The Agile Startup Week 1: High Energy, High VUCA and an Accelerator Launch

Note: The Strategic Agility Institute is following GILD Collective, a startup in the crafting industry, as it goes through a nationally recognized startup accelerator. Check out previous posts to get up to speed on this project. 

As I wrote in my introductory post, I’m following GILD Collective for the next several months to learn more about their experiences as a team of cofounders leading a startup through an accelerator program. Each week, I’ll be asking them a few questions, the answers to which I’ll use for a new update. 

Here's the first update on GILD Collective. 

During the past seven days, they’ve been busy, going through the exciting process of being introduced to the process of a startup accelerator. According to the team (Kelsey Pytlik, Rachel Bauer McCreary and Jessie Deye), the highlights have included:

  • Starting the accelerator program. It's now safe to announce that GILD Collective is part of the newest class of startups at The Brandery, one of the top startup accelerators in the United States, located in Cincinnati. The Brandery supports its startups through a combination of mentoring, capital, physical working space and other great resources. It's an outstanding opportunity for GILD Collective, and they enjoyed their first week.  
  • Reaching their instructor goal. A big part of GILD Collective is having instructors who can lead crafting parties, so recruiting those instructors is important. They set a goal of getting 10 instructors by June 15—and they’ve done so.
  • Booking their first crafting party. This is a big deal, as it allows them to focus on a specific event that’ll help them hone and prove their concepts.
  • Getting their first order. This, of course, is good too—early traction will serve them well. 

The team is also learning a great deal as they start up their startup.

One of the biggest lessons that they reported learning this week is the amount of attention and care it’s going to take to align their instructors with GILD Collective’s brand and vision. Those instructors will be the “face” of GILD Collective to customers, so those advocates have a critical role to play. 

As a result, the GILD Collective team has had a great deal of discussion about the right path to pursue regarding their instructors. 

They've also been busy making instructional videos, assembling crafting kits and working through numerous other items as a team (see photos below). 

As the get things going, Jessie, Rachel and Kelsey are experiencing high levels volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA). How do I know? 

I asked them. Each week, I’ll check in regarding the level of VUCA the experienced lately as well as whether they see that VUCA level changing much in the next seven days. 

Here are averages of their responses. 

Clearly, the team perceives high levels of all four VUCA components, and they expect the future to hold at least as much VUCA for them. 

Another set of questions I’m planning to ask the team frequently has to do with pivots.

In startup parlance, a “pivot” is basically a planned course correction. It’s about realizing that something isn’t working—maybe it was a previous decision based upon a faulty assumption, a misunderstanding of the market or any other change in how the team interprets what’s going on and changes accordingly. These shifts are the essence of agility. 

The team reported that they haven’t really had any dramatic pivots yet, but they are starting to look at some possibilities regarding other models to deliver their crafting parties. They’re also continuing to hone their supply chain—looking into various vendors. A few of their first supplies had issues such as broken mugs, poor quality boards and shipping delays. The team recognizes that it’s critical to work through these issues to ensure that they have high-quality products to use in their crafting parties because they want their party participants to have an outstanding experience. 

Come back next week for another update on Jessie, Rachel and Kelsey's journey through 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: