Inspirational, influential, creative, dynamic communicator, are words most often used to describe Littie Brown. Through her years of employment and community involvement Littie has helped individuals personally and professionally realize their dreams. Because of her investment in their lives, many persons have been promoted, taken on new opportunities and realized their own potential.
Professionally, Littie has successfully led sales organizations for three Fortune 500 Companies. She began her career in sales and sales management with Xerox Corporation where she spent 26 years. From there, she went on to Dunn & Bradstreet and then to W.W. Grainger, Inc. as Regional Sales Vice President rounding out 35 years of corporate leadership.
Today, Littie is in her ninth year as an entrepreneur. She is the President/Co-Owner of LittKare, LLC (dba) SpeedPro Marietta, specializing in large format printing. From banners to vehicle wraps, SpeedPro Marietta helps companies bring visibility to their business or organization. Her motto is “if you can image it, they can print it.” Since becoming an entrepreneur, Littie has become active in the business community.
Serving on several boards, Littie recently ended her term as President of NAWBO/Atlanta, (National Association of Women Business Owners Atlanta Chapter), she is the 1st Vice Chair for PIAG (Printing and Imaging Association of Georgia), Board Member of Cobb Chamber, and a Board Member for Zion Baptist Academy. Previous positions include, the Past President of East Cobb Business Association, and Past Vice Chair for MBEIC (Minority Business Enterprise Industry Council). Littie is a graduate of Leadership Cobb, Class of 2018 and currently a board member of the Leadership Cobb Alumni Association.
Littie is known as a mentor, teacher, advocate, and an author. In 2016, Littie published her first book, “Leadership Lessons from the HART,” keys, tips, and insights on successfully leading in business and in life. You will have to read the book to understand the meaning behind the word HART. Her second book, “An Issue of the HART,” learning to be a great giver in business and in life is slated to launch in 2021. Littie has spoken to both primary and secondary students at numerous high schools and universities. Most notably, she was a guest panelist for the Cole School of Business at Kennesaw State University.
As a business owner, Littie continues to share her knowledge, passion and insights wherever she is asked. She was a panelist for the Women of NABA Empowerment Forum, a panelist for the 17th Annual Phenomenal Women’s Conference at Kennesaw State University, a guest speaker at the East Cobb Business Association monthly luncheon, a guest presenter/teacher for the NAWMBA conference (National Association of Women M.B.A.) just to name a few.
In 2019, SpeedPro Marietta was selected as one of the Top 25 Small Businesses of the Year by the Cobb Chamber. SpeedPro Marietta was again recognized as one of the Top 30 Small Businesses of the Year by the Cobb Chamber in 2021.
Littie earned a B.B.A. in Management from Texas State University. She is single and very active in leadership roles in her church, Turner Chapel AME in Marietta, GA, and the community. She is an active member.
What You’ll Learn In This Episode
- The biggest challenge in 2022
- Stay motivated
- A new and interesting event on SpeedPro Marietta for 2022
Intro: [00:00:04] Broadcasting live from the Business RadioX Studios in Atlanta, Georgia, it’s time for GWBC Radio’s Open for Business. Now, here’s your host
Lee Kantor: [00:00:18] Lee Kantor here. Another episode of GWBC Open for Business. And this is going to be a fun one. Today on the show, we have Littie Brown and she is with SpeedPro Marietta. Welcome.
Littie Brown: [00:00:29] Thank you, Lee. How are you?
Lee Kantor: [00:00:31] I am so excited to be catching up with you. Tell us a little bit about SpeedPro for the folks who aren’t familiar with what you do.
Littie Brown: [00:00:38] All right. Thank you very much. Well, first of all, SpeedPro Marietta is located in Marietta, Georgia. We’re a large format printing company. So, we produce three types of sign available to our customers, from a banner, to a wall graphic, to their vehicle wraps, to their trade show display. So, all things printing, graphic printing, we can help our customers with.
Lee Kantor: [00:01:04] Now, what’s your back story? How did you get involved in the printing business?
Littie Brown: [00:01:09] You know, they asked me that a lot. And my story has nothing to do with printing or this being where I was going to end up in my career. I spent 35 years in corporate America working for three Fortune 500 companies. And when I decided to leave the last company, Granger Industrial Supply, I was looking for something different and something new. And so, I was exploring and received a call from a franchise consultant who said, “You ought to consider owning your own business?” My current, my business partner right now and one of my best friends that always wanted to own our own business, so I was showing her all of the information. And one day, we just sat down and said, “Well, maybe it’s something that we could do together.” An[d we looked at it and saw the options.
