Nashville Moment: Gertrude Crumpton
In only two years, the third grader has developed an impressive client list and a vision befitting a pint-sized CEO.
Written By: Margaret Littman
Photographers: Shannon Fontaine
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Gertrude Crumpton, Young Entrepreneur
Gertrude Crumpton does her homework in the car after school while her sister, Madeline, drives them from the University School of Nashville campus to East Nashville. She has to finish in time to get to work at Hankabee Button Co., her custom button (and mirror, and bottle-opener) business. In only two years, the third grader has developed an impressive client list (including Kacey Musgraves) and a vision befitting a pint-sized CEO.
What’s in a name: Born Henrietta, her nickname was Hanke, leading to The Hankabee Button name. In 2015, Greenbrier Distillery, after buying custom buttons, offered free vintage factory-worker shirts with embroidered names to the Hankabee team. There wasn't a "Henrietta," but there was one emblazoned with "Berta," which became her name for the next year. On her 9th birthday Berta re-named herself (again) after a character from a game she and her sisters used to play: Gertrude The Three Legged Cat Nine Eyes.
Family businesses: Gertrude's family members are local creatives. Dad (Dave) is also known as Inspector Dave, a home inspector who just launched Shotgun Willie’s BBQ. Mom (Sunny Becks-Crumpton) runs several businesses under the Harlan Ruby umbrella, including Hankabee and hoopsupplies.com, and is the person who originally put the idea of a button business into Gertrude's ear. (She’s clearly Gertrude’s fashion inspiration, too, with cat-eye glasses and a flair for vintage style.) Sister (Fiona Flaherty) is an artist and illustrator.
Typical workday: By the time the sisters arrive at the shop on Woodland after school, Fiona and Sunny have the afternoon’s orders ready to be processed. The girls print out images, either drawn by Fiona or Gertrude or provided by the customers, which have included local bands, non-profits, and small businesses. Equipment allows them to press the buttons (magnets, pocket mirrors, and now bottle openers, too, sold in the Shotgun Willie's BBQ food truck) more than one at a time, which is crucial, as the largest order to date has been 4,000 buttons.
“Sometimes I slack off and go get a snack,” Gertrude concedes. “When I get hungry, I get really angry, which nobody wants to see.”
Expansion plans: Gertrude sees Hankabee as “an ongoing business for my whole life,” and she looks forward to taking over daily management. In the short-term, she hopes to acquire equipment to make square-shaped and beer-cap buttons.
Financial goal: “I'm saving up for a car, which is really weird for a kid. A Tesla. It goes without gas. I already put a down payment on it with my button money. I'm going to visit my stepsister in Boston in it. My mom's going to drive, because I don't have a license.”