How a small business owner is making the workplace work for women

For small business owner Janie Gaunce, creating a business culture that’s designed to work for women has filled her Kansas City design studio with a group of employees who are just as passionate about the business as she is.

Tags: Best practices, Employees
Published: June 16, 2021

Twenty years ago, Janie Gaunce was at a crossroads, with two choices in front of her: find a new design job after her previous employer closed its doors, or start her own firm. “As the main producer and revenue stream for my previous company, I had to decide what to do to move forward,” Janie remembered. “But when I looked around to see what was out there, I just didn’t see any companies that looked like the brand I wanted to become.” Janie didn’t find the company that would let her provide top-notch design services to her clients, so she created it herself, and in 2000, Grapevine Designs was born.


Getting started

Janie had a few specific business practices in mind when she was getting Grapevine off the ground. First, she wanted the business’s offerings to be comprehensive. “Most people think of us as a promotional products company, which we are,” Janie said. “There’s a lot that goes on within our four walls every day.” Janie and her team built each piece of her business from the ground up, and it’s been a busy operation ever since. Grapevine employees work on a myriad of different projects for numerous clients, from veterinary clinics to primetime television networks. However, the customer-facing aspects of Grapevine’s business model weren't the only priorities of Janie’s. As she created a business that worked for her clients, she was also creating a business that worked to keep women in the workforce.


Supporting women employees

“I didn’t come from a female-led environment,” Janie explained. “I came from broadcasting, where there were a lot more men in that industry at that time in my life. When we started Grapevine 20 years ago, one of the most important things for me was to be in a place where women could raise their families at the same time they were being challenged with customer solutions.” Like other companies, Grapevine offers a standard maternity leave, but once that leave is over, new mothers can bring their baby to work with them. This policy has extended important mother-baby time by about three months for some of the parents at Grapevine. “We all know as women, we’re going to get the job done,” Janie said. “It may not be this minute, it may be in two more minutes — but in those two more minutes, we may have had to do 12 personal things just to keep the ball rolling because we’re women and we have families to oversee.”

Grapevine has blossomed from a team of six in 2000 to a team of 65 full-time and 15 part-time employees in 2021 — most of whom are women.  “If there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that culture is the most important thing — and the culture that we have at Grapevine is irreplaceable,” she said. “I oversee an amazing group of talent, and I think about that talent every day when I come to work. I’m just so proud of what we get accomplished every day.”


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