Written by Jerred Ziegler.
After months of hard work, entrepreneurs in an accelerator program face one final challenge: Demo Day. The event brings together local investors, entrepreneurs and others who specialize in technology, and gives each accelerator team a few minutes on stage to pitch the company they’ve built. While the event is a lot of fun, it is also very stressful—this is the best chance the teams have of securing the funding they need to continue growing their startup companies.
“You’re sharing your idea with a room of 400 people, 150 of them investors who are actively looking to invest in startups,” said Jessie Deye. “Everyone’s goal is to emerge from Demo Day with enough interest to start conversations with these investors and secure enough funding for a seed round.”
Deye, along with her co-founders Kelsey Pytlik and Rachel Bauer McCreary, are the creative force behind Gild Collective. If you’ve been reading this series, we’ve been following them throughout their summer at The Brandery, a nationally ranked accelerator and Ohio Third Frontier partner in Cincinnati. After four months and multiple iterations, the three women have just completed The Brandery’s Demo Day with a much different and rapidly-growing company and a clear vision for the future.
Gild Collective started as a business similar to those hosting jewelry parties, but with a focus on crafting. An instructor would come to a home or event, guide party participants through making a craft and provide the chance to buy craft supplies. Post-accelerator, the company no longer utilizes instructors, and does not sell products to party attendees. This shift in their business model is called pivoting, common with many startups as they evolve.
“There’s so much trial and error in starting a company, but if you have the tenacity to figure it out and get it right, you’ll succeed,” said Deye. “We didn’t want to get to Demo Day with a company that was ‘pretty good.’ We wanted to be the best, period. And the end result is the ‘new’ Gild Collective.”
Gild Collective’s journey through The Brandery taught these three a great deal about themselves— mentally, physically and professionally. They acknowledge the challenges they face as women starting a company in the male-dominated entrepreneurial world, but with the Brandery’s help, are confident their business will thrive.
“Our time at The Brandery was a lot like when a student shadows a professional,” said Pytlik. “There were no stupid questions and the support we got was unreal. The community in Cincinnati really rallies around startup companies. There were so many people willing to talk to us and help in any way they could.”
So what’s next for this Cincinnati startup? The company just launched their holiday collection and will continue to have office space in The Brandery. They’re also testing new marketing tactics including paid advertising to find new customers in new cities. The company hopes to close a seed round of funding in early 2016 and continue growing.