Meet The PE Class Of 2018: Morgan Spenla, Founder and CEO of The Crafter’s Box

#PEIntensive16, #PEIntensive18, craft startup, design, female founders, sustainability, technology

The 2018 PE Intensive, taking place April 13 & 14, brings together the the top 200 female founders from the PE Venture Competition for hands-on workshops and mentorship in New York City. Among the 200 are 10 finalists who have been given the additional opportunity to participate in the pitch competition on Saturday, April 14 for a chance to receive a $10,000 grant and a spot in a five-week accelerator program hosted at Rent the Runway’s headquarters.

In the week leading up to #PEIntensive18, we’re featuring the 10 pre-selected finalists (two additional wildcard companies to be chosen during the Intensive will also present at the live pitch competition) and introducing them and their companies to our PE Community. Visit our 2018 PE Intensive website to meet the entire #PEClassOf2018, join our mailing list for Intensive updates, and follow Intensive highlights and behind-the-scenes with hashtag #PEIntensive18.

Morgan Spenla is the Founder and CEO of The Crafter’s Box, a monthly crafting subscription pairing thoughtfully sourced materials & tools with detailed, digital, artist-led workshops. Morgan has a background working on enterprise software implementation teams, running the marketing department of an engineering firm, developing intensive digital and in-person educational & training plans, and building social media, website and print campaigns from scratch.

Morgan sat down with Stephanie Benedetto, Founder and CEO of Queen Of Raw and a PE Class of 2016 Finalist, to chat about sustainability and “slow crafting,” future plans for growing and scaling The Crafter’s Box, and to discuss Morgan’s plans for #PEIntensive18.

Meet The PE Class Of 2018: Morgan Spenla, Founder and CEO of The Crafter's BoxPhoto courtesy Morgan Spenla

Stephanie Benedetto: What does it mean for you and your business to be part of Project Entrepreneur, and why did you decide to apply in the first place?

Morgan Spenla: What really attracted me to the idea of PE was the idea of bringing women together—women leaders, women visionaries, women who see the world a little differently and who have an idea that can change the world in their different industries and niches. What I’m really looking forward to is the ability to collaborate and meet and sync up with so many women entrepreneurs.

SB: It was definitely an incredible program and your reasons for applying are similar to the reasons why I applied. When you see names like UBS and Rent the Runway, that stands for something. Plus we know that women-focused initiatives are just so important.

Another really great part of the program is that it’s industry agnostic, and the fact that you’re at these tables with women from different industries and with different expertise is really unique. Is there anything in particular that you’re looking to learn more about at the Intensive, in terms of a certain expertise or maybe something you can pull from an industry that’s different than ours?

MS: My first interest is the opportunity be in the same room and same workshops with these women, and to learn from the speakers who have gone before us [on this entrepreneurial journey] and have so much knowledge to share.

One of the other lades attending the Intensive immediately reached out to me after seeing the announcement of the 200 female founders attending and introduced herself. We’re actually going to room together while we’re at the Intensive, and her business, which is all about sustainable sourcing is really aligned with my business, so we’re already seeing opportunities to collaborate. I think a lot of those relationships will be built at the Intensive, where there’s an open opportunity to give and ask on a more personal level. Asking other female entrepreneurs things like: How are you solving this problem? Can you help solve this pain point for me? Do you know anyone in this industry who can help me? There’s going to be a lot of across-the-table collaboration which is really exciting.

SB: Really exciting!

I was an attorney before I launched my startup, so I knew that I wanted to attend Intensive workshops that were about business modeling, financial modeling and fundraising. Have you already signed up for workshops, and do you know the ones that you want to sit in on?

MS: Yes! I come from a business background on the tech side, so I feel pretty prepared when it comes to business strategy and business planning and forecasting. An area where I think I could definitely grow is learning about PR and exposure and how to really tell your story, so those are the kinds of workshops I’m gravitating towards. One of the workshops I signed up for is all about crafting the story [of your brand] and how it ties into your businesses strategy—I think that workshop is going to be incredibly helpful.

SB: As you know, my company is in the same field and I’m very passionate it, as my family has been working in textiles and sustainability for 100 years. So how did you go from tech to textiles and sustainability? Looking to the future, why is this important to you, and how did you come up with the idea for your company?

Meet The PE Class Of 2018: Morgan Spenla, Founder and CEO of The Crafter's Box
Photo courtesy The Crafter’s Box

MS: My company, The Crafter’s Box, was founded in 2015. I’d just finished six years as the marketing director of an engineering firm in the Silicon Valley/Monterey Bay area and was really enjoying what I was doing, but I found that I really wanted to market something I was passionate about.

I’m by no means an artist, but I consider myself a maker, so the creative part of me needs to be part of my balanced, everyday life. I’m constantly inspired by the creativity around me. I kinda had the “Aha!” moment for The Crafter’s Box when I took my daughters (ages 5, 3 and 6 months at the time) to my neighborhood hobby shop one night after work. I was attempting to do some jewelry and leather work and I was searching the craft aisle, and this decision paralysis came over me as I was overcome by all the options for tools and materials.

My daughters were ready to turn the place upside down, so before that happened, I think I just walked out of there with hundreds of dollars worth of supplies when I really only needed a few things to make something very small. At the time I told myself I’d just return the unnecessary items later, but we know what happens when we get busy!

I started working on the jewelry project, but the necklace I was making just kept breaking over and over again, and I couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. Had I used the wrong wire? Had I bought the wrong tools? I needed a workshop, but my hometown doesn’t offer any local workshops. I was so frustrated, and that’s what my pain point was and why I started my company. A lot of us are creatives or makers at heart, and we need opportunities to grow and thrive in our own way.

SB: I think the best ideas are those that solve pain points we experience ourselves! That’s also how I started my company!

I appreciate what you’re doing in this space. Something like 1 in 2 American adults are makers or crafters or tinkerers, and this is such a powerful moment for the movement. Are there other reasons why you think right now is the right time for The Crafter’s Box?

MS: Yes, absolutely—the crafting industry right now is a $44 billion industry, and the number of people who are realizing their potential as crafters and makers is astonishing. Coincidentally, something that’s also really inspiring is that we’re seeing this movement towards the idea of sustainability. We’re trying to build a “slow crafting” business—the idea is that you know where your crafting resources came from, the raw materials are something that you can appreciate. There’s a desire for the “farm to table” experience across different industries, whether it’s sustainable crafting or sustainable clothing. It’s really about supporting the crafting industry full circle.

SB: What is your long-term vision and plan for The Crafter’s Box? Any targets or milestones coming up?

MS: The vision for the company in terms of growth is building a consistent message and sharing the message of encouragement to creatives everywhere that their gifts and their hobbies and their talents are important and help them thrive and stay balanced as whole persons. That’s one of the messages we want to continue pushing. And also that learning and growing while doing what it is that makes you you, is incredibly important.

We also want to remind people that where their raw materials are sourced matters, and if we can inspire and introduce other makers to our mission, that builds up everybody.

Visit our 2018 PE Intensive website to meet the entire #PEClassOf2018, join our mailing list for Intensive updates, and follow Intensive highlights and behind-the-scenes with hashtag #PEIntensive18.