Janet Crowther I Co-founder + CEO of For the Makers
"Make decisions for the long haul. Really seek out longevity and substance. You need to know the big picture so the little picture stuff doesn’t cloud your judgement. Being an entrepreneur is hard. Running a business is hard. Being a boss is hard. But if you love what you do and you do it the best that you can there is no stopping you...fingers crossed. Also, just start."
Where did you grow up?
Hillsborough, North Carolina
Describe that place and its people…
It’s a small town about 30 minutes from the state capital with lots of historic character, green open spaces, farmland, friendly people and deep rooted pride. I like it more now that I don’t live there. I love going back to visit. You get swept up in the slow pace, good southern food and hellos from everyone you knew as a kid.
What were you like as a child? What did you want to do when you grew up?
I loved helping in the kitchen, baking with my mom, color coordinating, designing my own clothes...although I would convince my mom to sew them for me. I think I was always aware of color and pattern and style. I remember organizing my clothes all the time by color, weight, shape, etc… I was pretty good at bossing my younger brothers around who luckily still love me. We put on plays and programs, sang and danced around the house. Got into all kinds of trouble in our big backyard. I have really fond memories of growing up.
There wasn’t really anything in particular that I wanted to be. I remember wanting to be an obstetrician, now I faint at the sight of blood so that was short lived. Of course I wanted to be an ice skater and I really can’t skate to save my life, and I remember telling my mom that I wished I could just add herbs and flavorings to soup. As a job. So there’s that.
When did you first leave home? Where did you go?
The first college I attended was in Charlotte, North Carolina. I always wanted to move to New York but at the time I don’t know if I was ready to live that far from home so I settled on what I thought was the largest city in North Carolina. Turns out it wasn’t big enough and I didn’t end up staying that long.
When did you come to New York City? Was there a particular reason you wanted to come here?
I moved to New York City about 8 years ago. After graduating college in North Carolina I wanted to get another degree in jewelry design and had my sights set on the Fashion Institute of Technology. They have a really great jewelry design program, so I applied, was accepted and moved on up. Hard to believe that was 8 years ago because it feels like yesterday.
Is there something about New York that is especially inspiring to you?
The only thing that isn’t inspiring right now about NYC is how damn cold it is. Or maybe that too is inspiring in its own way? Inspiring me to want to go on vacation, I guess. In all seriousness...New York City is the tippy tops. I love people watching, exploring the art museums, wandering down fifth avenue, sitting in the park, and grabbing coffee from our local coffee shop. All that information scrambles around in your head and then materializes at the right moment.
When did your love of DIY begin?
Really early. I grew up in a very creative household. My mom was always making things; clothes, cakes, furniture, cards and gifts, you name it. The entire upstairs of our house was my bedroom and then a gigantic craft room. There were designated craft stations. The sewing table, card making table, painting table, fabric and ribbon wall, craft book references on multiple book shelves. I loved it up there.
When was For the Makers founded? How did you first come to the idea for it?
For the Makers started late 2011. I was a full-time jewelry designer at the time, and I knew for a long time that I wanted to start my own business. I would have “let’s start a business” meetings with my other jewelry design friends where we would sit and discuss potential ideas. This was really just a way to drink a glass of wine with the girls but in a roundabout way it eventually brought me to the idea that is For the Makers. As a jewelry and accessory designer I met all these amazing suppliers and vendors who weren’t available to the everyday maker. I was already designing product for our target audience, so I wanted to combine the inspiration, tutorials, and materials into a cohesive and easy package and service. After working on For the Makers for about a year and a half it was becoming too hard to keep up with my full-time jewelry work and really put in the time that the business needed so I left my job and made For the Makers my full time focus!
Do you feel it answers a call or need for people?
I do. I get emails all the time from our customers telling me how much they love For the Makers and how it brings them joy and a sense of accomplishment. Those emails and affirmations are the best!
How would you describe your projects?
Fashion forward, original and fun.
