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Female Founders: Courtney Taylor & Chelsea Gheesling of Bundled On The Five Things You Need To Thrive and Succeed as a Woman Founder

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

We genuinely believe with a lot of hard work, dedication and passion, anyone can do anything. We both worked “regular jobs” for years and even worked those full time jobs while we were building the business. It was determination and patience that gave us success.

As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelsea Gheesling and Courtney Taylor.

Courtney Taylor and Chelsea Gheesling are both working moms who started Bundled, a premier online gifting company based in Michigan, with one simple mission: to be authentic in everything they do and to build connections through gifts you will actually use. At Bundled, Taylor and Gheesling partner with more than 50 small business owners across the state of Michigan to wrap, personalize and ship both personal and corporate gifts. Bundled is 100% women owned and has been certified by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

We have been friends since middle school and lived together in a cute little condo after college. Our journey began one evening, over a glass of wine, when we discussed starting a blog called “Chick in the Mitt” which was all about discovering Michigan. We ate, drank and shopped and got to try some really amazing products made in our home state. A few years into the blog, we decided it might be a great opportunity to start a gifting company that bundled all the amazing Michigan products into gifts.

And just like that, Bundled was born.

What started as a little personal gifting company side hustle, has launched into a growing company. Now, we specialize in personal and corporate gifting, have built an automated app and offer kitting and fulfillment services.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

When we started Bundled, it was very important to us to employ individuals with disabilities. Courtney was a special education teacher for 14 years and directly saw the barriers her students faced when looking for employment and the obstacles that may exist for them because of their disability. We hired our first employee through Services to Enhance Potential (STEP) the same year we started. We weren’t paying ourselves yet, but we made sure that we could pay our employee. Fast forward to today, we now employee 4–5 individuals from STEP.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We went to a “shop local” market as a vendor and proudly packed up every bundle we had. We displayed them carefully and stood there proudly ready to share Bundled with the world. By the end of the night, we may have only sold two. While it was discouraging and slightly embarrassing to repack the car with basically everything we brought, we got back up and tried the next market (to only sell three). All in all, we learned markets were great for exposure, but not great for sales or our self esteem.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There are so many people who have inspired, challenged and believed in our idea, and given us a blind chance. From our families who have supported us from day one when we were running the company out of a basement to the small business owners who would bust out hundreds of products overnight because our client needed it NOW. It is also important to mention the clients who have been with us from day one and those who continue to trust us with their gifting and fulfillment needs. We have the BEST TEAM. In fact, many members have left their previous careers to help us grow the company. We are forever grateful for anyone who trusts us, believes in us or has taken a chance on us!

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

If you are a working mom, it can be challenging to find time and the right support. So much goes into founding a company. There is this “mom guilt” that our society has created and it can really hold you back. We each worked “regular jobs” and had two kids while we grew this company. It was extremely difficult to learn how to manage our time. Late nights and stress over missing things was common during those four years.

Can you help articulate a few things that can be done as individuals, as a society, or by the government, to help overcome those obstacles?

As a society, we need to create work environments that encourage a work life balance. At Bundled, we pride ourselves on giving paid maternity leave, allowing children to come into the workplace if there are child care issues and continuously communicating that family comes first.

This might be intuitive to you as a woman founder but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

A couple things we love about being founders is that we can build the company around our personal values. We can create an environment that is family-friendly, supportive of working moms and is inclusive. Our company Bundled partners with Service to Enhance Potential, a non-profit which provides meaningful work and a genuine job opportunity to individuals with opportunities. Inclusion is just one of our many pillars that we’ve modeled our business around.

What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a founder? Can you explain what you mean?

A lot of people think you don’t have to work as much as a founder, when in reality, it is the complete opposite. We never stop working! If we’re not working, we are thinking about working! That is how this business has grown into what it is today. Since our start in 2015, we have outgrown two warehouses and just moved into our third. Our sales are trending upward with 2021 being our biggest year yet.

Is everyone cut out to be a founder? In your opinion, which specific traits increase the likelihood that a person will be a successful founder and what type of person should perhaps seek a “regular job” as an employee? Can you explain what you mean?

We genuinely believe with a lot of hard work, dedication and passion, anyone can do anything. We both worked “regular jobs” for years and even worked those full time jobs while we were building the business. It was determination and patience that gave us success.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1- There will be people who don’t believe in you, but keep going to prove them wrong.

2- Make the consumer need what you’re selling. Without demand, you don’t have a stable business.

3- Be patient. Running a successful business definitely doesn’t happen overnight, and often takes trial and error.

4- Self awareness will get you further than you realize.

5- Always do what’s right and go with your gut. It will benefit you in the long run — we have learned the hard way a few times.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We are supporting more than 50 Michigan small businesses. Recently one vendor told us that we are the reason her company, HCubed, has grown into what it is today. We are showing women that you can have a work life balance and provide a family-friendly environment, all while maintaining a successful operation.

Also, as we mentioned before, we are providing fulfilling employment opportunities to individuals with disabilities and building an inclusive workplace where everyone should feel comfortable and learn from one another. We currently employ five individuals with disabilities who are each assigned individual roles in the bundling process and are a huge asset to our warehouse operations.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It would have something to do with empowering women and creating more opportunities for individuals with disabilities and small business owners. We support all three at Bundled.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

We would love to meet Bethenny Frankel. She’s honest, hilarious and raw, does so much for others, and unreal how much success she has built. It would also be incredible to sit down with Whitney Wolfe — we are in awe of what she has created and all the good she continues to do. She isn’t worried about being this mega star and empowered women to “make the first move”. How cool!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.