Adelska, a brand born and run in Denver, has made a name for themselves for the past six years by “creating amazing memories through compelling events and experiences,” explained Gretchen Bartek, Adelska’s founder and CEO. She described the trajectory of the company from their start as Denver Date Nite to the distribution of their new curated boxes during the pandemic.
Bartek created Denver Date Nite in 2015. They worked to “put together amazing custom date nights for local couples. We were always striving to get those otherwise inaccessible experiences,” said Bartek. They included “things like private cooking lessons with celebrity chefs, a champagne toast in a helicopter ride over the mountains in Denver.” The company transformed into Adelska and eventually started planning events of all different sizes—micro, mid-level and large-scale, with in-person and virtual options as well. At the onset of the pandemic, things changed. Bartek realized that their model would have to shift drastically in order for the business to stay afloat.
A Shifting Business Model
“What we did temporarily was pivot into an at-home situation. And like a lot of people, we’ve pivoted into these at home boxes, 100% sourced from local companies,” said Bartek. Each Adelska box includes something to eat, something to drink, something to do, and something to keep. Beyond that, the team completely customizes the contents of every box. Each recipient gets their own preference sheet with their allergies and favorite things factored in.
Having the boxes be 100% locally sourced was crucial to Bartek. At the beginning of the pandemic, “we were really just trying to support these partners that we had grown so close to,” she said. “Our database was over 1,000 locally owned businesses at that point, and we just wanted to help, truthfully. We had partnered up and were giving everything that we made in profit from those [boxes] we were giving to Feeding Colorado Heroes. And just managing.” They stopped hiring and were working with a “bare bones team.” As the pandemic progressed, previous clients began reaching out to Adelska to incorporate the boxes into curated virtual experiences.
“I staff it with a minimum of three people,” said Bartek of the virtual experiences. “That’s somebody on tech, somebody on hosting, and somebody running the experience.” Boxes are delivered to each recipient to be opened over zoom for the communal experience. Recently, the Colorado sales team of a Danish company requested their own event. They wanted a virtual experience that celebrated and taught their staff about Danish culture.
Adelska shipped each team member a box containing personalized matching onesies pajamas for them to wear during the zoom call, along with the supplies for the activities that followed, including a lesson on how to make smorrebrod—a Danish open-faced sandwich. The box included bread from Taste of Denmark in Lakewood, cheese from Truffle Cheese Shop, and other local products like Red Camper jelly for the sandwiches. The experience continued with a cooking lesson, a Danish beer tasting with Adam Dyer—barroom manager of Great Divide—trivia, and finished with a virtual visit from a local Denver comedian from Comedy Works. In addition, each box included a few special “things to keep” as well.
Bartek said that most experiences last around 60-90 minutes, but that “this group was just having so much fun that it just kept going. And my team was cracking up with them, so they were all happy to stay on.” Because each experience is completely unique, Adelska has pulled off a wide range of virtual events, including “hold ‘em” tournaments with live dealers from Las Vegas. They run card tables and bring participants into Zoom breakout rooms. They generally try to have the groups at 25 or less to keep the experience personal. Adelska has worked with all kinds of businesses, from architecture firms to accounting companies.
The Local Aspect
Bartek moved to Colorado in 2005 and says her “love for Denver” is “really what took us to the place that we are right now. I mean, I’m so proud to say that, since COVID dropped we’ve been able to lend support to over 75 local businesses,” she added.
When asked about her favorite part of the job, she had a hard time choosing.
“This has been a year of such low lows and high highs and I’m incredibly proud of the resilience of not just my team, but of the community, the small business community,” Bartek said. “We have really come together to lift each other up and support each other and I’m getting to know people on a level that I did not before, even though I’ve been working with them for years. And the local love that’s coming out as a result of all of this too—I’m just pumped to be a part of it.”
Adelska means “to love” in Icelandic. “I have dual citizenship in Iceland and the US and I really wanted a piece of that in my company,” she said. “Additionally, there’s so much to love about how Adelska creates experiences.”
Businesses and groups interested in Adelska’s offerings can submit a request for proposal and browse past projects on their website.