Monthly box subscriptions are all the rage right now. Over the course of the pandemic, every member of our household has had one — art boxes, meal kits, self-care products, we at one point had a craftsman crate for “a young Ron Swanson.” We allowed all of these gifted subscriptions to expire when their allotted time was up, except for one. I found the carefully curated items inside my monthly ConseCrate box too good to give up. I reached out to Ruth E. Hetland to hear the ConseCrate origin story and how her first year in the subscription box business has been.
Allison Sandlin Liles: Ruth, I’m so glad that you are willing to chat with me about ConseCrate. How did the idea of a specialized subscription box for clergy women come to you?
Ruth E. Hetland: Allison, thank you so much for letting me share a little bit about ConseCrate with you and your community at Grow Christians. The idea for ConseCrate came to me in the spring of 2020 when I was sitting outdoors at a coffee shop talking to a friend. Both of us are clergy who, at the time, served churches in rural areas. She was telling me about a subscription box that she gets regularly and how fun it was to get that little treat in the mail.
Later that same day I was listening to a podcast I enjoy called “Side Hustle School” which features stories of various side hustles people have started. I’m always looking for ideas to help us finish paying off our student loans. The episode I was listening to was about a subscription box service that a woman had started. After her story was shared, the host talked about how the important thing to consider when starting a subscription box, or any business, is to look for an underserved “niche.” I immediately thought about how few things are made just for women in ministry. I also thought about how there are so many of us women in ministry who get sent out to churches far away from family and friends and how nice “happy mail” can be when you are feeling isolated or alone. I polled a facebook group I am a part of for clergy women to see what kind of interest there was in my idea for a subscription box for women in ministry and there was a lot of great feedback. So, I decided to figure out how to make it happen!
ASL: I received two separate subscriptions to ConseCrate as Christmas presents last year and could not possibly have loved the contents of the boxes more. Right now I have a lavender sachet beside my laptop, a soy candle with hints of smoke and ash from the Ash Wednesday box to my right, and an Easter box sticker that says, “Women were the first proclaimers of the Good News” on my desk lamp. I feel buoyed by the clergy women community each time I sit down to work. What is your process for finding such relevant and creative products?
REH: I am always looking for ideas and have a lot of fun coming up with plans. It’s very exciting to feature the work of different artists or creators, especially if they are also ministers. There are so many ministers out there creating interesting things: prayer beads, roasting coffee, creating art of all kinds, writing books, making candles, etc. Also, I enjoy the process of designing funny/clever/interesting items for the boxes that are geared specifically for ministers. Some of my favorites have been a “Shattering the stained glass ceiling” pin, a handmade lemon-scented soap with labels that were created out of old Bible commentaries, “How Grape Thou Art” candy, and a handmade wooden advent candle holder.
ASL: Those “How Grape Thou Art” lollipops were so tasty! They took me right back to my childhood. In addition to the monthly boxes, ConseCrate offers one-time boxes for specific situations. How have these been received?
REH: I love making these special one-time boxes, both for individuals and groups. I love seeing the notes of encouragement that people send along with the boxes when they order them. There are so many wonderful, supportive people out there. I have one-time boxes for discernment, grief, gifts for Sunday School teachers, encouragement, and custom boxes as well. I have had various groups purchase ConseCrates for their gatherings, like right now I am making small boxes for a gathering of 100 clergy in Wisconsin. I also recently had a women’s church organization purchase ConseCrates for all the clergy in their synod. While I started out making boxes only for women in ministry, I do make boxes for ministers of all genders now. I also make a LOT of boxes as gifts for ordinations and installations.
ASL: I’m literally smiling thinking about those 100 pastors opening small ConseCrates and sorting through all the meaningful treasures inside. The ConseCrate tagline, “Because she doesn’t need another cross” speaks so much truth. It seems especially appropriate as Clergy Appreciation Month approaches next month. I know that I truly don’t need another cross. Would a subscription to ConseCrate be an appropriate gift for our Grow Christians community to buy for their priests as a way to show appreciation?
REH: While I am happy to have over 500 women in ministry across many denominations who subscribe to ConseCrate, I’d love to see more congregations buying ConseCrate as a gift for their ministers! Each box has useful, encouraging, inspirational, and humorous items – I guarantee it will be a unique gift that your ministers will enjoy and remember. It is an easy way to say “thank you” to your ministers for all that they do every day and to let them know that they are remembered and appreciated. Ministers, like everyone, have had so many challenges in dealing with Covid in their communities and work. We all can use a little extra encouragement right now. ConseCrate makes it easy for you to provide that encouragement for your ministers.
ASL: I’ve found during my time serving parishes that people long for ways to support their clergy, they’re just unsure how most of the time. It seems that ConseCrate is filling that need perfectly! I’m especially grateful for this ministry of yours.