The SpeedPro franchise model was one that draw our attention for a couple of reasons. One, we wanted something that that we’d actually work into the business, probably not as hard as I’m working right now, but we wanted to actually work the business and not just buy something for pricing. And it was new to the industry. You know, graphic printing, it’s been around for a little bit, but it’s really taken off in these last 12-15 years where people are graphically putting large signs out and visible graphics for drawing attention for their customers and for their events. So, we thought this would be a good one. And there was an existing business here in Marietta, and we jumped on it, and we’ve been here now. We celebrated nine years on yesterday. So, it’s surprising it’s been that long.
Lee Kantor: [00:02:49] Well, congratulations on that accomplishment. That’s a big deal. And I hope you take a moment to really appreciate that journey. It’s a hard one.
Littie Brown: [00:02:57] Yes, especially during two years of a pandemic.
Lee Kantor: [00:03:02] Now, can you talk a little bit about that moment? You’re in a transitional period, right? You went from corporate, and then you’re going to do this entrepreneurial adventure. Was there kind of a voice in the back of your head saying, “Oh, this is a big risk. I don’t know if I can do this”? Did you have any of that kind of apprehension or was this something like you were just kind of ready to go and just go boldly forward? I think a lot of people are in that same spot, right, where they have that moment where they’re in a big company, and then all of a sudden, they’re not. And now, they have to make a decision about their future. And you chose a very brave choice. Can you talk about how that decision came about and what gave you the confidence to go forward?
Littie Brown: [00:03:49] Yeah. You know, that’s a really good question because, like I said, it was not something that I stepped out on it and looked at. But I feel confident in my years of experience that I could go out and market myself. I had the backing of a good business partner who was very operational and who could quickly understand how to navigate the actual process, and the equipment, and the inside part of t[he business. And then, we did a lot of prayer, a lot of stepping out and saying, “Hey, if we’re going to ever do it, this would be the time to do it.”
And I will also say that there’s a little bit less fear when you have your finances in a good spot. And so, because I had that, I wasn’t relying on the business coming out of the gate being able to afford my lifestyle. So, that was a big piece that made the decision a little bit easier that you’re not risking everything that you had built up. So, you know what I tell people that are looking at what they should do or should they jump out there, you’ve got to feel comfortable with your finances and knowing coming out of the gate owning your own business, you’re not going to make the money that you are making when you leave your regular job. But there’s a point in time that you’ve got to just commit, and put all your effort into it, and go forward. So, that was it. I won’t say just boldly jump out, but I would say that we stepped out on faith and we went for it.
Lee Kantor: [00:05:30] And then, when you did that, when you took that leap, and then kind of, now, you put all your chips on the table, right, you were like, “Okay, we’re going to do this,” when did you start seeing kind of those clues that, “Hey, this is going to work out. I think we’re going to be okay”?
Littie Brown: [00:05:51] I think I’m still looking for some of them. No. I think I realized that the amount of support that was out there, two ways. I had some really great mentors. I had one mentor that said, “You really need to get certified as a women-owned business, and get involved, and do that with GWBC. Get certified as a minority-owned business with GMSDC, you know, and it put a network of people around you.” And then, more importantly, within the franchise model with our franchise, the owners across the country are very open to help and support, particularly the ones that had been around for a while, they knew the business a little bit better.
And so we, had a good network of people to learn from. And we had a very good consultant with the SBDC, the Small Business Development Council. I received from a good mentor that, “Hey, go to them. Let them help you kind of get started and understand what you need to do from a financial perspective and things like that.” So, I had some really good mentors that have been business owners that shared all their information and knowledge to really help us get started. And that, I think, kind of solidified the fact that, hey, we know we can make this work.
Lee Kantor: [00:07:21] Now, nothing prepared any of us for the last few years with the pandemic, as you mentioned earlier. How were you able to kind of navigate that? Was that through the help of kind of those foundational communities that you’re part of? Did that all contribute to your success to make it through?
Littie Brown: [00:07:43] I would say, yes, a lot of that. I think what happened with us, one, we’re small and lean, so we did not have to have any negative impact with our employees. We also recognized that people needed signage. You know, if nothing else, there was a lot of COVID signs going out there. So, we were in a good market that we couldn’t shut down. We may pull back a little bit, but we actually pushed out there. And customers that we built relationships over the years, particularly those that came through our corporate customers, really stepped up and needed us, and we were able to quickly deliver.
We actually went out and invested in a new piece of equipment that allowed us to do things to positively impact the COVID time frame, time period, the negative. So, it was worth the investment because we were able to do jobs that we would not have been able to do in the time frame that we needed them had it not been for us stepping out and going ahead and getting the machine. So, we kind of trusted what we knew. We had good relationships with our customers. We continued the ones that weren’t negatively impacted, and we were able to pursue and continue. So, we’ve had our our best two years the last two years. So, that says a lot.
