Alisha Ramos has built a community of over 170,000 that believe staying in is the new going out. Now she’s making products for them with her new downtime brand, Whiled
In 2018, Alisha Ramos kicked a trend in motion when she launched her newsletter, Girls’ Night In. It tapped into something many were feeling, but few had articulated: that sometimes, it really is better to cocoon away at home to watch Netflix than it is to head out to a big social gathering.
Fast forward to today, and we are all now well-acquainted with the so-called “homebody economy”. Girls’ Night In’s newsletter has accumulated over 170,000 subscribers and launched its own e-commerce offering and physical clubhouse, The Lounge. This week, Alisha took her ecosystem a step further, launching Whiled, a brand that makes products to pass the time.
The original idea for Girls’ Night In was not a newsletter, it was actually e-commerce. I wanted to create all these products you might need to have a perfect night in, like a curated box of goodies. The newsletter came about because I had no money – I had maybe $20,000 in my savings account, which is a good amount but not enough to start a whole e-commerce empire. Now it's come full circle, back to the original dream of creating physical, tangible products.
When we first started the newsletter, it really was the right timing. Self care wasn’t a word that we ever used on the site when we launched, but it was floating in the ether. People were looking for ways to fix their anxieties and overwhelm. Putting on my nerdy sociology [hat], if you look at our generation – millennials – we're all becoming a little bit more insular as a result of the macro effects of technology, the economy, globalisation. There's no need really to be out and about, and we're spending more time at home now than ever before.
In the beginning it really was just me writing the newsletter as if I was talking to friends. That's still the editorial voice and tone we try to take.
The idea of cherishing staying in is here to stay for the long term. As humans, we are always seeking those moments to recharge and relax. We also talk a lot about this idea of connection and building relationships at Girls’ Night In and now at Whiled. We're in the middle of a loneliness epidemic and that's really not going away – and it's going to get worse before it gets better. With Girls’ Night In, Whiled and The Lounge, we're tapping into these long-term human needs.
In the context of the global pandemic, we really did have to shift the way we talked about staying in, because we're now [being] forced to. It's definitely not a luxury.
Our mission at Whiled is to help the world slow down, and to reclaim downtime, leisure and play. Girls’ Night In’s mission is to help people relax, recharge and build a meaningful community.
In the 18th century, leisure used to be something people really embraced. It wasn't at the bottom of a to do list, it was a core part of your everyday life. We want to tap back into the idea that it's OK to play, it's OK to make a mess and it's OK to not be productive.
Another big part of Whiled is giving back to communities. We value leisure and play, but at the same time we want to acknowledge that not everyone has the time or resources to tap into that. For the rest of this year we're giving $1 for every puzzle we sell to the Black Schoolhouse, an amazing organisation in New Orleans that's raising $300,000 to build an experimental art school that teaches Black history.
I know puzzles are so hot right now, but I swear to you the Whiled brand has been in progress for two years, and the puzzle pre-pandemic. Now we're seeing an influx of puzzle brands – and it proves the theory that people want to do something with their hands.
It doesn't worry me. I'm a big fan of Piecework and Jiggy, and all the puzzle brands are doing cool things in different ways. We've also been careful not to position Whiled as a puzzle brand – we create products for downtime and we’re in it for the long run. I'm inspired by true legacy brands. For example Aesop, they were founded in the 1980s and have grown over time through consistency and quality. That's hopefully what we will do.