Custom printed apparel maker presses forward to grow despite pandemic
Shandy Broom spent more than 25 years as a project manager or owner in construction, contracting and industrial fields. Along the way, he assembled a toolbox filled with practical business skills. While working in his full-time job in project management, Broom and his wife Kelly decided to create a fun sideline business at home in Ripley.
Established in 2008, Swiftees offers custom apparel and fundraising to schools, businesses and organizations.
“We started our business out of our tiny garage with one printing press,” said Broom. “Our goal was to create a business with work we enjoyed and that would allow us to support our family. Little did we know that 13 years later, we would employ several people and give them the means to support their own families as well.”
Shandy and Kelly Broom are co-owners. He serves as chief executive officer and she as chief operating officer.
The family-owned business has staff to help customers select the right apparel. Graphic designers can help create original artwork, develop the customer’s idea, refine an existing sketch or work with a completed logo. The screening, printing and embroidery are all done in-house.
From the startup in the 500-square-foot garage, the Brooms moved their operations into a 1,600- square-foot commercial workspace in 2012. They upscaled again in 2017 with a move into a 3,200-square-foot space.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck. In March 2020, West Virginia and most of the rest of the country mandated many businesses to restrict hours or close entirely to safeguard public health.
“During the pandemic, we nearly lost all of our business and had to shut down,” Broom said. ‘Thankfully we were able to temporarily lay off our employees in a way they could still take care of themselves and their families.”
Instead of lamenting what was lost, Broom focused on building new opportunities.
Swiftees moved into a 10,000-square-foot facility across the street from its previous location, more than doubling its workspace. All inventory, manufacturing, administrative and retail operations are housed under the same roof.
“It would have been safest to stay put, but opportunities can disappear quickly if you spend too long overthinking,” he said. “We realized our growth, organic or strategic, is limited by our capacity to perform. In our case, the metric of revenue generated per square foot was indicating change, which required more building square footage. It was always the plan to move into a larger facility, so when the opportunity to acquire a larger space arrived, we decided to move forward despite the world pandemic. We took a big risk by moving into a larger facility during this difficult time. The risk paid off.”
All of Swiftees’ employees are back at work. The company is now attracting national accounts and growing again.
The West Virginia Small Business Development Center (WV SBDC) aided Swiftees in acquiring its new facility. SBDC also assisted with employee training programs. Swiftees also worked with the West Virginia Department of Economic Development.
“These services have contributed tremendously to the growth of our business throughout the years,” Broom said.
The Main Street Ripley organization brought the WV SBDC “Come In, We’re Open” campaign to Broom’s attention. The campaign encourages small business owners to showcase that they are open and ready for West Virginians to show them support. To participate, small business owners can download, print or pick up a “Come In, We’re Open” sign and hang it somewhere visible in their storefronts.
“We joined because we wanted to be part of the excitement the campaign brings to small businesses,” Broom said. “Small businesses are important because they provide meaningful job opportunities to locals where they can actually see the significance of their contribution.”
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