Lee Kantor: [00:09:15] Yeah, that’s amazing. And going forward, is that something that’s — doing some of these things that you had to do kind of in a crisis mode, is that some of that going to bear fruit down the road, do you think?
Littie Brown: [00:09:27] I think so, yes. I think that once you stabilize, and people know you’re there, and people know that they can still trust to get things out, because there are quite a few in this industry that didn’t make it, that had some really tough times. We had one of our suppliers that stopped doing a certain part of their job that we got a lot of business from that pulled back or rescale. And you have to be able to find other means of filling in those gaps and finding other suppliers that did do well, that did make it. And then, relying on your staff. And you know, I will also say that we are thankful for the opportunity to get the PPP money, as well as the ideal money that just gives you a little bit of undergirding, so that you can continue to go out and build your business while the market might be still up and down.
Lee Kantor: [00:10:29] So, now, is there anything that you’re kind of nervous about moving forward into 2022? Is there any challenges that you’re kind of dealing with right now?
Littie Brown: [00:10:39] I think, you know, nervous. You stay with nervous, just don’t ever let it catch you. You’re always a little nervous, you just try to keep outrunning it. And so, I think, sustaining existing customers and getting new customers is always going to be the main focus. And so, right now, we got a little bit of a lull. We thought we had one earlier last month to pick back up. You go through these ebb and flow. So, any time you have a little bit of a lull, you kind of feel like, “Okay, where is everybody? And what’s everybody doing?” And then, you know, it pops right back up. So, try not to let those continuing to market and look for new ways to get your name out there because you’re not out cold calling, you know, you’re not out running in and out because nobody’s in a lot of businesses and nobody’s letting you in either. So, you got to find different ways to reach more customers. So, doing some investment in those areas kind of helps keep those nerves down.
Lee Kantor: [00:11:45] Can you talk about an event that you’re planning? For 2022, is there any event that you’re planning that maybe is going to help either serve your existing clients or get on the radar of some new clients?
Littie Brown: [00:12:00] Have not nailed that down. We always try to have some type of event here where we can recognize our customers, where they come in, and see the equipment, and kind of have a open house event. But because of where things are, we have not started to look at how is that going to work out. So, if we do anything like that again, we’ve done that in the past, it’ll be toward the summertime. So, I’m cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to have our Customer Appreciation Day – that’s usually what we call it – and get customers in to see our new equipment, see some of the new things we can do. So, that’s what we have on the radar. But right now, we’re not close to pulling the trigger on that.
Lee Kantor: [00:12:49] Right. And it’s one of those catch 22s, right? Like you want to appreciate your clients and you want to let them see kind of the behind-the-scenes magic and, also, you have to be careful and cautious. Is there a way to do something like that virtually? Have you ever done anything like that where you’ve kind of given people tours virtually of your facility?
Littie Brown: [00:13:13] We did that. It’s funny you say that because we’ve done that with some individual customers and organizations where I’ve used my iPad. You put the Zoom on, and then I can literally walk them through the whole facility, and actually show them the equipment running, and they can actually see some of the stuff. So, we did some of that actually in 2020. We did that a couple of times where people couldn’t get in, but they wanted to to get a kind of an understanding of what we do. So, it’s a good point too. We haven’t thought about whether we want to go back that way. I think if we did it this year, it would still be kind of by customer or market base, not just an open house for anybody to get on. It’d be a lot more challenging to manage through that. And I think people do want to come in and see. I think people want to get out of the office or out of the house and have some hands on. We just have to be very cautious when we decide.
Lee Kantor: [00:14:18] Right? Yeah. I’ve done some traveling recently, and there’s some tours that I’ve done is like go behind the scenes. There was a chocolate making company, and then they took you through the whole process from how they take the beans, and then they get the seeds and they grind. So, you saw all these big machines working, and you see the process, and they tried to do it in a very safe way, everybody was separated, and masked and everything. And it was just an interesting glimpse kind of behind the scenes to see how something that the people working there probably just are like, you know, it’s not amazing to them but to-
Littie Brown: [00:15:00] It’s a regular bit.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:00] Right, but to a person that doesn’t know how these things work, it’s kind of fascinating to see how it goes from one thing, and then it turns into something different at the end, so.
Littie Brown: [00:15:11] Mm hmm. Mm-hmm.
Lee Kantor: [00:15:13] Now, is there any advice you can share for the listeners to kind of — how do you kind of stay motivated, and keep the energy up, and keep coming up with new ideas and great ways to serve your clients and find new clients?
Littie Brown: [00:15:28] Well, I think it starts internally with the person. I am an upbeat person naturally or by nature, I guess you’d say. So, sometimes, they tell me I might be too upbeat sometimes but I do think it has to come from that person. And I would tell people that the person you can trust the most is yourself. You know what your strengths and weaknesses are, focus on your strengths and then get somebody else to help you with your weaknesses. So, for me, having a business partner, my strengths are in marketing and sales, my weaknesses are in operation and driving the production side. And so, when I know that I have those resources with our employees and with my business partner, then I can go all out and focus on customers and focus on growing the business. And so, I think part of it is knowing who you are, what you do well, what you need to learn and work on.
I’m always learning, trying to learn new things. I’m involved in a lot of organizations. And so I get opportunities to go through training. The next level training through the Ladder Business League on last year, which was excellent and taught me a lot. And so, the more I can learn, the less panic that you feel about what you’re doing. Because the fear in being a small business owner is not knowing what you don’t know. You don’t know what’s missing because you’re not aware it’s something that you need. So, education is important to learn it.
And I think when you get in front of people who like you, customers who want to do business with you, they give you an upbeat feeling when you’re talking to people who just are looking for something nice or looking for something special and then you deliver. For me, it gives me a great feeling when customers leave out saying, “Oh my God, that’s more than I even thought it was going to be.” It’s, “Oh my god. I wasn’t even thinking about that,” or “Oh my gosh. Thank you for catching that mistake,” and they didn’t have to pay for it. So, those things. Customers make me excited,
Lee Kantor: [00:17:48] And it’s important, like you mentioned earlier, is to surround yourself with networks or network of folks that are kind of on the similar journey that you’re on, so that you can all learn from each other. One of those groups you mentioned was GWBC. Can you talk a little bit about how GWBC specifically has helped you with your business and your growth?
Littie Brown: [00:18:13] Oh yeah. One of the things I’m probably most proud of, last year, I received the Trailblazer Award for our category. And so, just being recognized by them as a great small business was a reward I’ve been looking for, and I was able to receive last year. And I think it’s because you have some commonality with other women business owners. Women deal with a whole set of things that not everybody has to deal with. And then, when you add businesses on top of that, the networking opportunities, even online, and people reaching out to you because everybody wants everybody to be successful, I think the GWBC provides that.
And then, on top of that, just the relationship building, the educational part, the programing where you get a chance to hear from not only successful other businesses but you also hear from those corporate businesses. What are they looking for? What type of business would they step out and do business with? It’s much harder to get my name out in front of some of the large companies than not having the ability to go through GWBC and meet those same people online. And so, we’ve had the opportunity to get involved and get engaged through GWBC with some corporate partners. And it’s because of those relationships that they have that then allow us to be able to meet those same folks. So, those. I think when you think about GWBC and what they offer, they offer education, they offer connection, and then they offer sponsorship with corporate accounts
Lee Kantor: [00:20:10] Now, for moving forward for your business, I know you’re in the large format printing business, have you kind of got a clear picture of the ideal client or is printing something that is pretty much anybody in business or even maybe not even in business only could use your services?
Littie Brown: [00:20:31] You know, it’s funny because it is not a single market or two market environment. Everybody needs some sort of printing. We focus on a corporate standpoint when they’re looking for things within their business operation. We focus on non-profits because they’re looking for signage for revenue growth for that nonprofit. We look at government and schools because they need both connection for inside with students and parents and community people, as well as externally to promote any causes or any opportunities that are working on. And then, we do even individuals will find us, especially those small businesses, that are just getting started, and they need something, and they kind of want — they’ve got a vehicle, they kind of want to get some advertising on their vehicle. It may only be one vehicle. And if we can get them a good pricing opportunity, then that’s advertising that every time they drive down the street. So, it goes across the gamut of people. Everybody in some shape or form can use some part of what we do.
Lee Kantor: [00:21:50] And if somebody wants to learn more, is there a website?
Littie Brown: [00:21:54] Yes, it is. You can go to SpeedProMarietta.com. That’s SpeedProMarietta.com. And then, you can always email us at OrdersMarietta@SpeedPro.com, and we respond back quickly.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:19] Well, Littie, congratulations on all the success. And happy anniversary. Nine years is quite the achievement. It’s a lot to be proud of, and you’re just getting started.
Littie Brown: [00:22:31] Just getting started. Thank you so much, Lee. Thank you for the opportunity. And thank you GWBC for this chance to talk a little bit about us.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:39] Well, you’re doing important work and we appreciate you.
Littie Brown: [00:22:42] Thank you.
Lee Kantor: [00:22:43] All right. This is Lee Kantor. We’ll see you next time on GWBC Open for Business.
The Greater Women’s Business Council (GWBC®) is at the forefront of redefining women business enterprises (WBEs). An increasing focus on supplier diversity means major corporations are viewing our WBEs as innovative, flexible and competitive solutions. The number of women-owned businesses is rising to reflect an increasingly diverse consumer base of women making a majority of buying decision for herself, her family and her business.
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