By Laura McAlister
When Kelly Dorough and Paula Smalley decided to design a few T-shirts paying homage to their community, they didn’t think it would amount to much more than that.
They found a simple design, printed up a few and then packed the Homewood T-shirts in a red wagon to sell them at “We Love Homewood Day.”
“We got a license to sell them, and we didn’t really think much more about it,” said Paula, Kelly’s aunt.
“We sold out the wagon,” Kelly said.
Two years later, they are still selling the shirts. They’ve also added to their designs and formed a company, HomeTees. All their T-shirts show the pair’s love for their city, Homewood.
Kelly is a native of the city and graduated from Homewood High School. Though Paula is originally from Atlanta, she said Homewood is home. Both have three children in Homewood City schools or Homewood day cares.
After their debut at “We Love Homewood Day” in 2010, they realized they weren’t the only ones who had a sense of pride in their community.
Not only did they sell out their little red wagon full of tees, they also had orders for more.
Their venture started with only one design – a T-shirt that simply said “Homewood” across the front, with a row of cottages sketched on the back and “A great place to live,” printed underneath. Since then they’ve added to that, and instead of a little red wagon, they are selling their products out of Edgewood Creamery.
At the store now are about four different designs. They still have the original in both white and navy. Then they have a new one with popular Homewood street names on the back and “Homewood Est. 1926” on the front pocket. They’ve also added a few more products. They have baseball hats and cups as well as onesies for infants with a tricycle and of course “Homewood” on the front.
While they remain dedicated to Homewood, a few designs are broader in scope. A “You Are Beautiful” T-shirt was inspired by the message seen scrawled in various Birmingham and Over the Mountain locations.
For a limited time, they also sold T-shirts bearing the state flag with the words “Strong, Hopeful Alabama.” Proceeds went to help the state’s tornado victims.
“Those were really popular,” Paula said. “With the proceeds, we were able to help a man in Dadeville who had lost his home purchase a new trailer.”
When it comes to their business plan, Kelly said jokingly, “There is no plan.”
“We like keeping it small,” she added. “We both work part time at a preschool, and we both have three kids.”
Paula does the designs. She said she likes them to be simple and clean.
One of the most rewarding parts of their small business is seeing strangers wearing their products.
“That’s really exciting when you see someone you don’t know wearing one,” she said. “It’s really just fun. It’s just an idea we didn’t really think about. We just did it and have fun with it.”
They have done designs for other communities, like Crestline and Ross Bridge. But they said in the future, they’ll probably stick with what they know – Homewood.
The T-shirts run from $12-$18 and can be purchased at Edgewood Creamery. Orders also can be placed by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. To view the designs, visit the company’s Facebook page.