In this interview from our Heart-Strong Creatives series, Hosanna Revival founder, Katie Guiliano, shares a peek into her heart for God’s Word and a life (and business) surrendered to God’s will.
In the intimate, tender beginnings of her relationship with Jesus, Katie found herself across the world, far from home, and alone. But rather than sinking in loneliness, her heart soared as she fell deeply in love with Jesus through His Word.
THE BIRTH OF HOSANNA REVIVAL
It was from those quiet, faithful moments spent pursuing Him in Scripture that God first planted the seeds of a beautiful idea within this heart-strong lady. Katie Guiliano learned to entrust her time, lifestyle, finances, art, and business just as she had entrusted her very soul: in hope-filled dependence.
And are we ever thankful! Without that formative time, we wouldn’t have the gorgeous unique creatives of Hosanna Revival. In this interview—which first appeared in the CREATE print issue of Joyful Life Magazine—Katie Guiliano, artist and founder of Hosanna Revival. She also shares a peek into her heart for God’s Word, the great commission, and a life (and business) surrendered to God’s will.
Our heart-strong interviewees are women in business who have taken the talents, abilities, resources, and unique personalities God has gifted them with and created something beautiful through the work of their hands and dependency upon Him. Be encouraged, inspired, and glean savvy insight for your own creative journey from this leading lady!
After you read, be sure to check out all the handcrafted beauty and inspirational products offered at Hosannarevival.com.
INTERVIEW WITH HOSANNA REVIVAL FOUNDER, KATIE GUILIANO
1. Tell us a bit about your family, where you live, what you enjoy doing as a family, and how you love to spend some of your downtime.
I live with my husband Nick and our Bernese mountain dog, Benny, in Cincinnati, OH. Our life looks different from most of our peers because of the business we run. Because of that, we appreciate the normalcy we find in some of our hobbies. For example we love to ride bikes, travel, and explore new restaurants and recipes. On a warm day, you’ll likely find me in my garden planting or admiring my flowers.
2. What is your salvation story?
I have always been the achieving and striving type. And I spent my first 18 years doing everything I could to be ‘something great’. I wanted to get great grades and be a talented artist and athlete. All while maintaining relationships and getting into a great college where I would be seen as uniquely ‘great’.
It was quite the persona—and one that sadly plagues many of us, whether in adolescence or adulthood. I wanted to be great, and my greatness was tied directly to my achievements.
A Glorious Shift
My senior year, I received a devastating college rejection. That week, I reluctantly agreed to join my best friend on a 7-day retreat to a Christian Young Life camp. It was then that I heard for the first time about God—who loves me despite my failures and my accolades.
I learned His love was pure, it was strong, and it was offered freely to me. Growing up, I wasn’t a church kid, so the story of the gospel was new to me. Suddenly I was so overtaken by the weight of my discovered sin. But simultaneously that ache was perfectly paired with the saving grace Jesus offered. This story and my pursuit of holiness continues. Gratefully, Jesus’ love and forgiveness grabbed my attention that day in 2013 and will radically shape my life as long as I live.
3. What is your business/organization story? How and when was the idea seed first sown, before sprouting and blooming to what it is today?
I was a brand-new Christ-follower and had just been plugged into a great community when I packed up and moved to Spain for a 5-month study abroad trip. At the time, I was just beginning to learn how to follow Jesus. I was isolated, and all I had was my new bilingual Bible and God Himself. (What a duo, right?) During my time in Spain, I fell in love with God’s Word as my only source of comfort. Gradually it became a true lifeline to the God of the universe. For the first time I understood why people loved this book so much. I unlocked the beauty Scripture offers to anyone who will pick it up.
My Bible was plain black. As a creative gal, I had a quick idea to rebind the Bible. I wanted to put on a new canvas cover that reflected the beauty that I now knew this Word held. So when I returned home from Spain, I got to work. As I made a beautiful Bible for myself and my two sisters, the idea for Hosanna Revival quickly blossomed. While creating a Bible for my non-Christian sister, I wondered if by making it beautiful, I could lead my sister to actually open the cover and engage. I prayed that when and if she did, she’d discover the beauty of the Gospel like I had.
The Seed is Sown
As an artist, a business student, and a follower of Jesus, my mind went three places:
- First, these Bibles could be really beautiful. I want to make more.
- Second, beautiful Bibles don’t exist in the market. This could actually become a successful business.
