HAZARD, Ky. – There’s nothing average about being from Appalachia, or Appalachia Kentucky, for that.
Just ask Joey McKenney, the owner of Hazard, Ky.-based Appalachian Apparel. His motto: “Don’t be average, be Appalachian!”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, McKenney and his brand are living up to its name.
By leveraging digital marketing, social media, and e-commerce, Appalachian Apparel has experienced a 2,500% increase in sales. Yes, that’s 2,500%. Recently, their Facebook page has received more than 330 new likes and 5,000-7,000 page views daily since March 14, whereas typically they have 1,315 page views daily. Their website has received 1,282 visitors from Facebook and 994 visitors from Google since March 14.
It’s the brand. It’s the message. It’s the uniqueness and authenticity people are looking for in the United States and across the globe.
Some of their popular items are apparel with sayings such as “You stay in your holler, I’ll stay in mine,” “Like a good neighbor, stay over there,” and “Avoid the crowd, make Andy proud,” a shirt going along with the popularity of SOAR Co-Principal Officer and Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear.
After being featured on WYMT-TV, a Founding Partner of SOAR, the shirt featuring Governor Beshear sold in 12 different states. State Farm agents from across the country also purchased the shirt poking fun at the insurance agency’s catch phrase. Just 30 minutes after the WYMT story aired, McKenney sold 42 of its Holler shirts.
McKenney, who completed SOAR’s CO.STARTERS cohort in Hazard last year, created Appalachian Apparel in 2017 as a way to address the negative stigma often associated with Appalachia, specifically eastern Kentucky. Colby Fugate, a business and innovation champion with SOAR Innovation, has worked with McKenney on a barcode system and other ways to grow his brand.
“We began to provide a different avenue for local artists to display their artwork through word of mouth, social media, and a strong online presence,” said McKenney. “We’ve now grown beyond the boundaries of Appalachia and are reaching customers worldwide.”
Appalachian Apparel is continuing to think outside of the box during the new normal that has come with the COVID-19 pandemic. They are hosting a contest on Facebook that is connecting artists and consumers while staying #HealthyAtHome.
It’s that innovative thinking that is allowing McKenney and Appalachian Apparel to reach new heights.
“We believe that the only thing that limits our dreams, is the limits we place on ourselves,” McKenney added. “We believe in personal growth on every level, we believe in empowerment of every person (and dog), and we believe in exceeding expectations of quality, customer service, and life. Some say we dream too big; we say they think too small.”
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