Who’s in charge? She is. At Matriarchy Build — a platform for learning home improvement and DIY skills from female plumbers, general contractors, electricians and other trades — women are always at the helm.
On the site, users search and connect with professional tradespeople that can provide a wide variety of consultation services for any home projects you want to tackle from their directory of “Pros.” Then, you schedule a virtual, one-on-one consultation based on your timeline and budget and hit the ground running on your next home improvement project.
The queer-, Latinx- and women-owned business was founded by friends Lacey Soslow and Gabriella Ainslie, with the aspiration of becoming a resource hub for DIY and home improvement projects. The duo has been friends for going on 20 years, having attended George Washington University together and also working in tandem at home- and garden-merchandise brand Terrain.
Along with spending the past 12 years at Terrain working in marketing and e-commerce, Soslow, along with her mom, renovated houses on the side.
“We’ve tackled six different renovation projects together, all of which were tremendous learning experiences,” she said. “We’ve had wonderful relationships with contractors and not-so-wonderful ones, as well, but I always felt disappointed by the lack of representation of women in the space and the lack of options for trying to find women tradespeople to hire.”
Ainslie thought of her mom’s all-female landscaping crew and how great it would be if there were a way to find more tradespeople like this. Soslow’s skill set, coupled with Ainslie’s background in retail buying, finance and operations, made teaming up a no-brainer.
After the site’s debut last month, the pair’s days have been filled with calls, content creation, social media, chatting with their network of Pros and more. A few weeks in, and their entrepreneurial journey has already left them feeling inspired and energized.
“When we started this journey everyone joked that whatever company you think you’re building, it will twist and turn a dozen times into something entirely different,” said Soslow.
“While I intellectually understood that to be true, I’ve learned so much from that process and the evolution of this concept. We started with the goal of wanting to develop a community for women and queer folks in the DIY and home improvement space. How we accomplish that goal and what motivates our decision-making has evolved so much.”
For instance, they’ve become well-versed on the skilled-trade labor gap, and are trying to bridge that through visibility and empowerment. They hope to showcase the women who are in the industry, leveraging their skills to spark interest and enthusiasm for more people to consider skilled trades.
A key learning for Ainslie? Co-creating a business has been a potent reminder of the strength of teamwork. “I think there’s a fantasy that being a solopreneur and getting to call all the shots is this very cool, powerful and even sexy thing, but, for me, the collaboration with Soslow has made our decision-making sharper, and our vision more focused and achievable,” she said.
Soslow, meanwhile, has discovered unexpected fun on social media and in creative brainstorming. “We knew building a community would have a heavy social media lift from our end, but learning to engage with TikTok as a 40-year-old has been a blast!” she said.
Acknowledging their weaknesses has also been key for getting their business off the ground. “While I’ve been interested in home design and remodeling broadly for years, I am not the most experienced DIY-er. In some ways, I’ve learned a lot as we developed our idea, tweaked it and fine-tuned it,” said Ainslie. “Checking your ego at the door, being cognizant that you’re on a learning journey and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to make mistakes and keep plodding forward are the most important pieces of advice I can offer.”
As Ainslie puts it, those perceived missteps are part of the process and will serve to make your end product more polished, and thus better serve your community. “If you have your ears open to hear it, your community and customers will guide you to what they need.”
Of course, pandemic-era entrepreneurship comes with its own particular set of growing pains and the potential for burnout. “While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, we’re very communicative and open about how we’re feeling. So there’s typically a daily call that could double as a therapy session along with our very best efforts to do something active during the day,” said Soslow.
“I have a deep connection to our company’s mission,” said Ainslie. “My gut and my personal convictions are driving this work as much as any interest in becoming a business owner.”
She leans on the “excitement and hope” but recognizes the importance of leading a balanced life. “I also focus on family time in the evenings, and I don’t reply to work needs for the hours between picking up my toddler from school until she’s asleep,” she said.
“Quality time with my family and eight hours of sleep at night ground me so that I can give Matriarchy Build my all during the workday.”
Ainslie and Soslow relish the opportunity to be pushed outside their comfort zones and pick up new skills. “Those are the moments when personal growth and career growth collide, and I’m so much stronger and better-equipped as a business owner (and colleague!) from those experiences,” said Ainslie. “Someone once told me that you should accept a new opportunity if it is 50% thrilling and 50% terrifying. There’s an alchemy in that ratio.”