The WiMN’s Front and Center is a weekly column that showcases accomplished women who work in the music and audio industries. We spotlight successful female performers, manufacturers, retailers, educators, managers, publicists, and everyone else in between. Want to be featured? Learn how here.
Front and Center: President and Co-Founder of Gator Cases, Crystal Morris
By Gabriella Steffenberg
Crystal Morris and her father, Jerry Freed, founded Gator Cases, which has grown to be the leading manufacturer of case solutions for the music and pro audio industries.
Starting from humble beginnings, the father-daughter duo launched a small batch of molded plastic guitar cases at the Summer NAMM show in Nashville, Tenn. Gator Cases has grown to offer over 1,000 different solutions that are made from vacuum-formed plastics, rotational-molded plastics, wood, sewn, and EVA materials, and is continually discovering new and innovative ways to protect and store all of your dearest musical possessions.
Morris has helped the company soar with her focus on building strong relationships within the music industry, and truly believing that music is the universal language. For more on Gator Cases, visit their official website, and read our interview with Morris below.
WiMN: What brought you and your dad together to create Gator Cases back in 2000?
CM: We capitalized on my dad’s long term industry experience and saw an opportunity in the accessory market. It was also perfect timing – I had just gotten married, moved to Tampa, and was attending business school. It was an opportunity to put to work what I was learning, and to have a great mentor in my Dad. So, we set up shop in my guest bedroom and I handled the operations, marketing, and accounting, while my Dad hit the road selling and developing new products.
WiMN: How has music shaped your life?
CM: Music is a universal language that brings people together and creates community. It is an exciting part of who I am to have grown up around the industry side of music, and seeing how powerful the products we produce impact people’s lives.
WiMN: What is one of the biggest milestones you’ve reached in your career thus far?
CM: To me it was about really understanding what my leadership style is and what I stand for as a person. Although, simple in the end I define my guiding principle as, “do the right thing.” Once I knew exactly what I stood for, it made it easier to make decisions and to be a strong leader. I apply this principle to all aspects of my life, and apply it every day when working with customers, employees, vendors, and business partners.
WiMN: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since entering the music industry?
CM: Business and, in particular, the music industry, is all about relationships. By building strong relationships and by being a true partner in business with your customers and vendors, the sky is the limit.
WiMN: What would people be the most surprised to learn about you?
CM: I love travel adventures! My two favorites are:
1. Traveling around the world with my 12 year old son last year – we flew to Europe to visit Thomann and then out to China to visit factories, and even stopped at the Great Wall.
2. My dad was a lifelong pilot, and I followed in his footsteps and received my pilots license after college. Shortly after I received my license, we took a small plane and landed on every island that had an airport throughout the Caribbean calling on music stores.
WiMN: Are you a musician? If so, what instrument(s) do you play?
CM: I am not. My parents sent me to years of piano lessons, but eventually the piano teacher told my mom perhaps I should focus on sports…
WiMN: Who do you look up to within the music industry?
CM: Chuck Surack, founder of Sweetwater: his dedication to offering only the best, always a can-do attitude, is an incredible leader that brings out the best in his entire team, is deeply involved in his local community, helps others be successful, and is always loyal to his friends and business partners.
Gerard Garnier, founder of Algam: continuously redefining his business, finds new opportunities, is truly a partner, cultivates long term friendships, and stays loyal to them.
WiMN: What’s a piece of valuable advice you have to give to other women looking to have a career with longevity in the music industry?
CM: You just have to dive in. It is an industry full of wonderful, passionate people. Build long term relationships and help each other be successful.
WiMN: Have you ever faced adversity within the music industry, simply because you’re a woman?
CM: I never look at it as adversity. I love being underestimated and getting to prove myself!
WiMN: What does it mean to you to receive a She Rocks Award?
CM: I was shocked, and feel very proud! It is really an honor to the entire Gator crew that makes me look good every day and to my Dad who brought me into this wonderful industry and taught me so much about business, dedication, motivation, and being passionate about everything you do.