The Ansley Family Launches New ‘Small Town Life’ Brand With Help From Consultants From TROY’s Small Business Development Center
Shaun Spivey stopped his Pathfinder on the road outside Red’s Little School House restaurant in the Pine Level community.
“You see that,” he said, pointing to the old water tower behind the restaurant. “I’ve seen that all my life – and that’s what I want my brand to convey. It’s the water tower on our t-shirts.
A self-taught screen-printing hobby turned into a retirement job for Spivey, who recently retired from the Montgomery County Highway Department. Today, her brand, “The Small Town Life,” is gaining momentum at area stores such as Sikes and Kohn, in South Carolina and online.
“There has always been this dream of having a clothing line with designs that reflect our way of life,” he said. “I’ve always loved small town life and that dream has led me to where we are today.”
In addition to STL t-shirts, he has a line of caps – some embroidered and some with leather patches.
Spivey discovered his own graphic design, embroidery and screen printing and operates Small Town Graphics from his home near Ansley in Pike County. What he couldn’t figure out on his own was how to grow his business beyond a hobby. A professor at the University of Troy suggested that he call the Small Business Development Center at the University of Troy.
“He definitely made the right decision to reach out to the Centre,” said manager Juliana Bolivar. “Shaun is very passionate about his brand and his customers and has become an expert at what he does, but with growth comes its own challenges. TROY’s SBDC has become its ally in supporting the impact of small businesses in their communities.
Spivey shared his journey with Bolivar and his dreams of making his business a brand. During this first meeting, Bolivar provided general management advice, created processes to better track its finances, developed a community relations approach, and refined its production processes. She also referred him to SBDC consultant Will Pouncy to serve as her advisor.
“I knew straight away that Shaun had the potential to achieve his goals and was more capable than he thought,” Pouncy said. “He was open to feedback and implemented the advice he received.”
The plan he and Pouncey developed for the company’s growth hinged on two things: developing its brand and creating a website that Spivey could manage without creating significant costs for adding new products or contents.
“We worked together to create a beautiful website,” Pouncy said. “This has allowed The Small Town Life to open its online sales channel and become an outlet for Small Town Graphics to receive quote requests from customers for custom products they need.”
In addition, Pouncy has become a medium for Spivey for advice on financial management, understanding its break-even point, customer relations and protecting its brand legal. He even looks for training opportunities that would improve the QuickBooks skills of his admin support. That “administrative support” is Spivey’s wife, Carol, who works from home as a medical billing administrator.
“I appreciate being able to communicate with the SBDC experts when I have questions. I look around my store and see equipment and inventory that means debt, but with the support of the SBDC team, I can also see the opportunity in the business and a plan to make it viable,” he said.