In a world where social media dominates, our sense of physical community has waned. Digital trumps analog as we spend more time online than off. And while I’m the first one to defend digital socializing (I met my husband on Bumble), I think it’s more important than ever to commit ourselves to in-person meet-ups. (The connection with husband may have been sparked online, but it was solidified only when we sat across from each other.) While social media and real-life socializing can certainly co-exist (and even healthily supplement one another), it’s all too easy to turn our eyes to our screens rather than another’s face. An in-person heart-to-heart conversation offers something incomparably nourishing. It celebrates our humanity in a way social media cannot. Recognizing the need to bring intimate connections back into our lives, Ashley Sumner and Gianna Wurzl founded Quilt, “an in-home gathering community for individuals looking to take their professional and personal connections and opportunities to the next level.”
Just recently launched, the Quilt online portal facilitates meaningful discussions and offline conversations in women’s homes across the country. I talked with Ashley and Giana about how it all works.
Can you explain the basics of Quilt? We are a technology platform that powers hosts to open their homes for purposeful, intimate gatherings such as topic-driven conversations, workshops and co-working. Hosts are empowered to create their own gatherings or they can download ready-made discussion guides from our Host Portal to facilitate conversations around topics such power, money, desire, and creativity. Members, which we define as anyone who has attended at least once, can choose from dozens of in-home gatherings in Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco or participate virtually. Gathering fees range from $15 - $45 or members can subscribe for discounted rates. Our website, and forthcoming mobile application, lets members continue to engage online, between gatherings.
What inspired you to start this company? Anyone who comes from a marginalized community has experienced how difficult it can be to get in the right rooms, make meaningful connections and get ahead. After working for years as professional community builders, we were craving an opportunity to build community that was accessible, participatory, and supportive. (Ashley worked for organizations like NeueHouse and Wonderlust and Gianna had her own start up called One Roof, which was responsible for building communities on a professional level.) This meant moving away from using real estate as the hub in which we build community from and using technology to facilitate offline connection instead. Quilt was born as the solution, not only to these issues we faced professionally, but as hungry entrepreneurs as well.
What do you think it is about meeting in someone's home (as opposed to a bar or a coffee shop) that offers something more meaningful? The space we're in matters. Bars, coffee shops, and co-working spaces lack warmth and familiarity. You can go to the same coffee shop or co-working space every day and never spark a conversation with people who are sitting right next to you. When you show up to someone's home, it's impossible not to meet. You're instantly talking over coffee in the kitchen or chatting up in the living room. Your guard is down, and it's easier to connect on a deeper level. From this place, collaboration, ideas and opportunities are born.
Why do you think a community like this resonates so much right now? Quilt is inclusive, accessible, and inspiring. It meets the needs of people who are ready to take their next step and break free from societal norms and conventions. Gatherings drive authentic connections, spark thought provoking ideas, and allow us all to tap into power as community organizers. Our society is thirsty for real connection and now is the time for underserved communities to feel seen, heard, and welcomed.
What are some specific Quilt success stories? The daughter of a member, 16 years old in high school, attended a topic-driven conversation on leadership out of a host’s home in Pasadena. She left so inspired, she started a weekly meet-up at her high school. The group now has 50 girls meeting regularly to discuss their fears and feelings as young women. Nancy, a 67-year-old member, met a filmmaker at a co-working session, and now, a documentary that they made is coming out this year. Two women met and are now co-founders...actually that's happened more times than we can count! A woman broke up with her business partner, went to her first chat, and got 5 clients the next day. Shiza Shahid opened her home to discuss her experience as the CEO of the Malala Fund with 10 women. A chef got a network television show.
Ashley Sumner and Gianna Wurzl