I first encountered the Hankabee Button Company a few years ago, when my fiancé had hired the local company to make buttons for his bar. He taped up an invoice to the inside of the DJ booth with the note: “She’s seven and she’s writing invoices, I had to keep it!”
As someone who continues to Google invoice templates if I ever have to write one, I was impressed that a 7-year-old even knew what an invoice was. But these skills are probably the least impressive thing about the girl behind Hankabee.
One of the youngest business license holders in Nashville (she’s 9 now), Gertrude Crumpton is quickly funding her dream of owning a Tesla through making and selling custom buttons. [Ed. note: Gertrude has formerly gone by the names Henrietta and Berta, among others, as her family lets her pick a new moniker when she feels like it.]
“I had purchased a machine for my own shop,” explains Gertrude’s mom, Sunny, who runs a bright gift shop out of East Nashville called Harlan Ruby. “I realized there weren’t any button-making places in Nashville, and I thought it would be a really cool thing for my then-16-year-old, Madeline, to do.” When her middle daughter gave Sunny an immediate no, Gertrude, the youngest, was quick to voice her own ambitions.
“Gertie’s hand was up high in the back seat like she was in class, saying, ‘I want to start a company! I want to have clients!’” And thus, the Hankabee Button Company was born.
With the help of the whole family, Gertrude’s button business has grown from a single machine to a full-scale operation, with clients that even include big-time Nashville musicians like Kacey Musgraves. Gertie’s oldest sister Fiona helps out with some of the design elements, as she’s an excellent hand-letterer. “My mom prints the art,” says Gertrude. “My sister Madeline helps me work with the machine. Madeline, Fiona, Mom, and I answer emails, and my dad puts pins in the buttons.”
All buttons are designed and assembled in the family’s East Nashville studio, housed in the same complex as Harlan Ruby (where you should also check out the fun jewelry, cards, and other gifts). Most weekend days you can find at least one of the sisters in the studio or shop working on something bright and exciting; the family also makes things like tea towels, candles, and jump ropes. “My favorite part of the business is working with my sisters,” says Gertrude.
Though Gertie mostly makes custom buttons these days — you can order them on her website for $17.50, or $20 for a set of 25, depending on the size; magnets are a little pricier — the shop has been a great place to showcase her designs, which currently include a collection called “She Persisted.” (Proceeds go to the ACLU and Gathering For Justice.) Some buttons, like those available on the Hankabee site for $1 each, are vintage reproductions from Gertie’s own collection.
If you’re not going to make it out to Nashville anytime soon, the family has shared that they’re working on a Hankabee mobile shop, soon to be driving across the US. While it might not be a Tesla (yet), it’s still a pretty impressive story for any young entrepreneur — let alone one still in grade school.
805 Woodland St #301, Nashville, TN 37206