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The Hustle

Name: Crystal Bailes (GEMS)

Posted By Megan Holmes

Crystal Bailes is the CEO and founder of Girls Empowered Mentally for Success (GEMS), a local nonprofit organization that has provided support for at-risk adolescent girls for more than 15 years. GEMS helps young women succeed during difficult life transitions, even in the face of trauma. In 2016, Bailes founded Transitions Candles, a social enterprise that supports GEMS programs and clients. In partnership with with small boutiques and large corporations, Transition Candles provides essential workforce skills and experience to the girls served by GEMS, and the funds generated by the sale of their candles go directly toward furthering the development of GEMS' services.


Years in Tampa Bay

We’ve been in Tampa Bay for 15 years, serving at-risk teenagers.

Hustle (job)

CEO and founder of Girls Empowered Mentally for Success (GEMS) & Transition Candles.

What do you do?  

GEMS is committed to creating healthy transitions for girls everywhere. That means that we have programs that run for elementary, middle, and high school girls assisting them in areas of self-esteem, self-awareness, college prep. All of the things that could keep them from transitioning to successful, productive individuals.

Why do you do it?

Empowering them mentally is important – we teach them goal-setting and visions. Budget and personal finance, entrepreneurship, in order for them to be strengthened no matter what their situation is.

What was your Catalyst? (How did you get started?)

I’m formerly from New York City and as a New York City correction officer in the law enforcement field, I got to see some of tragedies of teenagers incarcerated. I felt it was unnecessary and I wanted to create something that would prevent that. Our organization is committed to the social awareness around girls. The tragedy of trafficking and abuse. The Catalyst for me was I saw what was wrong and wanted to create something to fix it.

What’s a common misconception or unknown aspect of what you do?

A common misconception about the nonprofit world is that it’s not supposed to be profitable. There are a lot of resources out there that we’re trying to tap into to help us provide our service. We decided to open a social enterprise, which gives us a for-profit business that will drive revenue into the good that we want to do. The misconception is that we’re relegated to grants and donations. There are so many innovative ways to get the community involved, on track with our mission and help the community be better.

What’s the most challenging part of your Hustle?

The challenge that I’m facing right now is that I really live in the nonprofit world, 15 years of doing that. In 2016, I became a for profit social enterprise entrepreneur. So my challenge is the balance of telling our story, understanding what our audience needs, identifying our client – the challenge is balance. I really believe that nonprofits throughout the world need to take on the task of bringing in the social enterprise aspect so that there can be funding for the good they want to do.

What’s the most valuable piece of business advice/insight that’s helped you?

The most valuable piece of advice I could give anyone is to partner, to receive mentorship, to connect with individuals. It has changed everything for us. Once I tell the story of our girls, people want to get on board.

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