Alisha Ramos didn’t plan to launch her new brand during the pandemic. But it’s kind of perfect timing. Whiled, the latest project from the founder and CEO of the online community and media group Girls’ Night In, is all about creating products for—you got it—whiling away the time at home.
Its first foray launched last month: a line of four brightly colored, Instagram-worthy puzzle sets ranging from 500 to 1,000 pieces.
“It just so happened that, unfortunately, everyone is spending so much time indoors and looking for activities away from a screen,” says Ramos. “Even if the circumstances were not as positive as we would have wanted, it feels good to bring something joyful out into the world right now.”
The Girls’ Night In brand is all about making the time and space for self-care, slowing down and recharging, and establishing meaningful connections. So it makes sense that Whiled’s first launch would be inspired by Ramos’s own attempts at unplugging: specifically, the past few winters she and her now-husband have spent holed up indoors, hanging out and doing puzzles.
“They were some of my favorite moments and favorite memories because it was such a wonderful way to [say] ‘Let’s turn off Netflix;’ ‘Let’s turn off the TV and actually chat and connect with each other,'” she says. She got the idea to create a good-looking puzzle line when she was scouring the web for more sets, and all she could find were “old-school” ones featuring “kittens in a library or unicorns with rainbows in the background.”
The result is four $37 puzzle sets, each featuring the work of an artist Ramos found on Instagram. Each design fits the millennial-cool aesthetic that is part of the Girls’ Night In branding, and is something you’d want to leave out on your coffee table for an aesthetic touch.
It may not seem like a coincidence that Ramos launched a product meant for holing up indoors right when Covid-19 numbers are rising, temperatures are turning cold, and election anxiety is rampant. But Whiled has actually been in the works for years, she says. “The original idea for Girls’ Night In was products, to create everything that you might need for a cozy night in,” she says. “[But] at the time, I didn’t have capital to launch products, to manufacture them, to fulfill them. I barely had enough cash to even purchase a website domain and branding.”
So instead she started the Girls’ Night In newsletter in 2017, which now has over 180,000 subscribers. And this summer, she added the online membership-based community the Lounge, which has a waitlist to join. (Along with Whiled, the three brands operate under the umbrella group No Plans, Inc.)
When it came time to create Whiled, Ramos knew she wanted to select a name that encapsulated the cozy, at-ease vibe she wants customers to experience, “to make sure it captured some sense of our mission, of emphasizing or reclaiming downtime and slowing down,” she says.
“As adults, especially, we have lost this sense of play and this sense of ‘It’s okay to spend your time doing something that isn’t really anything,'” she says. “And that is exactly what ‘whiling away’ means. It means you’re spending time doing something that isn’t necessarily productive and it might be a little bit silly or meandering.”
Also helpful: The name Whiled is gender-neutral, unlike the original Girls’ Night In brand. “[It’s] a name that we felt like we could really grow into over time across many years, many decades,” she says.
So, what’s next? Launching another line of Whiled products this winter (Ramos can’t yet share the details), and working to grow the already existing ecosystem that is No Plans, Inc. “This is a really nice settling in period,” says Ramos. “We’re all kind of taking a deep breath right now.”
And throughout 2020, if you purchase a puzzle set, Whiled will donate a dollar from each sale to the Black Schoolhouse, a future site for a Black radical arts education program in New Orleans.