Small Business Profile: Kerry Stokes and Abby Ferik, Owners of Calhoun & Co
Hi Kerry and Abby! Tell us a little bit about yourselves.
Kerry — Abby & I grew up together on a cul-de-sac, and spent our childhood at each other’s homes & in our backyards more than anywhere else. We had always talked about doing something together, and when we finally sat down to talk about it early last year — we quickly landed on designing products for the home. We definitely played around with exactly what that meant, but we knew that the idea of designing pieces that surround you when you’re spending time with your closest friends & family seemed the most exciting to us.
What were your first jobs?
Kerry — My very first job was babysitting, but the first job that felt like a job was working at a local garden center. It was a job I loved going to. I worked there during summer vacations and on weekends while in high school, and got to drive a Bobcat and a Forklift Front Loader around the property. I wore my brother’s old work boots and cut-off jean shorts and had to line my parent’s car with plastic garbage bags, because after a day of either rolling sod into someone’s car, re-potting plants, or re-organizing which plants you saw up front — I was always covered in dirt.
Abby — My first job was at a law firm and I basically sat in a basement and sorted old, dusty files while listening to one radio station that would tune in. That job was where I learned to love coffee. On a lucky day I got to deliver mail upstairs to the big wigs, which was the highlight of my days occasionally. Not the coolest gig, but hey I made some of my own dough to spend at the mall to do what I love the most - shopping!
What lead you to begin Calhoun & Co?
Kerry — Mostly the want to create & have fun.
Abby — The ability to be more creative and make more of an impact with a partner I've been dying to work with and product I feel passionate about.
Tell us more about the origins of the brand’s name.
Kerry — Abby & I grew up on Calhoun Ave. We have a really special connection to our neighborhood, and the neighbors we grew up with. Our parents still live there, and we’re super close with the other “kids” who we grew up with.
How do you design the products you have in your shop?
Kerry — There’s not one single way we go about anything. I always want to design items that I’d either want in my own home, and would love to give someone as a gift. Sometimes an idea will pop into my head while I’m walking the dog and quickly sketch it out later that day. Other times it’s just thinking about what do I want to surround myself with, and what do I want to see more of. I’m inspired by everything; trips, food, exploring, colors, animals, feelings…
What is your ideal home environment?
Kerry — Lots of natural light, lots of plants, color & texture. I can’t wait to have a home with outdoor space & a garden.
Abby — Modern and clean, but also filled with pops of color and my personality. I’m itching to move from my little NYC apt to finally start my home the right way rather than a mix of mine and my fiancés.
How do you connect with your customers and community?
Kerry — So we’re actually attempting to build this connection up a little more. We’re launching (or will have just launched once this posts) a blog potion of our site where we can get more involved with our community, and where our community can feel involved with Calhoun & Co. We’re still figuring out exactly how that piece will work — but it’s in an attempt to build up a Calhoun & Co. community.
What are some brands/designers that you are excited about that we should know of?
Kerry — Some friends or folks I’ve met at one time or another; APPRVL, Of Note Stationers, Sophie Hughes Jewelry (my sister in law!) artist Kristin Texeira, tinyDWED, ShanMan Clay Co.
Why do you think it’s important to shop small and support local makers?
Kerry — I think it’s important for SO many reasons. Shopping small and supporting local builds a strong bond within your community while adding so much more flavor and inspiration. Supporting those around you feels good for you, and feels great for the person you’re supporting. I genuinely believe the more we support other small businesses the happier we will all feel. It truly matters where your products are coming from, and what kind of people you are supporting. Are you supporting people who want this world to be a better place? Do you support people who work their butts off to create unique products? Do you support a company who has honest and good values? It’s really easy to not think about all of those things when we’re shopping around for a specific product. But I think the more we all ask ourselves “what kind of company am I supporting” the more we’ll choose to support people who we want to succeed.
What is your favorite thing about your workspace?
Kerry — The natural light. While our space is starting to feel a bit cramped (we work out of my apartment), I just love how much light flows into the space in the morning. Also…working from home means I get to spend the day with my dog Slug — which makes me very happy.
What makes you passionate about the work that you do?
Kerry — I just love designing and making-always have & always will! But then seeing someone excited to get one of our products? That is the coolest thing.
