Roses are red, Violets are blue, small businesses are the pride of Eastern Kentucky, and they share the love with their communities too!
We’ll move on from the poetry.
As you know, February is the month of LOVE, and what better way to show love than by giving back to one’s community? A good place to start is with a home-grown small business.
This week, we want to spotlight five Small Businesses that have helped “shape” the Heart of Appalachia by showing their support for their community. Whether their efforts have been shown through local fundraising or helping with flood relief efforts, these businesses have helped reveal that they are the heart of Appalachia Kentucky communities.
Bloom, located in Garrison, Ky., was founded in 2020 with a mission to plant trees. You read that right, trees! But how and why?
“As someone whose first word was ‘tree’, and who spent more time swinging through them as a kid than walking on the ground it came as no surprise that even though our name is bloom, we talk non-stop about trees,” said Alex Halsey, business owner of Bloom.
Bloom’s original mission was to provide a solution for people wanting eco-friendly products that also provided the positive influence of helping plant a tree with each purchase. Meaning that for each candle someone bought from Bloom, a tree would be planted to help offset carbon, protect natural resources, and build/reforest ecosystems.
Bloom’s mission has since expanded to include promoting mental wellness through its classroom fundraising program to help schools get kids outdoors. Let’s be real, kids’ fascination with going outside has somewhat declined these last several years (thank you, iPhones).
Last year, Bloom helped plant 150 trees through their test run fundraisers and the program helped those classrooms fund their end-of-the-year through candles, all while helping to build back forests for kids to explore.
“Nature can provide not only stunning fragrances and photographs, but it can also provide sanctuary to the mind and should be explored regularly. With the success of the fundraising program, we are now working to create example lesson plans for teachers to use alongside this program to help kids learn valuable skills like leadership, goal setting and tracking, ecological awareness, and more. We think that teachers are already asked to do so much for our communities, that it only felt right to support them as much as they keep their classrooms,” said Halsey.
Creating visibility for the LGBTQIA+ community is something very important to Bloom as they are also a gay-owned business.
“I believe without representation, there can not really be any measurable equality. I have found more support from the LGBTQIA+ community than I ever knew possible and without their support, I honestly do not think Bloom would exist today,” said Halsey.
In 2022, Bloom planted 700 trees with a goal of 1,000 trees planted.
At first, falling short of their goal felt like a loss. But, Bloom helped plant 700 trees which means that about 33.5k lbs of carbon will be removed each year those trees grow.
Bloom’s goal for the 2023 year will be to plant 1,200 trees and they are buckling down for their busiest year yet! You can plan to see Bloom at numerous events throughout Kentucky this year, from the Louisville Ballet, Pride events, and pop-up events.
All trees are planted in Appalachia by One Tree Planted, a 503(c) non-profit that Bloom partners with.
Print My Threads
Print My Threads is an apparel company located in Flatwoods, Ky., that serves clients throughout Appalachia.
One of the guiding principles at Print My Threads has been “never underestimate the power of a t-shirt.”
Over the last 15 years, Print My Threads has partnered with Kentucky businesses and nonprofits to use t-shirts as a force for good. They help their clients use custom apparel to promote their brands, grow their businesses, and raise money for their causes.
Some of the most notable recent efforts include:
KY Flood Relief
- Donated all labor costs for printing over 5,000 t-shirts for two fundraising efforts resulting in an additional $6,000 in proceeds donated
- Managed the online store for a retail partner resulting in an additional $4,900 donated
COVID Small Business Aid
- Launched the Local Lifesaver Campaign that helped 48 local and regional businesses raise over $6,000 at a time when many were forced to close during the pandemic
KY Parks Club
- Partnered with the Kentucky State Parks Foundation whose t-shirt sales have sent over 7,000 kids on educational trips to more than 25 Kentucky state parks
Print My Threads works hard to maintain a healthy balance between economic growth, environmental stewardship, and the well-being of its staff, clients, and the communities they serve.
“The mantra around the shop is: make things better by making better things. We’re able to do that by developing good people, who operate great systems, to manage a sustainable business,” said Kyle Robinson, owner of Print My Threads.
“We’ve maintained good, consistent growth by making sure the organizations we work with thrive. It’s not just printing t-shirts, we’ve invested in systems and technology to provide order fulfillment and logistics that help ensure our clients can focus on growing their businesses, while we manage their shirts. We succeed when our clients succeed,” said Robinson.
Print My Threads started in 2009 out of a 1 car garage, and now operates out of a solar-powered warehouse in Flatwoods, KY which was once the local skating rink.
Annie’s Frugal Finery
Annie’s Frugal Finery is an upscale consignment store in Whitesburg, Ky.
The two-story pink building with an oversized shopping mural on Jenkins Road is easy to spot and gives the instant impression of fun and happiness.
At Annie’s, you can find pre-loved and new clothing, accessories, and household items that are high quality and name-brand for about one-third the cost of what you’d pay in retail.
It’s a great place for stretching any budget and who doesn’t need extra money these days?
The byline at Annie’s is “Shop Happy”.
If you are interested in great deals for the best brands, helping your communities, and saving the earth, then there is no truer statement.
