Creative Community with Grace Gulley May 24 2017

With the recent launch of our Plant Stand and Planters, we scoured Instagram for ladies who love the greens. We came across Grace Gulley, whose profile said "lots of plant." That's all it took to convince us that she needed a planter! Come to find out, she is the Founder of CYL Collective, a place where artisans and makers alike come together to hone their craft and learn how to expand their creativity. Many times creatives manage so many pieces of business while maintaining their passion and craft that it gets in the way of making connections with people that are striving along the same journey. We absolutely love the work Grace is doing through CYL Collective to help creatives on their journey. If you know anything about our mission, you know that is close to our hearts! Read a little more about our chat with Grace below. 

Introduce yourself!  
Hi there! My name is Grace, I’m an artist, feminist, writer, expert pep talker and the founder of CYL Collective. When I’m not working I can usually be found walking around Los Angeles or reading in a park.

How did you get to where you are today - career wise, personally, etc.? 
I spent most of my childhood bouncing around from high-fancy career aspiration to another… I spent a summer dreaming of being a wedding planner to the stars; a year brooding and imagining myself a poet; a spring cutting up my clothes and sending them down imaginary runways; and nearly all of my early 20’s having an existential crisis about what to do with my life! I also grew up with a family of entrepreneurs, so the idea of owning my own business seemed very attainable. And funnily enough, at the end of it all I get to do my own thang, and wear many, many hats!

What inspired you to start CYL Collective? 
The founding of CYL was totally serendipitous. It began just after a move to Portland that left me feeling very lonely and disconnected. I was already floundering in my professional life - that and a serious lack of friends were the perfect recipe to jump on Instagram and fire up the CYL feed. It started as a way to showcase some of my favorite female makers and artists (and shh… hopefully get them to be my friend!), as well as a way to re-ignite my creative passions. It snowballed from there and ended up becoming something I was excited to wake up and do everyday. Two years later, it looks different than it did in the beginning, but it still feels like home.

What's your favorite part about what you do? 
My favorite part is getting those emails where someone shares their story with me and tells me they now feel empowered enough to chase down their dreams. (That, and coffee and tea outings are almost entirely business write-offs!)

Why do you think it's important for cultivate community with makers? 
There are two people in this world that are prone to loneliness, solopreneurs and artists. And when you put 1 and 1 together, they do not cancel each other out! Without community we are isolated and alone. Communities are essential to the enrichment of the human life. They allow us to share experience, offer value, receive advice, develop real and beneficial relationships, and work towards a common goal. I really could talk forever on this!

How do you encourage each other in everyone's craft versus finding competition?
In this handmade world, I feel the best customers are the ones who truly appreciate handmade and the makers behind those things. They want the story, they want to know the person who made it. It’s not the same as walking into Target to pick out paper towels. You pick out paper towels based on price or what you already know you have used in the past. You don’t make your decision based on the people behind those paper towels. But with handmade, there is a story. And the thing about stories, is we each have a unique one! This perspective makes it easier to celebrate and lift up others’ victories and successes, and not see that as a threat to our own. 

What do you think makers and creatives offer to the world?  
I strongly feel one of the most important things in the world is to feel capable and empowered. Makers and creatives that are out there chasing their dream and crushing it set a great example. A young girl will see that, and think ‘I can totally become a master pastry chef!!!’ The best thing we can do is lead by example.  

How have you seen members of CYL Collective change in their craft or artisanship since joining the community? 
I’ve gotten some incredible and touching feedback since starting the membership program. I think it’s important to acknowledge that nearly all of us, when faced with challenges, will let self-development go first. That means communities like I’ve created. So the ladies that have stuck it out with me, know the value of community and self-development. They understand that they need to take care of themselves and be the best version of themselves to be truly successful. And they really understand the magical power of having a community that backs you 120%!

What are ways every maker and creative can better their craft?
PUT DOWN YOUR CRAFT! I mean it. Every once in a while step away from your craft and explore another medium. Get into creative free play. You will be able to return to your own craft with a fresh perspective.

Can you tell us a little bit more about CYL Collective?
Well I’d love to! ;) So the primary tier of membership is a six-month course running you through A-Z of how to run a handmade business. It’s broken down into monthly topics, masterclasses, discussions, workbooks and checklists. Along with that is the community aspect, which includes: member forum, mini-groups, business critiques, roundtable discussions… etc! This is a new model I’m starting in July and will be $30-40/mo with a 6 month commitment. For those that have completed the course, or just want the community they can opt in to only that for $10/mo. The only qualifications are being awesome, have creative ambitions, and be ready and willing to support and lift up the ladies in the community. 

With a growing community, how do you cultivate the connection aspect that is so important to community? 
This one is tough! I initially started the Squad (membership program) for just that - to offer a more immersive experience for the community. I try to be sure the number of members stays at a number that it can still feel intimate and people can build relationships. I also encourage people to share their stories, not just pitch their product, so that others have the chance to really connect and relate and start a conversation. Within the Squad program I also encourage various incentives to build rapport and relations amongst the members.

Is there anything exciting happening in the near future with CYL Collective! Or yourself! Oh boy! Well you asked! I’m finally revealing a big project in July. Hint: It starts with a B… ends with a K… and there’s two O’s in the middle. ;) As far as personal life, I’ve finally hit that sweet point where I’m getting my business under control, things are growing and I can start enjoying life and planning vacations! I’ve even been able to take a lot more sneaky weekends away since I basically work from my laptop. So the world is my office! Life is good!

Follow Grace and the CYL Collective on Instagram, or check out CYL Collection's website to learn more. 

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