Carley Seale, the owner of Favor the Kind, a special boutique born in Dallas, says, “I remember my first day at The Gypsy Wagon (that was our old name) very well. I was excited, anxious, and bursting with hope.”
She goes on to say, “When I opened the first store in 2007, I had no guarantees it was going to work, but I believed in my heart that it would.“
This is the unfailing positivity Carley has. She had a dream to create a special space in Dallas and with a lot of hard work and dedication, she has done that and so so much more.
She says, “This place has truly been fueled by dreams, starting with the cute little house on Bonita Avenue. One by one my team has grown, joining me with hard work, passion, and talent to chase this dream.”
We are truly inspired by the hustle that Carley has infused into FTK and her ever-growing team. This spot has become a haven full of handmade, sustainably produced apparel, gifts, and home decor. When it comes to the products, she elaborates, “[We stock] products made by people and companies our customers can feel good about supporting.”
When you learn more about Carley and Favor the Kind, there is no question how Stray Dog fits into the story and brand of this unique spot. We are so happy to know Carley and be continuously inspired by her grit and hard work.
Read below to learn more about her and Favor the Kind’s story:
You’ve had a varied life and work experience. How did you end up landing on a store?
The dream of being a shop owner came in my teenage years. In high school, I worked in a fine jewelry store, and then a men's clothing store. In college in the mid-90s, I worked all four years for a popular retailer called Harold’s. Retail was such a blast... I loved the comings and goings, the energy of happy customers, and I just can’t help it... I find joy in cute stuff. I opened my first store when I was 32, after working 8 years in medical sales. The transition to entrepreneurship was right from the start. I love the challenges, I love chasing opportunities, I thrive in change. I live for connectivity. I am thirteen years into this business, with 4 stores, and zero regrets. I know I have found the perfect career.
I love the name Favor the Kind. How did you settle on that for a store name after Gypsy Wagon? Can you tell us a little bit about the whole name change?
I named my store The Gypsy Wagon after admiring a literal gypsy wagon that my friend in the antique business owned. It was so colorful and I felt it represented the fun, vibrant, unique offering that my store would give. Ten years into it, I learned that “gypsy” was used as a racial slur in many parts of the world. At first, I was defensive… saying “but that isn’t what gypsy means to ME.” But with a little research and reflection, the light bulb went off. I want to always try my best to be on the side of compassion and understanding. I am grateful for what was revealed to me through that process. Favor the Kind is a derivative of a quote I had over my desk that said “fortune favors the brave.” Being brave does get you places, but I rather wanted my work to be fueled by kindness.
This has been an incredibly challenging environment for the retail brick-and-mortar stores. How have you reworked your business model to survive?
I am constantly reworking to survive! My biggest mistake in the past 13 years was growing too fast. When the stores started getting attention, developers started calling. I was flattered and I should have just said thank you. But instead, I opened up 2 stores at once. It turned out that I couldn’t be in 4 places at once. My vision was clear, but the training was missing. My team was eager and passionate, but they couldn’t read my mind. I am grateful my business survived that lesson and my response was to make my customer service and operational goals crystal clear. Our written mission statement is to “Spread Joy.” I coach the value of customer engagement. I insist we all show up enthusiastic about the work we get to do. I encourage and reward the problem-solvers. That mindset prepared us for 2020.
I teach my team that we are here to serve the people who pay our paychecks. I reminded the team that our customers needed joy in their lives more than ever. We bought products that were relevant, that brought joy. We showed up with smiles under our masks. We maintained CDC protocols in the store so our customers felt safe. If there was ever a time to lean into our new name, it was during our journey through the pandemic. Last year was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Nothing good comes without sacrifice.
What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to open a store today?
It may have been done before, but it hasn’t been done by you. It is so easy to let fear take over. How will you stand out? How will you be different from what is already being offered? It’s simple... my mom’s mac-and-cheese tastes totally different than my husband’s mac-and-cheese. They both have 4 ingredients and are both delicious. If the numbers work, go for it. Just be you and the magic is yours to share.
We know your flagship store is in Dallas. How has the culture of that community shaped the development and growth of your brand?
Dallas has been so good to FTK. From day one, I wanted to make a store that 3 generations could shop hand-in-hand. When I see it happening it fills my cup! We invite all ages and all budgets to shop our store. We are there for our customers through every celebration and every hardship. On the flip side, they have seen us shift, morph, grow, and make mistakes. I love that we are connected to our community in this way. We are all in this together.
How do you like the mix of housewares with fashion?
Having a diverse product mix has been our secret to success. We can push the gas on home goods when fashion is falling behind, and vice versa. I can’t preach it enough: diversity, diversity, diversity. We even created a private label fine jewelry line and that brings in a totally different customer. One of our best-selling SKUs in the store is our crowd favorite: $18 sunglasses. Not many stores can offer you a Free People top, a dish towel, diamond studs, a baby rattle, and a sticker for your water bottle. We make it work because our mission is to spread joy, not sell stuff. The stuff is just the vessel.
How does Stray Dog fit into your store’s story?
Stray Dog Designs just totally lights my fire! Is it the colors? Is it the touch of hand? Is it the back-story? Is it whimsey? Is it Billy’s obvious gratitude and authenticity when takes the time to thank me for my order? Stray Dog is all the right ingredients. I placed a big order this spring to share the Stray Dog story with all four of our locations. We have a section of the store that we dubbed “casita bonita,” where we offer goods made from around the world by artisans, mostly from Mexico and Central America. I am giddy to see how our customers will react to the Stray Dog collection. It is going to be such a statement!
How do you see things going in the near future? Are you optimistic about how FTK will move forward?
This past year taught me not to look too far ahead. It also taught me that investing well in people and relationships is more personally rewarding to me than financial growth. Going through COVID with my team shed a light on an opportunity I had not truly valued before. I have a staff of 40 women, and I directly impact their workweek, their balance, and their development. My opportunity now is to teach my team the value of doing purpose-filled work and provide a firsthand experience to learn leadership. Through an everyday retail job, they can absolutely grow as leaders... into strong, compassionate women. This training and foundation will only help us be prepared for the next pandemic or the next storm. Meanwhile, we get to focus on creating joy! What fun! No matter what happens next, we’re ready for it.
In the same vein, where do you see FTK in 10 years?
What I hope is I am building is an organization that stands the test of time. I am amazed by how many opportunities are right in front of us that we don’t have the time to engage with yet. Isn’t that so exciting!? The dream is endless to anyone who wants it. And the future is bright!