Shaun Spivey stopped his Pathfinder in the road in front of 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 my whole life – and that’s what I want my brand to convey. That’s the water tower on our t-shirts.”
A self-taught screen printing hobby has turned into a retirement job for Spivey, who recently retired from the Montgomery County road department. Now, his brand, “The Small Town Life,” is gaining momentum in stores around the area such as Sikes and Kohn, in South Carolina and online.
“There was always that dream of having a clothing line with designs that reflected our way of living,” he said. “I’ve always enjoyed small-town life and that dream led me to where we are today.”
In addition to STL t-shirts, he has a line of caps – some embroidered and others with leather patches.
Spivey figured out on 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 Troy University professor suggested he call the Small Business Development Center at Troy University.
“He definitely made the right decision to reach out to the Center,” said Director Juliana Bolivar. “Shaun is very passionate about his brand and his clients and has become an expert in what he does, but growth comes with its own challenges. The SBDC at TROY has become his ally to support the impact of small businesses in their communities.”
Spivey shared his journey with Bolivar and his dreams about growing his activity into a brand. During that first meeting, Bolivar provided general management advice, created processes to better keep track of his finances, develop a community relations approach and refine his production processes. She also referred him to SBDC consultant Will Pouncy to serve as his advisor.
“I knew right away that Shaun had the potential to accomplish his goals and he was more knowledgeable than he gave himself credit for,” Pouncy said. “He was open to feedback and implemented the advice he was given.”
The plan he and Pouncey developed for the business’ growth hinges on two things: the development of his brand and creating a website that Spivey could manage without creating major costs in adding new products or content.
“We worked together to build a beautiful website,” Pouncy said. “This has allowed The Small Town Life to open its e-commerce sales channel and become an outlet for Small Town Graphics to receive quote requests from customers for custom merchandise they need.”
In addition, Pouncy has become a support for Spivey to get advice on financial management, understanding his break-even point, client relations and legally protecting his brand. He even is seeking educational opportunities that would improve his administrative support’s QuickBooks skills. That “administrative support” is Spivey’s wife, Carol, who works from home as a medical billing administrator.
“I appreciate that I can connect with SBDC experts when I have questions. I look around my shop and I 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.