Jessica Boyd is one of Columbia’s brightest stars behind the scenes.
More than just a brand expert, Boyd is also an award-winning designer, and co-founder of the Miss Naturally Crowned, the state’s first beauty pageant for women with naturally afro-ethnic textured hair (which garnered national attention). She’s the curator of all things cool in the city. Boyd’s latest endeavor, Gild Agency, specializes in helping new and established brands find their voice and execute their vision.
Q. I get the feeling you’re a one-woman-show who does it all.
A. Like most creatives, I fill a few different shoes: brand strategist, graphic and web designer, event planner, creative director, ideator. In a nutshell though, I use those talents to help trailblazers develop (brand) identities and ideas that shift the culture forward.
Q. As a creative, tons of people from Columbia voice frustrations about what the city lacks. Your perspective is different. What is it about Columbia you love and unique for what you do?
A. Honesty hour: I used to be one of those disgruntled people. I graduated from Richland Northeast in 2005 and spent the next seven years away from Columbia for college in Atlanta and grad school in Durham, N.C. Both of those cities are incredibly hot markets for almost any industry, and I honestly never thought I’d be back here. But once I decided I wasn’t going to be a career student, I moved back home in 2013 to figure out my next move.
For a while, I just felt stifled and a little disconnected from my years living outside the city. But I eventually shifted my perspective and realized that Columbia is actually the perfect place to birth and refine new ideas. From a first-time natural hair beauty pageant that spawned similar events in Brazil and Paris to a new women’s coworking pop-up experience coming this fall, I’ve been able to do some really fulfilling work with global impact in this city.
Q. If you have friends coming from out of town, where in Columbia do you take them?
A. Hands down, we’re grabbing lunch or dinner at A Peace of Soul Vegan Kitchen (formerly Lamb’s Bread Vegan Cafe). We may grab a movie at The Nick, and then swing by the Columbia Museum of Art to view the Chihuly and one of my favorite pieces by Michaela Pilar Brown. If they’re around for the weekend, we’re heading to Soda City for some Gin’s Juice or an Avocado dream salad from Mimie’s Delect-A-Bowls. And depending on the friend, we’d probably also swing by Richland Library for a quick dive into the state-of-the-art experience they’re building there.
Q. Creatives always have projects brewing. What’s the next big thing you’re working on?
A. CLUTCH Cowork on Nov. 19-20! It’s a two-day pop-up coworking experience for women entrepreneurs, freelancers, and side-hustlers that’ll take place at 701 Whaley. It kicks off at 9 a.m. on International Women’s Entrepreneurship Day.
Between her incredible work as a management consultant, philanthropist, and social justice advocate for over 20 years, Anita Garrett (who’s co-organizing the pop-up), thought about opening a coworking space here in Columbia almost a decade ago! So with the new resurgence of coworking, we combined our efforts to see what a collaborative workspace could look like for women in the Midlands, especially in today’s climate and considering that South Carolina ranks fourth in the nation for women-owned businesses. I’m super excited about what we have in store, and the response has been amazing so far.