- Third, there have to be more people out there like me who are praying for the salvation of their loved ones. Perhaps they could gift beautiful Bibles like this to the ones they love. And perhaps God could use it to lead them to Himself. This could be a ministry.
My three passions aligned, and after some quick business planning, I made an Etsy shop. Suddenly, my Bibles sold quickly. And soon Hosanna Revival grew and grew. The instagram account had 1,000+ followers within the first week of existence. My sales/Bible-making became unmanageable. I was leading student ministry at a local school, working a marketing internship at a startup, taking classes, and painting into the hours of the night—every night. In these early days I was truly exhausted. But I was expectant and excited for the ways I hoped God would use me and this business.
After lots of prayer, I made the toughest decision of my life (at that point). I ‘dropped out’ of college. For an achiever like me, the sin of pride has always threatened to latch my identity to the things I accomplish. Stepping away from school was a clear calling. But I almost didn’t take it because of an image I wanted to uphold. During this time I was starting to see my own shortcomings. And I realized I couldn’t be a great student, ministry leader, friend, daughter, AND business owner. Something had to give.
The Early Days
After stepping away from college, I was able to give Hosanna Revival my full attention, and 80+ hour work weeks. (Don’t worry, that’s not something I’m proud of.) The beginning stages of entrepreneurship were very, very hard. For my business to grow from a little Etsy shop into a scalable business with manufactured and distributed goods, a lot of work had to be done. During this time I continued to struggle with pride and the idea that God needed me to accomplish this mission, rather than a privilege I was invited to take part in.
From the time I solidified my first manufactured partnership with my dream publisher in 2016 until now, things have grown beautifully and steadily. Once I was relieved of hand-making every single product myself, things could grow and scale. And God has shown up every step of the way.
4. What are some of the specific gifts and abilities you feel the Lord has blessed you with that have led you to this business/organization?
I have reflected on my position as a business owner over the past five years. Upon doing so, I’ve realized how uniquely God has combined my skills to place me in such a role. I am grateful for the creative side of my brain and my eye for design. That’s what started it all.
Next to be realized was my love for business and understanding of strategy. I have come to learn that efficiency and strategy are my drivers in all the work I do. I think those skills have helped Hosanna Revival avoid a lot of valleys and pitfalls that many creative businesses face in their first few years.
Proof of His Faithfulness
Finally, faithfulness. I started following Jesus days after my 18th birthday. At the time I took risks like a child because I was told God wouldn’t fail. I had no evidence of God letting me down before. So when I started Hosanna Revival, my trust in Him was full and pure. He spoon-fed me with proof of His faithfulness and my trust in Him strengthened. Little by little, He showed me what it looks like when my plans fail but His remain. He trained me like a child to trust His will and submit my business to Him in full. Without the profound faithfulness of the Lord to me, and my meek faithfulness to Him, Hosanna Revival would have crumbled long ago.
5. What are some of the difficulties you have faced along your journey and how have you worked with the Lord to overcome them?
Although I do feel uniquely equipped in the game of entrepreneurship with my skills of design and strategic business, leadership is a whole other muscle that needs to be strengthened. Leading a party of one is a whole lot easier than a team of 15. Thankfully, our team has grown steadily. I hired one employee after another, with space in between each hire. I’ve learned hard lessons about my sin and selfishness and leadership shortcomings with each one of them.
Praise God for His patience with me and the nearness of the Holy Spirit. Whenever I step out into selfishness or anger, conviction shortly follows. There is so much for me to learn in the world of leadership. I’m so grateful that the Bible is full of helpful teachings, and the world is full of followers of Jesus who have paved the way long before me. Leaning on community to learn how to lead well has been a tangible gift from God.
6. Tell us a bit about your company culture and how you’ve been intentional to create the atmosphere you have built.
Some of our team members were friends before we hired them. And some became friends the moment they came on board. We like to say that our Hosanna Revival team has dual purpose. We are co-workers (obviously). But we are also a ministry team. If you’ve been involved in ministry, you know that your team of leaders operates often like a family. The tie of a mission that shakes us each to our core bonds us together in unity.
A Company Culture of Love
A few things we do to grow our culture and pursue our mission together are first, being friends. We learn how to love and care for each other in work and life. It helps a lot (especially when conflicts inevitably rise up).
Second, trust and delegation have to flow like milk and honey. Delegation is impossible for an entrepreneur without trust. Scalable business is impossible without delegation. Trust makes employees feel valued. And as a result they quickly see the worth of their work within your business.
