Gather in McKinney

Opening your home and your heart for the celebration and enjoyment of others is wondrously beautiful. Going the extra mile to ensure their enjoyment and comfort is the heart of what southern hospitality is all about. Few people have this quality in spades like Crystal from Gather in McKinney. Located on the square in downtown McKinney, TX Crystal and her staff go the extra mile to ensure every guest has a memorable time.

We could not be more excited as Crystal prepares for marriage! Recently we had the great pleasure of photographing her bridal shower. Enjoy reading her story and viewing her beautiful space with designs from Unique Unique.  

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Heirloom: Do you have any morning routines? If so, would you mind sharing what they are and how they set you up for success? 

Crystal: I would love to tell people that I’m one of those business owners who has this amazing morning routine that everyone will then strive to-do, that is not the case. I have never been a morning person; along with a giant cup of coffee I need at least 30 minutes before I can even think about talking to someone.  

I do however, keep a list of items that have to be done so when I do finally make it to the office I know exactly what has to happen that day. I use the large post-it boards and have white sheets of paper all over my walls with to-do lists on them. It drives me crazy to have those papers everywhere so the faster I get things done the sooner I can take the papers down. 

Heirloom:Tell us about your journey. What led you to opening your own venue?

Crystal: My journey began with a phone call; one that I will forever be thankful for. Gather had already been opened and starting operating for about 8months when I got the call. The original owner needed out and thought my mom and I were the perfect owners for an event venue.  It had never crossed my mind that I would be interested in something like this, but once I sat down and looked at everything, and with the support of my family I knew I could do it. 4 days later I bought a business and 3 months later I left Corporate America to own a small business.  It has been the scariest, most exciting thing I have ever done.

Heirloom: What is your favorite aspect of owning your own business? 

Crystal: I get to do what I love; and I get to do it with family.  My family has always been close so to now be in business together…it’s just right.

Heirloom: Tell us the story of your biggest challenge and how you managed to overcome it.

 Crystal: Oh, that’s easy….it was getting out of my own way.  I was only 27 when I went full time owning my own business. I remember sitting behind the desk and just staring at my computer screen waiting for someone to email me a to-do list…that never happened. I learned VERY quickly I had to ask for help when I needed it and just believe in faith that it would all work out….and it did.

Heirloom: What has been the most shaping and helpful piece of advice you have received?

Crystal: I have two. 

1.    Pray – I have always believed in signs.  If it’s meant to happen then it will; however, the only way for someone to know you want it to happen is to tell them.

2.    Ask – if you don’t know the answer to something

GAIA Empowered Women

Kelly Christine recently spent an afternoon capturing the beautiful designs of GAIA Empowered Women's newest product line. GAIA is an incredible company with a touching vision. All of their products are created by refugee women who have resettled in the Dallas area. Each has a uniquely incredible story that is worth telling. We are honored to be sharing a piece of Paula and GAIA Empowered Women's with you. 

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Heirloom: Do you have any morning routines that you believe help set you up for success? If so would you mind sharing with us and why? 

Paula: My goal is to wake up at least an hour before my 3 year-old twins, which is not an easy feat. But the extra time is invaluable, as it allows me a moment of meditation, to just unscramble my thoughts to smooth out the day before me. Then of course I immediately hop on social media and/or my laptop to catch up on email! 

Heirloom: Tell us about GAIA Empowered Women. How and why did you start? 

Paula: I started my career as an apparel buyer right out of college, and after a decade of working in that industry, I started to become disenchanted by it. So I took some time off after getting married and becoming a stepmother in 2008, and began volunteering as a Mentor to a Burmese refugee woman, Catherin, and her 2 young children. After enduring over a decade in a refugee camp in Thailand, she then faced an entirely new set of challenges upon her arrival to the US….everything from learning how to use an ATM to navigating our country’s health care system. It’s overwhelming to even those of us born here, imagine how daunting it is for someone in Catherin’s shoes! Her strength and determination really moved me, and inspired me to do more. One day we were studying vocabulary words, and after describing the word “sew”, I discovered that Catherin had some basic sewing skills, and had a true “lightbulb moment.” I had been reading about how unlocking a woman’s potential is crucial to the prosperity of a community as a whole, and how giving women an opportunity to become self reliant through earning a living wage helps cultivate a brighter future for their children. I realized that I could pay her a living wage to sew pretty things with vintage textiles I had collected, utilizing my background in the fashion industry to bring it to market. So in late 2009, GAIA, for Goddess of the Earth, was born, with the ultimate mission of helping refugee women thrive in their new communities. 

Heirloom: What touches you most about the stories you hear on a daily basis? 

Paula: I’ve been most touched by the resilience of these women. After already surviving against incredible odds prior to coming here, they then have to completely rebuild their lives in a foreign land, with multiple challenges along the way. We've dealt with domestic abuse, alcoholism, illnesses, break-ins, poor living conditions, and exploitation by other employers and apartment managers. These women face it head-on, with strength and faith unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.

Heirloom: Tell us a little about you. Who is Paula and what drives and shapes who she is? 

 Paula: I’m driven by faith and family, and the desire to continuously strive to be a better version of myself. I’m definitely a work in progress! So I’m on a constant quest to enlighten myself, to gain a higher level of understanding and compassion for others. I do this through traveling as often as I can, reading a ton, and connecting with people from all walks of life — all of which continue to shape who I am.

Heirloom: What legacy do you hope the pass on to your children through your work with GAIA? What do you hope they remember most ?

Paula: I think about this a lot, because I really struggle with the whole work/life balance thing, and often feel guilty about taking time away from my kiddos while I try to grow this business.  
But I feel strongly that “From those to whom much is given, much is expected,” so my hope is that they grow up with an awareness of need and struggle in the world, and the compassionate desire to use their own gifts and passions to serve others.

Hopefully, they'll look back on their childhood with a busy working mamma, and will recognize the value of meaningful work, and how gratifying and fulfilling it can be to help those that need it most.