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Franklin Tomorrow spotlights entrepreneurs

The final Franklin Tomorrow Breakfast with the Mayors featured a chat with three local entrepreneurs, who spoke about starting a small business, taking risks and staying successful. 
Gina Butler of GiGi’s Cupcakes, Claire Marshall Crowell of Puckett’s Grocery and Mark Cleveland of Switwick can all claim their individual successes as professionals.
Franklin resident Gina Butler moved to Middle Tennessee for music 19 years ago. She left her small, desert town in California with $500 in her pocket, ambition and the dream of being a singer. 
Butler learned quickly breaking into the music business is not easy, so she opted to begin cleaning homes. 
Since she had already opened two similar businesses back home, she returned to a success she had had in the past.
While cleaning during the day and singing at night, Butler, who by this time is 30, had enough business to employ five women.
But she still didn’t have a music contract.
In 2007, her brother called her from New York City to tell her about a cupcake shop.
“You should open one of these,” he told her. “Your cupcakes are better than these.”
Butler did. 
Using $100,000 cash advance on her credit cards because no bank thought the cupcake business was a wise investment, on Feb. 21, 2008, with $33 left in her checkbook, she opened her first store at 19th and Broadway in Nashville. 
“You can not be afraid to fail and you have to be okay with being uncomfortable,” she said. “I knew God would take care of me – and I have a very supportive family."
Now, she has 96 stores in 25 states.
“It’s been an interesting five years,” Butler said. 
“My mission is to let people know they can do something crazy and out of the box…if they are willing to be uncomfortable and willing to fail once in a while.”
Today not a lot of people bake, but there is a certain nostalgia for homemade items. 
“They bring back joyful memories,” she added. “We all need to feel homemade.”
Family business
Crowell is the second generation of an entrepreneurial family. Her parents, Andy and Jan Marshall, had been in the grocery business for many years, but when the big box grocery stores made their move so did Andy. 
In 1998 he got out of the grocery business and purchased Puckett’s in Leiper’s Fork “as a retirement project,” Crowell said. 
“Growing up with entrepreneurs you learn to do whatever it takes,” she said. “Wash dishes, cut meat, get up at 4 a.m. to make biscuits.” 
As busy as her father was, Crowell recalled, “Dad always found time to be there. He coached our soccer teams and worked 80-100 hours at work.”
Crowell admitted she didn’t plan on going into the family business.
“When I grew up, I realized I had a really good thing going on. They had built a brand.”
After college she was a server when the Franklin store opened on Fourth Avenue in 2004 and then went to work at the Leiper’s Fork store before Andy passed it to the Robinsons. 
Crowell then moved to the new Nashville store.
During the last two years, the Marshalls opened Puckett’s in Columbia, the Boathouse on Main Street, and with Joni and Michael Cole, they are part of Gray’s on Main.
“Community, no matter which location, is most important,” Crowell said. 
“By supporting the community, the community supports us. The family business is extended to our staff and the community. Relationships are important to us. We love the visitors, but in January when they aren’t around, the locals are our foundation.”
Creative footwork
Mark Cleveland owned a Fortune 500 company when he moved to Franklin and fell in love with the area and the values it encompassed. 
However, after five years it was time for a change.
 “I got tired of being a Fortune 500 company and I didn’t want to move.I was tired of traveling.”
He sold the business and decided to do something locally—create something totally made in the U.S.A. 
Starting from scratch, Cleveland created Swiftwick, a sock manufacturing business.
“I framed the culture from the very beginning,” he said. “I wanted to grow with people who have a humble nature, who have a hungry, smart nature,” he said. 
“Using green techniques from the beginning, we manufactured socks the intelligent way. From the beginning we got the raw materials in the U.S.”
Utilizing a former textile factory in Cookeville for the spinning process, the socks are manufactured in Brentwood. 
Swiftwick socks are found in 1,500 locations nationwide and Cleveland, who also owns Hobby Lobby and four other companies, is traveling again.
“I didn’t imagine eight years ago, we would be manufacturing the world’s best compression athletic socks here in Middle Tennessee,” he said. “I’m having a blast everyday.”
To be successful, one must understand the value of fear and understand fear “takes away your legs. You must be able to make fast decisions.”
These entrepreneurs agreed on many things this week.
Maintaining success means one must always be looking for new ideas and new ways to do things. 
Be open to other people with ideas, they advised. Explore ideas with wise people who can be trusted.
“Andy’s brain is always turning,” Crowell said. “His philosophy is check out all possibilities. He wears my mom out, but it might lead to an idea later.”

Posted on: 10/30/2013


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