In 2012, she founded Cherry, which designs and produces licensed sporting goods and apparel for schools, retailers, corporations, and professional athletes. Cherry purchases apparel from a broad range of manufacturers, and then those football jerseys, basketball uniforms, and oxford shirts are imprinted or sublimated with innovative designs and logos.
In four years, she’s built a client list that includes big names like Assurant, Target, the University of Missouri, Kansas City Power & Light, the University of Kansas, and a number of athletic teams.
The company has three full-time employees and 30 contractors who handle design, production, and distribution. While its operating model has been a winning approach, Cherry sought external guidance to surpass the $1 million in annual sales threshold. She turned to ScaleUP! Kansas City to come up with an expansion game plan.
ScaleUP! Kansas City is a free, but selective program offered by the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Innovation Center and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Over the course of 16 weeks, small business owners receive training and mentoring tailored to their business needs.
3 Keys for a Growing Business
So what has Thalia Cherry learned through ScaleUP! Kansas City? And what advice would she share with other entrepreneurs?
Don’t hang all your hopes on one line of business // “I learned the value of diversifying your product line,” Cherry said. “Warren Buffett diversified from core areas of his businesses. With risk management, you will be able to identify new opportunities and weather storms.”
Cherry, for example, might be best known for licensed apparel for schools and organizations, but she’s also helped several professional athletes develop their own lines of merchandise.
“Our niche is to work with athletes,” Thalia Cherry said. “The athletes often utilize the return on investment in relation to the intellectual property to augment their respective foundations. We handle the entire supply chain process from concept, design, logistics, product manufacturing to retail distribution for them.”
Always look for solutions // When a client or business partner says no to a proposal, Cherry searches for another option that will make them say yes. Persistence and open-mindedness are key ingredients to the company’s success. “I use these moments as a springboard or opportunity to find alternative solutions to meet the needs of the customer.”
This approach works most effectively when you’ve developed great relationships with your clients. “This is a fundamental principle of our company and the reason people trust us to produce a quality product,” Cherry said.
Believe in your vision // “Follow your purpose. Believe in what you’re meant to do,” Cherry said. “Others that don’t have the vision won’t necessarily comprehend your passion, but the greatest internal success comes from staying true to your purpose.”
The great thing about entrepreneurship, Cherry said, is “there’s no ceiling. Similar to other entrepreneurs, I seek and thrive in challenging environments. There’s no limit other than what you put on yourself.”
Providing a Foundation for Others
And finally, Thalia Cherry said, don’t forget to give back.
She and her husband, Mark, established the Cherry Foundation to support athletic teams and education initiatives in communities throughout the United States.
Three percent of the company’s gross revenue is channeled to the foundation to foster the next generation of student-athletes. Some of the foundation’s partners include the Kansas City Sports Commission, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, College Summit, and many others.
The foundation was inspired by her parents, who influenced thousands of young people through their 20-plus-year public service careers in Kansas City, Kan.
Thanks to her parents, “I developed persistence,” Cherry said. “Both parents contributed to the infusion of the work ethic and fondness of sports, in addition to my entrepreneurial spirit and drive
By: Pete Dulin.ScaleUP! Kansas City, Success Stories