What are some of the setbacks or challenges you faced when starting Calhoun & Co?
Kerry — We are a brand that is all made in the USA — which can be challenging at times. There just aren’t a ton of manufacturers left here, and sometimes an idea we have just doesn’t seem very possible to have produced close to home.
At The Glossary, we believe in women working together and helping one another. Why do you think it is important for women to support each other?
Kerry — We all do better when we support one another. Providing support for other women in turn only makes you stronger.
What creative women do you find inspiring?
Kerry — So many! But mostly I find women who aren’t afraid to be honest about their feelings and experiences to be the most inspiring. It’s easy to look at other brands and people out there and snowball into a comparison game, but we all know — that we’re only seeing part of the story. I just find it refreshing when someone says “damn — this was really hard, and I failed like 5 times, and I’m happy with it now, but who knows if anyone else will like it.” I briefly met Jen Gotch from Ban.do, and I felt like she was just so down to earth I felt even more inspired by her. I love following along Justina Blakeney — and find everything she does to be an inspiration. I’m inspired by my friends who are doing their thing the best they can. My friend Greta started making baby clothes for her nephew, and has been a making machine (she just started a blog called tinyDWED!) I’m so motivated by her energy to come home after a day of work, and just keep creating. I’m always inspired by the other makers at the shows/ and events we do (American Field & Renegade). We’ve met so many great people and talented designers—they’re all such an inspiration. When you’re in a big room filled with people who are passionate about their products, it’s hard to pick just one. Also — when people are just straight up kind. I find that very inspiring.
What have you learned from owning your business that you think can apply to any creative endeavor?
Kerry —I’ve really been learning about and practicing my self-motivation and self-inspiration. Some days it’s a little more difficult to just sit down and get to work when you’re feeling a little lost or overwhelmed. I think that will be a forever work in progress.
Abby — Being more open outside of what I've learned in my past and current job and taking risks, while still being smart. Since we are so new it can feel a bit scary trying something new, but it's also the only way we are going to learn and grow so taking some of these fresh ideas and doing them in a smart way is important in the beginning.
What are you looking forward to in the coming months?
Kerry — Looking forward to/bracing for the holiday season. I’m super excited about some new designs we have launching in September.
Abby — To putting some more time into Calhoun, getting creative with Kerry on the designs and some strategies for a great rest of the year! It has been an exciting ride and we are learning so much! Can't wait to see what the rest of this year brings.
Would you like to share any of your long term creative aspirations?
Kerry — For now, my longest-term aspiration would be to continue designing products that bring a smile to people’s faces.
Abby — Same as Kerry! Growing up I always dreamed of owning my own store because I love the idea of offering product you love and having your very own customers to share with and make happy! We have so many ideas and passions that we can apply to our product as we grow and I cannot WAIT to get more creative and offer MORE!
How do you manage a work/life balance?
Kerry — Oh man…. I try lots of different things to feel balanced, but I’m not so sure I’ve figured out the best way for me yet. I am trying to be better about setting aside more time to totally unplug from work and just go do something or make something—for fun. Especially because I work from home, it’s easy to be like “well… I can just roll these blankets while we watch a movie”, or something. I feel like I’m seeing a theme of rebellion against obtaining the perfect work/life balance. I guess if I can continue to make time for my family, friends, myself, & work— then that’s all that matters.
Abby — It has been a bit of a wild year and since I have another job alongside Calhoun I really have to schedule out my days between nights to work (and enjoy!) in Brooklyn on Calhoun after work and nights to spend time with my family and friends. Setting goals further out is what I'm tying to be better about because I'm realizing more and more how precious time is and feeling more planned out ends up making everyone a lot happier. We all deserve at least a little bit of a break and if you don't make that time you might not get it!
What are some of your favorite places in Brooklyn?
Kerry — to eat; Bozu, Concord Hill, Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, Paulie Gee’s & Ringalevio. To drink; Tuffet, Night of Joy, & St. Mazies. To Shop; Myths Of Creation, Leif, Beacon’s Closet, Shop La Di Da Dee, and Burson & Reynolds. To hang out; Fort Tilden at Rockaway Beach (okay… this is actually Queens… but I love spending the day out there).