo Day—Done! Now what?

Note: The Strategic Agility Institute is following GILD Collective, a startup in the $29 billion crafting industry. Check out previous posts to get up to speed on this project. 

In “startup time,” four months might be roughly equivalent to four years in an established business. That’s because a startup team is quite literally creating new products, services, and routines nearly every day. It’s a continual race toward profitability, all the while dealing with contradictory advice, unexpected obstacles and limited resources. 

Most startup cofounders—if they’re being honest—will likely admit that creating a new business is both exhilarating and depressing, often referring to the experience as an “emotional rollercoaster.” 

Four months ago was when I first started this weekly blog series covering GILD Collective, which at the time was just starting its journey with a cohort of other startups going through a 16-week program at The Brandery, a top-rated business accelerator based in Cincinnati. 

Back then, the team was already keenly aware of Demo Day, an event culminating their time at The Brandery, which was set for Oct. 7. This was to be their prime opportunity to pitch what their work to a roomful of investors, with the hopes of generating interest that would turn into their next round of capital. 

Oct. 7, of course, was last Wednesday. So, how did it go for GILD Collective? 

I’m biased, but I’d say they nailed it. And I was there as an eyewitness. 

Jessie Deye, the GILD Collective CEO, balanced telling the story of why they’re doing what they’re doing—to bring women together for creative, confidence-building experiences—with the story of how they’re doing it and where they’re headed. 

And accompanying Jessie’s pitch were a series of outstanding slides that I’d classify as works of art. 

Here are a few photos from the day. 

The team’s ratings of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) during the past week were slightly higher than during Week 16, but they also see the next week as holding about the same level of VUCA.   

Here are the summaries of their ratings of each aspect of VUCA. 

The challenge now is for the team to continue pushing their business forward without the clear pressure of Demo Day.   

In the moments after Jessie stepped off the Demo Day stage after delivering a great pitch, her teammates Kelsey Pytlik and Rachel Bauer McCreary appeared to be experiencing a mix of joy, exhilaration and relief. I can’t read minds, but I was sitting next to them, and that’s pretty clearly what it seemed like at the time. 

So what’s next for GILD Collective now that Demo Day is complete?  Three things:

  1. Continue to build the business. They’re continuing to push for more crafting parties, and they’re actively pursuing the concept of “community ambassadors.” For that role, they’re starting with some of their best former instructors to help shape the vision. 
  2. Follow up on potential fundraising opportunities. After their pitch, they talked with about 18 different investors. There’s no clear timeline for what happens next, but typically interested investors will set up times for additional meetings. That could happen this week or at any time during the next few months. 
  3. Further identify their strategy for growth, setting in place the foundation for long-term success while simultaneously delighting their customers and running daily operations. They’ll continue to have office space available with The Brandery until next June, so that’s one thing they won’t have to worry about just yet. 

If anything else is certain, it’s that they’ll need to remain agile to support their continued learning and growth during the course of the next year. 

Be sure to check back in next week for another update from GILD Collective as they navigate the VUCA world of startups. 

About GILD Collective
GILD Collective is the brainchild of three friends—Kelsey Pytlik, Rachel Bauer McCreary and Jessie Deye. It’s a business focused on crafting, which happens to be about a $29 billion industry. GILD Collective seeks to join that industry by offering instructor-led craft parties, in which customers will pick the project, location and participants. GILD Collective will bring the supplies and expertise, allowing party participants to explore their creative sides and make something with their own hands. For more information, visit:

About The Strategic Agility Institute™
The Strategic Agility Institute™ (SAI) is a collaborative, global effort dedicated to the production and communication of agility-focused knowledge. We're building a community founded upon a common interest in helping people and organizations become agile and thrive in the face of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. For more information, visit: