The Agile Startup Week 7: Planning the Growth

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. 

Like all startups—at least the ones that have a dose of agility—GILD Collective continues to hone its direction and workflow internally while sensing and responding to customers and advice-givers externally. Regarding the latter, the advice-givers, my various brushes with startups in the past have always left me fascinated with the process of muddling through such advice. Namely, when you’re in a startup, people provide all kinds of advice. This is great, but it can be confusing and frustrating for the simple reason that such advice sometimes conflicts, even when all of the advice is coming from smart, experienced people. 

This is a key part of the ambiguity that startup leaders like Jessie, Kelsey and Rachel of GILD Collective have to work through. 

But the GILD Collective team appears to be coping with this “fog of war” well. Now having finished their seventh week as members of the Cincinnati-based startup accelerator The Brandery, the team has begun to establish some evidence that their business concept appeals to customers. They had 10 crafting parties in July, and they’ve set some ambitious goals for August.  

Some highlights from this past week include: 

  • Planning for more community involvement. GILD Collective has five large community events set for August, including multiple events at Washington Park and events with Cincy Chic, a local women's publication. These activities are helping the team plan for their growth by (1) spreading their story and brand while driving awareness and (2) beginning a model that could potentially be adapted or copied as they expand to other cities. 
  • Planning for event-specific types of crafting parties. Instead of having all of their parties be ones in which the participants get together for a general crafting event, the team is looking at specific types of parties (e.g., weddings) that could provide a distinct reason for people to get together and get crafting. 
  • Reaching out to others in the craft marketplace. Lots of people are crafty (I’m not). And GILD Collective is continuing to learn as much as possible about ways in which they can help these people bring their ideas to life. One appealing feature of what GILD Collective offers is a way to help people take ideas they had based upon what they’ve seen online and make these ideas a reality. And by reaching out to people who are already creating crafts, they can potentially learn new ways to serve the market.  

As the primary creative force of the team, Rachel has created a number of different crafts that people can choose to construct at their crafting parties. Here are a few photos illustrating two of those projects. 

This week, the team perceived slightly lower levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA), as they seemed to have worked through some of their strategic planning recently. They also see the VUCA level as probably staying about the same next week. 

Here are the summaries of their ratings of each. 

As in previous weeks, the team is continuing to refine what they do and how they do it.  

One interesting internal pivot that the team has made during the past several weeks has to do with roles and responsibilities. When I first met with Jessie, Rachel and Kelsey in early May about their venture, they talked about their roles in terms of Jessie being focused on the overall business and leadership as the CEO, Rachel focusing on the crafty creative parts and Kelsey being the technology guru. The internal pivot that I’ve noticed is that Kelsey has moved more into an operations-centric role as her first priority, with technology being a secondary responsibility. 

This internal shift is important because it highlights their ability to recognize shifting conditions and match their efforts accordingly. In agile teams, roles and responsibilities are certainly made explicit, but they're never written in stone. Hanging onto one’s title or area of responsibility simply because it’s comfortable or was part of the original plan isn’t agile. Instead, it’s absolutely critical for these types of teams to meet their external environment through their strategy and execute the tasks required. 

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: