By: Abbey Adams
Hang on, I’ll make you lunch in 2 seconds,” Faye Jones says to her four-year-old daughter, Pia. She’s managed to squeeze some time out of her busy day to talk with me on the phone. I can hear her smile as she tells me the beginning, current, and future state of her other baby; Upstate Crate & Co.
A Brewerton native, Faye soon moved to Albany about 11 years ago to pursue a career in financial planning, but quickly came to the conclusion it wasn’t for her. “I kind of realized that I don’t really want to manage people’s money. I more so just like working with people” she says. Upstate Crate & Co. became her side business; something she could work on in her down time that fulfilled what she really loves to do. Faye was initially inspired to start this venture when she was pregnant with her daughter. She says, “I got really into healthy living and sustainability and reading about where stuff came from and how stuff was made. So I started a blog called Sustainable Snob… then I realized I’m not really a very good blogger. From there I came up with the concept of opening a store that would carry home goods and gift items that were all pretty much locally made and done in ethical practices.” Faye ended up being talked out of the idea to open a store, for fear it might not be as successful as she’d hope – especially in the Syracuse area.
After floating several ideas to her friend Amber, she decided on selling just custom gift boxes. If you go on the company’s website, you’ll see this perfectly crafted description: “Upstate Crate Co. was born from the idea that gifting should be both meaningful and lasting. In our fast paced, mass produced the world; it is rare we are given something made uniquely by the hand of a craftsman. You can find something created from attention, detail, and the commitment to quality; goods that are marked by their maker with both pride and passion. We’ve committed ourselves to the value in conscious and sustainable product creation and have sourced each item found in our collection with intention and mindfulness. Striving to strengthen our local communities, our collection showcase New York artisan goods in perfectly presented gift boxes.” Another woman named Kelly was also involved in the startup process. Upstate had a big launch around November of 2016 and were very successful.
Fast-forward to June of 2017 and Faye decided to take the reins of Upstate Crate and Co, and shape it into what she thought would be the best way to approach her new vision. She wanted to make the boxes higher end, which in turn made it easier for her to reach out to certain vendors she wouldn’t have been able to work with before. “It’s very hard to build a gift box and keep it in the $50 price range, because you’re really only limiting yourself to bars of soap and candles at that point. To be able to use the textiles and home items I wanted to include, I just needed to take it a bit more higher end.” Faye was able to make real connections with local businesses, inns, wedding planners, etc. The changes made have paid off and helped her build a strong community of people who believe in her and her business. She tells me, “There’s this really great community of women out here that help each other and share things with each other. I’ve learned about a lot of vendors that way.”
Social Media Influence:
In an article on techcrunch.com it is reported that Instagram currently has 25 million active business profiles. This is up from 15 million last July. Instagram also says that more than 80 percent of Instagram accounts follow a business, with 200 million users visiting business profiles every day. Faye recognizes the importance of social media – especially the rising popularity of Instagram.
She uses the app to look up some of her favorite designers, who they follow, what they post, etc., which also helps her connect with more vendors who might be interested in the business. “I try to work with people who aren’t necessarily saturating the market. A lot of the vendors I have, most people have never heard of and I try to stick to that.”
Faye leverages Instagram as much as she can – even taking orders from customers through the direct message feature in the app. She keeps her Instagram as on-brand as possible; posting only original content from her that she knows her fans and supporters will enjoy and want to interact with. “I strongly believe in keeping it genuine and yourself, because I think that’s what sets my brand apart and what people like about social media.”
Not Quite, A One-Woman Show
Balancing a full-time job as a stockbroker/office manager, a four-year-old daughter, and a side business can be hectic at times. Faye seems confident in her craft and the brand she’s created, which makes it easier to get things done. She says, “For the most part, I do everything myself, except I have this incredibly supportive community of women here. Amber runs the successful business, and if I have any questions, she answers them and it’s the same with the handful of other women out here. I feel like I have a team in that sense. If I need help, any of them would be there, and my boyfriend is also incredibly helpful and supportive, he helps put the boxes together, and I bounce ideas off of him and stuff like that. I definitely have a team but not necessarily working for me.”
Best friends, Amanda and Erica have taught Faye a lot. They remind her not to strive for perfection and work her hardest at what she loves. “I’m rarely stressed out at my day job and it allows me to spend the time with Pia that I need, and gives me that balance with work and home life. If I need to go do something for Upstate Crate, I have that freedom.” She is also a firm believer in meditation and keeping yourself in line. She admits how easy it is to get overwhelmed with so much going on around her. Living a disciplined lifestyle is important for Faye to maintain the sanity she needs to get things done and still have time for her family. Going off on a tangent to me for a couple minutes, Faye talks about how thankful she is to have such a well-behaved daughter. “She’s sarcastic and very independent. She doesn’t need me all the time and takes care of herself in so many ways. When I’m with her, it’s like us interacting together, having conversations, instead of just me taking care of her.” Faye starts to giggle as Pia sings a little tune in the background.
Pop Up’s & Future Plans
“I partnered with Williams Sonoma and West Elm a couple of times and I had a wonderful response to it. The holidays went so great to the point that I couldn’t keep boxes on the website. They were selling out at the Pop Up’s, and people were placing orders with me via Instagram so much that I couldn’t keep the website stocked” said Faye.
Pop Up’s are fairly new in the business world. It’s a bit of a market approach to help a brand reach out to a new audience, whether it be in a different location or venue. Faye participated in 3 this past holiday season and had great success. “I did one at Williams Sonoma, one at West Elm, and I did another one in Saratoga with a local blogger who put together a holiday market… but this year the goal is to have one Pop Up per month.”
While Faye is funding this business herself, another goal is to learn more about funding and how she can integrate it into her business this year. Driven and focused are two words to describe this entrepreneur. She has many set goals and already has a plan of action to accomplish them.
This year, she also wants to dabble more in the wedding world; welcome boxes and similar items for the wedding party and guests. She also wants to start a collective, alongside a retail space, where you can build your own box, but also have an artist workspace. Faye still has a soft spot in her heart for building up the “Sustainable Snob” brand as well. This would include higher-end home goods and other items that can’t necessarily fit into a box. Not to mention, she’s working on a networking group for women called “Anti-Networking Group” which will be about connecting like-minded individuals.
Passion & Advice
“It truly is my passion to showcase makers and to really put the spotlight on making thoughtful purchases – buying things for someone that you know will last them a lifetime. To be able to bring that to my community is just an incredible feeling and to connect with people who have such immense talent is so humbling. I truly feel like I’m a part of something bigger by having this business.” Faye answers every question with a great amount of honesty and professionalism. Her passion alone is inspiring.
I then asked her if she has any advice for women (like her) that want to follow their creative dreams and make their lives into something bigger. She says, “I think in the social media world; we tend to compare ourselves to others and compare ourselves to where others are at. I definitely have struggled with that myself and I think, trying everyday to look at how far you’ve come and not comparing yourself to how far someone else is. That’s the most important advice for anyone in any business – to follow what’s in your heart and stay true to what’s in your heart. If something doesn’t make you feel good – don’t do it.”
To learn more about Upstate Crate and Co. visit their website: https://upstatecrate.co/
Some of the people she’s worked with:
Tulsi by Tara Hogan, Camille Carnevale, Caroline Corrigan, Jasmine of Jane and William, Cassie of Olive and June Floral
Lynn of Ollie & Otto, Janelle Of Stuck in The Mud Pottery, Eileen of Nell Goods, Eilis of The Inn at Five Points, Amanda of New York Makers, Stephanie & Nina of Daughters Design Studio, Name Bubbles, Alexandra Stafford Author of Bread Toast Crumbs, Olivia Clementine, Colie of Flowerscout, Tess of Forage Sundry, Adelia of Owlkill Studio, Brigid of Les Collines, Amber Of The Bundle Store, Evergreen Olive Oil, Emma of Forts Ferry Farm, Dorothy of Brookhouse Pottery, All the wonderful women of West Elm Albany, Melissa at Williams Sonoma Crossgates, Krissy at Breakout Press, Christina at Hudson Naturals, Stella of Hudson River Exchange, Brianne from Pretty Polite Print, Kara of Wolfden Studio/Brutal by Design, Sandy of Harley Rose Studio, Dana of Dana Antonia Designs.
Also, There have been a few women who are not makers that have been instrumental in my success:
Amanda Dolan, Erika Fallon, Katy Smith, Kyle Cerutti, Holly Randall, Barbie Struss, Erin Cassavoy and My mother Judy and Mother in Law Merja (Plus Pia, my daughter, and Partner Petro)