Third, we pray together and for each other weekly. We scream our mission from the rooftops. And we also hold each other accountable to make sure everything we do puts us closer to achieving the Great Commission.
Lastly, as a work team, we are committed to learning how to work, worship, and rest. These three things often don’t co-exist. In startup culture, it’s not uncommon to find a bunch of work-horses. Our team is full of some of the hardest workers I know. However, we all know and believe that God honors sabbath, but a mindset of workaholism slowly breeds the sin of self-sufficiency. If we don’t trust God enough to step away from work, we display that we aren’t willing to surrender our workload to Him, nor do we believe fully in His omnipotence.
7. Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit or is that something you grew into unexpectedly?
Yes—I wouldn’t have called it entrepreneurship as a kid (although I did have a full-fledged custom design business as a highschooler). I was on a quest to combine my passions. As a kid, those were art and being in charge. Consequently, that turned into a lot of creative projects and ways to make money. God’s been working out the kinks in my pride for a while. Little by little He is growing me into the type of entrepreneur that desires to bring glory to Him instead of myself.
8. What do you feel has been the most significant factor that has led to the success of your business?
If I boil down the success of Hosanna Revival, (outside of the obvious: God being awesome and so loving and trustworthy and cool!) I would attribute it to two things:
- My idea was fresh. When I started, the first thing I did was a ton of research. I didn’t want to pour my time and life into an idea that was just a replica of someone else’s work. I was surprised and overjoyed to find out that the only people that sold Bibles in 2015 were publishers, and the designs on the market were quite simple. Entering a market with something truly fresh, original, and new set us apart. I was confident that I could add unique value to my consumer through this work, and I moved quickly to make it happen.
- Risks. What a buzzword. Nothing about entrepreneurship is easy—and if it feels easy, you are probably currently operating in one of your specific giftings. Successful business often takes a two-feet-in kind of commitment, and in order to be all in, you have to say goodbye to other comforts of life. For me, that looked like dropping out of college, and waving a sad goodbye to the fun and freedom people typically have in their college years. I worked and worked and worked. But God showed up.
The risks continued when my fiance Nick quit his corporate job the day before our wedding in 2017 in order to help Hosanna Revival develop and grow. At the time, there wasn’t money to pay me, let alone to replace his corporate salary. Within a few hours of him leaving his job, we received a wholesale order that would cover his entire annual salary. Like I said, God is cool. If you’re learning to be a risk taker, the Holy Spirit is your new best friend. You’ve got to be careful and smart about some things, sure. But truly, when your eyes are set on the Kingdom above, and all your treasure is in heaven anyway, how far do you have to fall?
9. What is a significant character trait of God that you’ve come to know by means of walking through a trial and how did He reveal Himself to you through that season of struggle?
Through seasons of exhaustion and burnout, I have been shown (sometimes gently, and sometimes aggressively) that God is truly sovereign, and holds it all. I try hard to hold everything together—every department, product launch, campaign, team meeting—everything. I think, surely I am uniquely gifted and have a high enough capacity to do it all, and to do it all with excellence. This rollercoaster of pride has crashed over and over again.
Thankfully, every single time, God meets me with His kindness and grace, and reminds me that everything is His, and He’ll take it wherever He wants. His sovereignty shuts me down when I’m being prideful, but it also comforts me when I am weak. I can trust that God’s movement through Hosanna Revival will be strong and sure and timely and exactly what He wants it to be.
10. What have you discovered to be your greatest joy in running your business?
I feel so cared for by the Lord that I get to do truly everything I love, every day. I work with amazing people, to fulfill the great commission, by means of my passion: design. On top of all of that, He set me in a position of leadership—which I am humbled by, and love very much.
11. How do you define success?
Failure of many Christian businesses happens when they choose to separate business success from Kingdom success. To me they are one and the same. I have loved seeing how God uses businesses and business owners to grow His Kingdom. With business, comes capital. We’d be silly to deny that money is necessary for a lot of kingdom work. Money builds churches, funds missionaries, gives to the poor and oppressed, and creates opportunity for the least of these.
At the end of the day, money as a tool in the hands of God is a truly beautiful thing. Success to me is fulfilling the great commission, loving God’s people, and honoring God. As long as Hosanna Revival does those things, we are as successful as we need to be. Financial blessing and business success isn’t promised, but in my short experience, it seems to me that God blesses what brings Him glory.
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