What motivates to you to do what you do?
I was always a hard worker and put in 110% no matter the endeavor but loving my job and wanting to see the company grow is what motivates me now. I love For the Makers, and I love working on something that I can be proud of and my employees can be proud of.
How do you come up with your ideas?
At For the Makers we reinvent the feeling and theme of the DIY collections each month. We look at runway trends, street style, travel destinations, color trends and new materials that we can’t wait to make a project out of. We do lots of testing and sample making before choosing just the right projects. It’s a hard job. [smiles]
Do you feel your work and designs are influenced by New York City?
Absolutely. New York always provides an endless amount of inspiration. From museums to street style to fashion week to the corner coffee shop, it would be hard to ignore all of the creative vibes passing by.
What are your favorite materials to work with?
Oh, That’s a tough question. I have so many. I love trying to use common materials in new and unconventional ways. In the past we used vintage rhinestones and baked them into clay jewelry, we used orthodontist plaster to make a bowl and candlesticks, and figured out a way to use silver leaf as fun temporary tattoos.
Favorite makers and/or artists right now?
It’s constantly changing but I’ve been creeping on a few instagram accounts lately including: @hopewellworkshop @_avoavo_ @confettisystem and @ktsmail
What does a typical day look like for you?
I’m all over the place. At 9:00 AM I’m trying to get clothes on my squirmy nine month old, stuffing my computer and cords into my bag, running around trying to find clean socks, pouring all the coffee from the chemex into my thermos and pretending I was ready an hour earlier than it is right now. When I get into the office no day is typical and it mostly depends on what part of developing the next collection we are working on or what special projects we have in the pipeline. I could be researching trends, going over color palettes, testing new sewing techniques, gathering samples, and talking to vendors. Then I have to reign it all in and focus on the business aspect of For the Makers; development meetings, returning emails, planning, budgeting, and catching up with the team on goals and tasks for the day. Of course all of this is supported by lots of coffee and treat breaks! I really enjoy the creative time when I get to sit down and make something with my hands. That is the thing that comes the most natural.
What’s your favorite part about doing what you do?
Connecting with makers all over the country. It is so much fun to see a customer make a project and style it to fit into their home or wardrobe.
What’s your biggest challenge?
Can I say hours in the day? Usually around 6 o’clock I’m always saying something along the lines of “Ughhhh why is it already 6?” and then the same thing around 2am. I really wish days and nights were longer.
Any lessons you've learned along the way?
Being thrown into a world of business and tech I’ve learned many things about starting and running a business. There really is no way to avoid mistakes as you go, and I think it’s important to make them which shows you’re trying and growing and making things happen. Then you learn from them, and you go on to make new mistakes. I’ve learned a lot about being a manager and a boss. I still have a lot more to learn. Motivating your team and maintaining positive energy is important. I’ll never tell you that I’m the best at something because I think you can always improve. Always strive for better. It’s sometimes hard to celebrate the wins with this kind of attitude but I’m learning to take a pause every now and then and celebrate the small successes and the big successes.
Have you had any mentors along the way?
I have lots of mentors who I go to for certain things. My mom is probably my biggest mentor. She is the most creative, level-headed person I know and she gives pretty good advice!
Do you have any advice for someone who wants to do what you do? Or for anyone who wants to live a more creative life?
Make decisions for the long haul. Really seek out longevity and substance. You need to know the big picture so the little picture stuff doesn’t cloud your judgement. Being an entrepreneur is hard. Running a business is hard. Being a boss is hard. But if you love what you do and you do it the best that you can there is no stopping you...fingers crossed. Also, just start.
What does the word authentic mean to you? How does your work allow you to live authentically?
Just being true to yourself and non-conforming. I’m lucky to be able to present myself and my ideas in a way that isn’t bound by someone else's thoughts or wishes. I am For the Makers.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you do?
I can’t imagine doing anything else right now. But eventually I just want to travel everywhere. Until I miss home.