What sets Annie’s apart is just how much they put back into their communities!
Half of ALL gross sales goes back into a consignor’s hand.
Just let that sink in for a minute. Half of the gross sales, not profits, are shared 50/50 with real people in the communities Annie serves.
For example, if Annie’s has a gross sale of 400K, then 200K goes into the hands of real people in their communities.
Customers at Annie’s save money and consignors make money. The money generated by the store stays in communities versus the 7% of larger corporations.
Another aspect of how Annie contributes to the community is through the career-worthy jobs they offer. Employees are given the opportunity to have health insurance, five paid vacation days, and five paid holidays yearly. The store currently employs eight people. Approximately 30% of our revenue is spent on salaries.
Employing locally is a leading example of how small businesses can help their local economies grow.
Community is a keystone of the business.
Another reason to shop happy is the global impact of the store. Whether buying or selling at Annie’s, you are helping the environment!
By shopping consignment, you are recycling and reusing items which dramatically cuts down on landfill waste and helps to reduce the production of new items and therefore save resources.
From the solar panels to the recycled hangers used at the store, it’s all about the environment.
Did you know that this mother-daughter duo will be competing in Invest 606’s Final Pitch Competition? The final round is planned for April 15 at 2nd & Main in Corbin starting at 4 p.m. where they will have the chance to win a grand prize of $15,000!
Appalachian Apparel Co.
Appalachian Apparel Co. began its operations in 2017 in Hazard, Ky. to highlight the artists, history, and culture of Appalachia.
By partnering with local artists, Appalachian Apparel Co. provided an unconventional medium to showcase their artwork and display it worldwide by people simply wearing their shirts.
Painting a positive narrative of Appalachia, and spearheading the revitalization of downtown Hazard, Ky has become a passion, and mission of Appalachian Apparel.
With its storefront in Hazard, Appalachia Apparel Co. has become an incubator for other small businesses as well.
Starting in 2018, they provided the space, free of charge, for a high school student-led coffee shop (606 Coffee) to become a safe space for students.
Appalachian Apparel Co. has also brought Shenanigan’s, a locally-owned restaurant serving soups and sandwiches, on board.
In 2022, Coal Country Candles moved from its original location into that same building, increasing its foot traffic, exposure, and overall sales.
Through the years, Appalachian Apparel Co. also partnered with and promoted many of the other new local businesses appearing in downtown Hazard through their own merchandising.
Since its inception, Appalachian Apparel Co. has always been dedicated to community outreach on local and regional levels, by providing a method of fundraising for any cause.
Through the years Appalachian Apparel Co. has raised money for people affected by cancer, families struck by tragedy, restoration of historic buildings, multiple local organizations, and in 2022, the devastating floods of Eastern Kentucky.
Through social media and online sales, Appalachian Apparel Co. donated 100% of the profits of the flood relief shirts they designed, directly for flood victims, totaling over $150,000 raised in less than 6 weeks. They provided relief of immediate needs initially in the form of food, clothing, cleaning supplies, lodging, and building supplies across four counties. Then they began providing monetary funds directly to families who were affected, distributing those funds through the Foundation for Appalachia Kentucky.
Coal Country Candles
Coal Country Candles, resides in the very same building as Appalachian Apparel Co. however, their story did not begin there.
Owners Randy and Shannon Gabbard first began making candles in 2012 when Randy was needing to find a hobby after he lost his job in the TelCom industry in 2011. With Shannon having previous experience in candle making, she decided to teach Randy in their very own home.
It then turned more into a hobby with Randy and Shannon going out to vendor malls and festivals to sell their candles.
In 2018, a special opportunity showed up for the duo team when their son’s school class needed to raise money for a school trip. They thought, “well, we can do that!” Helping create their first fundraising effort.
Seeing success in their candle sales, the couple decided to open their first shop. After surviving TWO floodings, you read that right, TWO floodings, within 30 days of opening shop, the couple quickly outgrew the space and moved into their current location with Appalachian Apparel Co.
The Gabbards specialize in making soy candles and wax melts, hand-poured in small batches in the back room of their retail space.
Why soy wax? Because not only is it a natural product, but it also helps support Kentucky’s very own soybean farmers! Making their products a farm-to-product concept helps make their products Kentucky Proud.
The couple offers multiple scent collections to ensure they have something for everyone, including several local & Appalachian-themed scents.
In 2022 Coal Country Candle was able to help nine schools and a church raise more than $17,000 for trips, sports equipment, and uniforms.
“We are parents and Shannon is a former school teacher, so we know what it is like to be on the other end of the fundraiser,” said the Gabbards.
Every group keeps 50% of total sales with no minimums. They also offer a quick turnaround time and flexibility that larger companies can’t offer, while providing high-quality products.
In 2023, the couple is focusing on growing and expanding our fundraiser program so that they can help more schools make more things possible for their students.
Keep an eye out on this power duo as they compete in Invest 606’s pitch competition!
Their next presentation is planned for April 15 at 2nd & Main in Corbin starting at 4 p.m. where they will have the chance to win a grand prize of $15,000.
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