We had the good fortune of connecting with Littie Brown and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Littie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My journey to own my own business was not the typical one. I spent 35 years in corporate and had planned to end my working career with a major company. But when I left my last job at Grainger, Inc., I felt I wanted to do something different, but I was not sure what that would be. Education, non-profit, small businesses. were ideas I pursued. Then I received a call from a franchise consultant asking did I ever think about owning my own business. Of course, my answer at the time was no thank you. I started sharing the information with a good friend of mine who wanted to own a business. But as I continued to talk to them both, I thought maybe this was something we could do together. I knew I did not want to start a business from scratch and the franchise model was a good fit in that aspect. There were several opportunities presented to us. We wanted a hands-on business that we went to everyday and utilized our skills to grow it. Again, the franchise model was a good fit. After several months and few companies later, we settled on SpeedPro.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
We are in what I call the fun part of printing. Our equipment is in the front of our studio for customers to come in and see the jobs while we are printing them. I am most excited when they see the process. When they see their finished product, we often get a “wow” that is better than I thought response. We have produced several wall murals and external building murals where the vibrant colors seemed to pop off the surface. It has taken a lot of learning, hard work, late nights and constant networking to get us to where we are today. I am not satisfied yet; we still have work to do. But we try to make each day a fun and productive day. We have had a lot of lessons learned and I try to share them with others wanting to go into business. The number one lesson we learned and I often share is that, it is harder than it looks. I believe people take for granted that small business owners are out playing golf or at the beach and someone else is running the shop. Even if you have staff working for you, the owners are working harder than anyone they employ. Another key lesson learned is managing personnel. Hiring the right fit for your business is the most important thing you can do. But the fit has to be both their skills and their character. If they don’t fit into our mission they can’t stay. Staying committed to providing the best products at a great price (not always the cheapest) at the time they need it sets us apart from our competitors. I want people to know this is a great business to provide your graphic printing. Our story is unique in that two African American women left their corporate environments and went into business in an industry that is very white male dominated and are thriving is the story. We invest in our customers so they will invest in us.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Atlanta is a great place to visit. Places I love to take visitors are: Martin Luther King museum, The Aquarium, Coca Cola museum, Civil Rights museum, CNN building to round out the downtown experience. The Battery in Marietta is a great walking and eating area, outside of the Braves Stadium in Marietta. If they come during the sports season, check out the Atlanta Falcons, Hawks, Braves or Dream game. I am a season ticket holder for all of them. Some of the popular restaurants, especially a black owned one they might be interest in, like Paschal’s, Sweet Auburn Seafood, Twisted Soul Cookhouse, Old Lady Gang, or Franks Cajun Cooking and Capers here in Marietta.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are so many people I would give a shout out to in this journey. The first person and most important would be my mother, Julia Hartfield. She is the consummate encourager and supporter. She instilled a level of confidence in me that I could do anything I wanted to do. But most important she taught me how to build on my strengths and get support for the areas I was weak in. Throughout my career and a business owner, I stuck to that philosophy. My first book, “Leadership Lessons for the HART” is a self-help book for others based on the lessons I learned from her. When I decided to go into business, I knew I needed a partner that could execute and operationalize the business. I am all sales and sales management and you need a good operations partner to turn those sales into closed orders. I would not be in this business without my business partner and friend Karen Brown. We took this journey together, and are building a successful business together. But we could not have made it this far without our families, our friends, our church family and many of the mentors that have guided us along the way. If I start calling names, I will not stop writing. They can all take the credit.
Some images by LaRuche Creative (first 3)