By Ingrid Howard
Alabama Goods, in downtown Homewood, has been certified as a Women’s Business Enterprise by the Women’s Business Enterprise Council South.
“We have a corporate gift division, and several of our clients support supplier diversity. We have always informed them that we are a female-owned company, and now we can inform them that we are officially WBENC certified,” Sherry Hartley, who owns the business with Beth Staula, said in a statement.
Both women grew up in the Birmingham metro area, but when Staula moved to Washington with her Air Force husband for a few years, she realized the appreciation she had for her home state.
“I wanted my children to have what I had growing up – family nearby, community values and things that are available in Alabama,” she said.
She moved back to Alabama and raised her children here.
“Alabama really was a part of them growing into who they are today,” she said. “So for me, having left and coming back was very meaningful because I came back on purpose. I wasn’t just born here and stuck here. I came back here to be here and nowhere else.”
In 2006, the duo met at a local chamber of commerce women’s group. Combining their love for their home state, they started bouncing around ideas for a store that sold only Alabama-made goods. Their concept started off as an online-only store specializing in corporate gifts. Now, they operate at a storefront on 18th Street in Homewood.
Hartley said their company is unique because of the personal relationship they have with their vendors.
“We know everyone who makes everything in this store,” she said. “We’re supporting them to be able to continue to do their craft. We get to know about their families. We learn when they’re ill. They’re like family to us.”
Staula echoed her business partner’s words.
“I take a huge amount of pride in giving back to our vendors and supporting Alabama families and helping them send kids to college and putting food on Alabama tables,” she said. “We send hundreds of thousands of dollars to Alabamians every year. … I feel like I was born for this.”
The concept has been a success. Last year, Homewood Life magazine voted Alabama Goods as the Best Store for Gifts.
“I think we’re known for our culture, our Southern charm,” Hartley said. “We have visitors in from other places who are looking for something made in Alabama. We have people who live here that it’s important to them that they purchase locally made products, either for themselves or to give as gifts.”
For the most part, business is fun, but they agreed that gift-giving season can be stressful.
“Christmas is three months of sometimes 15-hours days, day after day after day,” Staula said. “It’s exhausting. It’s still kind of fun, but I’m not too sad when it’s over.”
Hartley laughed, saying they usually host the company Christmas party in January.
“During those months when everyone else is going to Christmas parties and hosting parties and going to dinners and things like that, we pretty much don’t have an opportunity to do things like that,” she said. “But it’s OK. We know that’s when we’re going to make the most money.”
To learn more or to shop online, visit alabamagoods.com.