They say that every dog has its day and in this case the success of Southern Casanova is no exception.
Named after his beloved Labrador Retriever Casanova, Erik Hussey began creating his own line of clothing featuring the silhouette of his lab while still a student at Auburn University. With a certain look in mind, he was driven to study all he could about yarns, dyes, threads and textiles that would produce the quality product he envisioned. Once this was achieved he hit the road with samples and began visiting the exclusive men’s boutique stores that he hoped would carry his brand.
By the time Erik graduated from Auburn he already had sold his Southern Casanova clothing and accessory line to several men’s clothing stores. In less than a year, with a loan from his grandfather, Erik was in 38 stores in five states. He was eager and was poised to continue selling to many more stores except that a problem had developed – he had run out of money to purchase additional inventory to fill the orders he already had.
Because of their earlier support, Erik didn’t want to go back to family for the additional funding he needed so he talked with a local bank who promptly turned him down for a loan. And then the second bank declined…and then the third bank…and then finally, a fourth.
Erik describes his experience working with the TROY SBDC:
“They honestly saved my business by helping me find funding. I exhausted so many resources, and spoke to so many banks before coming to them. Those appointments with those banks were very strategic and sometimes family friends. The answer was always the same. No one was able to help me find funding until them. I still see and speak to them on a very regular basis, just giving them updates on the business and asking them questions when I have them. This is a really good program that has touched my life, as well as, the rest of my family and future family in a positive way. We will be forever grateful.”
Seeing that Erik’s options were getting slim, a businessman and former client of the Troy University Small Business Development Center (TROY SBDC) advised Erik to contact the Center to set an appointment to speak with a Business Advisor. Thankfully, Erik listened and contacted the Center for assistance.
At that meeting Erik described how he had gone to bigger banks thinking that surely bigger meant a better chance of loan approval. What he learned though after speaking with a TROY SBDC advisor is that quite often larger banks will pass on new businesses simply based on a blanket formula from the top. In the end, it was a local community lender that gave Erik four times the amount of funding he requested.
Today Southern Casanova can be found in more than 100 locations across ten states. Erik also tells us that when he originally met with us three years ago he had only nineteen products in his line; today he has 200.
Furthermore, the economic impact of his business literally reaches around the world. While he is still the only full-time employee, Erik now employs three part-time positions and consistently pays more than twenty contractors such as graphic design artists, photographers, web developers and others to keep “the look” of Southern Casanova to his high standards. “I’m very picky,” laughs Erik, “and I keep them very busy.”
While his business is important to him, his community ranks high on the list as well. Not surprisingly a cause that’s near and dear to his heart is the welfare of homeless pets. And while his schedule currently doesn’t support him being an active, hands-on volunteer he does try to encourage others to volunteer for the Ozark-Dale County Humane Society by providing them with Southern Casanova t-shirts, retailing for $32, free of charge.
So, are you ready to begin your own success story like Erik? A network of Small Business Development Centers, in partnership with the U.S. Small Business Administration, are located across the state of Alabama ready to assist you. Find your local Alabama SBDC office by visiting here.