Kerry Stokes, Founder of Calhoun & Co.
Kerry and I met at American Field in November, and since then we have maintained a friendship and often talk about creative businesses. Kerry's background is in fashion, and creating a textile brand was natural right of passage. Calhoun and Co. a home goods collection is quirky, fun, and vibrant! You might recognize the blankets in Urban Outfitters! I am just so honored and inspired to call this woman a friend and to have met her randomly in the elevator months ago. Take a read on how she launched her own brand in today's spotlight:
Kerry, can you tell us what you dreamed of being as a little girl?
Like a lot of kids I went through a lot of day dreaming about what I would do for a living when I got older. I’ve always been an animal lover, so for a while I thought I’d be a Veterinarian, but… science. I’ve always always been interested in creating things and drawing things - my mom still has the best craft drawer(s). I decided I wanted too be a fashion designer in seventh grade and stuck with that dream for a long time. I went to college for apparel design, and worked in that industry for several years.
Can you tell us a little about Calhoun and Co. and what inspires your fun and quirky collection?
Calhoun & Co. is a brand that is about having fun with your home decor. It’s about not taking yourself too seriously, being able to laugh, and spread kindness whenever possible. Everything and anything can be a spark of inspiration for the next product or design. Traveling is always an inspiration although I definitely don’t do it enough, but I’m also inspired by the complete opposite of staying home and what I feel like I want in my own space. I'm also constantly inspired by colors, insects, flowers, New York City, and my dog, Slug — his ability to nap & get cozy anywhere and anytime is incredible.
Throughout your business journey, what has been challenging and how have you attempted/overcome those struggles?
There have absolutely been plentyyyyyy of struggles since launching this business… more than I can count. Every day there is something big or small that I didn’t plan on encountering, and have to figure out how to deal with. One of my biggest challenges that I’ve been feeling a lot lately has been making time to work on new designs/products. It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the daily tasks like replying to emails, taxes (gross), and keeping things organized — I’ve really got to set aside time to take a break from the office work and just make.
Every business has its own “wins”, what would you say are yours for Calhoun and Co.?
There have been lots of little wins… and they’re all relative to where I am at that exact moment each thing happens. Seeing people who are genuinely excited to have a Calhoun & Co. product in their home is honestly the coolest thing to me, and I just don’t think will ever get old. It makes me incredibly happy when someone will read or look at one of my designs and either laugh or smile. Calhoun & Co. has also been featured on a number of blogs that I’ve followed along for years which is incredible to see. I’ve jumped out of my chair and into a dance a couple of times in the past year…
One of the things I feel proudest of is that I was able to build this company, and have also figured out a way to give back a little bit. I really want to figure out how to build in donating to several organizations-which I hope I can work on this year. So far I’ve made a handful of donations to the ACLU with the help of anyone who has purchased one of our Friendly Faces knit throw. It’s really a small start - but it is something I’m proud of and feels like a little win. ;)
Textile and design is a competitive and difficult industry to successfully break into - what is the best advice you can share with an inspiring entrepreneur who wants to tap into this market and industry?
I feel like I’ve still got a long way to go…Calhoun & Co. is in the very early stages, and I constantly feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. This isn’t an industry I studied, but I do feel like it relates to several of my previous jobs in fashion and the design world. I’m just trying my best to stick to what feels right for me. The one piece of advice I always give is to just go for it. Of course you need to have some kind of a plan, but you’ll learn so much more as you go. You can plan and plan away, but no matter how much you try to figure out the path you're about to go on, it's going to change along the way. Be flexible about how you reach your goals, and be willing to change what your goals are.
What is the next big thing for Calhoun and Co. that excites you and how do you hope the brand will grow?
One of the best things is that I’m not totally sure. One of the coolest things about running your own business is that you can test out different things and do some experimentation. Since the start of the year, I have been working on some new blanket & towel designs that I’m excited about. I might try some new kinds of products this year, but am open to what they may be.
Something new that I am super excited about (and totally freaked out about) is that I just signed my first lease for a work space/studio. It is TINY, but it is kind of a huge step. I’ve always worked from home, which I do love (and I’m sure will still do quite a bit) but Calhoun & Co. was starting to take over every single space in our home and it was getting a bit overwhelming.
Interviewed by Chary