Kelly Washburn, owner of Show Ur Tees, says work ought to be fun. She and her staff have spent the last seven years helping others with just the right T-shirt or promotional item to make their organization or event complete. Little did Kelly know when she began her T-shirt business that it would grow into what it is today.
Kelly and a friend of hers needed something to do when the housing market crashed so they planned to open a t-shirt business together. To make a long story short, the friend had some extenuating circumstances that held her up from participating, so Kelly began the business with $2,500 and good credit. She leased some equipment, started the business in the State Farm office building in 2011 with a computer, a heat press and direct-to-garment printer.
Kelly quickly outgrew the 750 square foot office space and had to figure out what to do next. She bought new equipment to print signs and decals. The business continued to grow and continued to increase as much as 40 percent annually, so Kelly moved Show Ur Tees to their current location in a large warehouse on Parkway Drive. They now have a huge inventory of T-shirts in stock and are doing more school work for Leeds and other surrounding schools as well as a lot of walk-in business. Some of their customers include nonprofits, motor cycle riders, cancer walks, awareness organizations, Miss Alabama, rest in peace shirts for lost family members, fundraisers and more. One exciting fundraiser has been adoption T-shirts for people to raise money needed to adopt a child.
One thing that sets this business apart is the ability for customers to stop by, touch and feel the T-shirts and even try them on, which is something you just can’t do when ordering over the Internet. Being local, Show Ur Tees has abilities that others don’t. Another reason is that with so many shirts in stock, you can walk in and walk out the same day with custom T-shirts. There are no minimum purchase requirements and no screen charge. If someone orders 100 shirts and happens to need two more shirts by the time they receive their order, Washburn will make two more shirts at the same price.
Looking back, being a business owner and entrepreneur comes natural to Washburn with growing up in the Jack Falletta household. Washburn’s father, a local real estate developer, taught her the value of working hard and how to run a business. As a child, Kelly loved swinging a hammer and getting dirty. Her dad would put her in the back of a Volkswagen at their car lot with a hammer, wrench and screwdriver. She would spend hours playing with these tools while hanging out with dad. After college, Kelly taught school for five months when she realized that teaching was not what she wanted to do. She spent many years building houses and working in other family businesses that her family acquired in between other endeavors. The first business she ever worked in for her dad was Typhoon Car Wash where Melissa’s Rainbow Car Wash is today. Other experience Washburn gained over the years included hotel management, property management and a job with Teledyne in Huntsville where she worked on the space shuttle program for mission control. She was a training instructor and designed a courier program for mission runners. Washburn got to play on mockups where the astronauts were trained and actually got to meet some of the astronauts.
Washburn knew nothing about custom T-shirts when she started the Show Ur Tees business, not even about graphic software. She went to a convention, bought software on the recommendation of others and poured herself into learning the trade. Now, she has a huge T-shirt business in a warehouse building of 2,000 square feet with plenty of equipment to fulfill most any promotional need.
Customer service, giving back to her community and having fun are among the most important things to Washburn. Her current staff includes Amy Cummings, Djuana Bullock and Neva Wiley. Washburn and these three ladies all went to school together, so they were friends before becoming part of the Show Ur Tees team. They all work together to accommodate any need and feel that they are more responsive to customers’ needs because they really care about them. It’s more than a sale. You’re a friend.
Being a local company, Washburn has been able to get involved in the community and feels that it is important to give back. Show Ur Tees partners and helps sponsor a number of local school, charity and fundraiser needs. Washburn says her husband, Tim, is even more generous than she is, and he is always helping someone with a need. As a Veteran and associated with the American Legion, one of his favorite charity events is a big fish fry for Veterans Day each year. This event is free and a bucket is available for donations toward a Christmas fund for needy kids or other charitable cause. The Washburns have both found that the more you give, the more you receive.
Washburn also gives of her time. She has volunteered in several capacities with Leeds Arts Council, including building sets for upcoming productions. Washburn has served as a board member twice for Leeds Area Chamber of Commerce, has served on the Planning & Zoning Commission for about six years and is a member of St. Theresa Catholic Church.
Show Ur Tees recently partnered with a promotional company and now offers more products than ever. In addition to custom T-shirts, signs, banners and decals, they now have Koozies, etched glasses, fans and most any promotional item you can think of, as well as custom hats from a company that makes the hats just for Show Ur Tees and plenty of Leeds Green Wave stuff.
Washburn doesn’t worry much about competition, because Show Ur Tees works well with other shirt businesses. If a competitor has a need, Washburn tries to help that business. If she has a need, others seem to always pitch in. Washburn also sells vinyl, blanks and shirts to smaller T-shirt businesses, new start-ups and welcomes the opportunity to partner with anyone.
With the motto, “You Think It, We Ink It,” Show Ur Tees invites you to stop by their warehouse at 8316 Parkway Drive and check out the merchandise. Office hours are 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Story by Dona Bonnett, special to the Leeds Tribune.
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