Boss Lady - Shannon Shrum Tipton
Bella Vita launched a blog titled “Boss Lady” in March 2017 - after years of being inspired by the women that we are friends with, work with, or do business with, that are building their empire doing what they love. Running a business takes work, and getting started takes courage. At Bella Vita, we wanted to take this opportunity to praise and encourage some of the great female entrepreneurs we have met over the years and we hope to inspire more young women (and men) to follow their instinct/talent/passion and become entrepreneurs.
My team and I are reaching out to the woman owned businesses that inspire and amaze us on a daily basis. We will start with a brief background, then dive into the nitty gritty of running a business, what keeps them inspired, and everything else in between.
I had a great childhood. I was really good kid, a pretty wild teenager (still apologizing to my parents) and am now a pretty mild mix of the two. I was born and raised in Arkansas but have traveled all over. My husband and I are both pretty spontaneous so we’re always looking forward to our next adventure. If summertime is a hobby it’s my favorite one. I love camping, hiking, and sitting my butt on a beach any chance I get. I graduated from UALR with a degree in Spanish and a minor in Photography and I try to incorporate both of those skills as much as I can in my day to day so that I can pay my student loans without feeling like I’m flushing my money down the toilet ;) I have the best friends and family of all time and I seriously don’t even know what I did to deserve them.
- Give us your elevator pitch. Co-owner of Electric Ghost, avid reader, plant obsessed, DIY-er.
- What is your business? And how long have you been at it? Electric Ghost is a husband/wife owned and operated business located in the SoMa district of Little Rock. It’s kind of like having 2 businesses because our shop is divided into two very different sections. We’re a full scale custom screen printing shop that prints shirts and products for tons of restaurants and businesses and in the front of our shop we have a retail store that carries home goods/decor, cacti, succulents, and other indoor plants. I know it’s “different” but somehow the two seem to compliment each other.
- When did you start your business? My husband started the screen printing side of the business in 2009 as a way to make an income when he wasn’t on the road touring in bands. It was a side hustle that we eventually grew together into our full time jobs. I joined in 2013 because his touring schedule had picked up and so had our demand for the printing business. In 2015 we worked really hard to expand the business and move from a warehouse style print shop in the country to a space in SoMa and that’s when we added our retail store to the mix.
What inspired you to make the leap? Brooks (my husband) and I work really well together. We aren’t ever happy staying in the same place and are constantly running new ideas past each other so that we have a constant forward momentum. We knew we wanted to expand the screen printing business but also felt the need to have a space that was another creative outlet for us. We both love interior design and plants and were excited to have a space to bring all of the things we love and create together for our neighborhood.
- What helps you get started each morning? Coffee, diet coke, 10 mile jog, meditation?? I wake up in cheery, energetic mood and drink coffee while sitting in my robe thoughtfully contemplating my day….in my dreams. Reality is that my husband wakes up and does all of those things while I have a slightly more difficult time. When I do drag myself away from whatever weird dream I was having I scroll through all the animal accounts I follow on Instagram, I drink as much coffee as I can get my hands on and sit down to make a checklist for my day. I’m not an organized person by nature so I constantly have my mother's voice in my head saying “you’ll feel better once you make a checklist”.
- Tell us about a day in the life of running your business. Whoooo, everyday is a new adventure but chances are if you run into me on a weekday I’m covered in printing ink, it’s probably all in my hair which I eventually threw into a messy bun, and I’m running around like a crazy person trying to multitask. Screen printing is a fast paced industry. People place their orders and it’s a custom process from start to finish with really demanding deadlines. In addition to helping run the presses, I am the HR department, quality control department, bookkeeper, advertising department, retail manager, and basically everything else that small business owner does. I feel like each month that passes I get a little better at juggling it all and our team gets even tighter which allows me to breathe a little easier..
What keeps you motivated? Seeing the progress we’ve made in such a short time is the best motivation for me. Each person that works at Electric Ghost is such an important part of us and has become our family. Knowing that we all depend on each other is what keeps me going.
Describe your dream day. If this is a dream work day...Easy. I wake up, feeling really spunky and like a morning person, drink my coffee while I eat breakfast and read a book next to my imaginary pug. Then I head into work and enter my pristine, organized office and work on new creative projects for the business. Then 3Fold surprises me with spontaneous noodle bowl delivery for lunch... yeah, that sounds great.
If this was a dream non-work day then I would wake up in a little beach house, drink my coffee in a hammock with my imaginary pug and a book while my husband makes me breakfast and brings it to me riding a tiger.
- What is your greatest strength/super power? Jumping in feet first to try new things. I love adventure and have never been scared of looking silly in front of people...in fact I do that all the time. I want to try everything, travel everywhere, meet everyone. I think our experiences are what shape us.
- Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat? Instagram. I pretty much just follow all of the animal accounts.
What do you do in your free time? (ha! What is free time?!) Exactly! What is free time. When you’re married to your business partner it’s very hard not to discuss work at home but we’ve been making progress on cutting some of that out. I’m a bit of an introvert so I love my alone time, it’s what keeps me going. I read a ton and am always working on a weird craft like stained glass or weaving. We play a lot of board games at our house too.
If an investor gave you 1 million dollars to use toward your business, how would you spend it? Our goal is to expand both businesses. Our screen printing shop has already started outgrowing our newest expansion and we could use another automatic printing press. I would also love to expand our store to carry more products and grow our online presence. It’s a dream of ours to eventually take the store to other cities as well.
- What’s the biggest risk you ever took; how did it go? I was in school to be a Spanish teacher when Brooks and I met. I finished school and got my degree but rather than teaching I left my job and joined Electric Ghost to see where we could take the business together. We knew working and living together would present it’s own challenges and we didn't know if the company could sustain us both full time but now we have 9 employees not including ourselves. It’s not always easy and we still worry about money sometimes but we’re working really hard and loving having this opportunity to be a part of the community.
Name something you hate doing but have to do for the good of your business. How do you make it tolerable? It’s really hard having everything on my shoulders sometimes. Knowing that I have so many hats to wear everyday when I just want to focus on one hat can be really discouraging but in the end I tell myself that it all has to get done and that I can do it. Also, my husband is really good at pep talks or telling me to suck it up when I need to hear it haha.
- How do you handle discouragement? A lot of my best friends are entrepreneurs as well. It really helps to hear the encouragement and reassurance that I’m doing the right thing from people that are in the same boat. Also, wine helps.
Which iconic person inspires you? EASY. Michelle Obama. She’s strong, funny, smart, graceful, beautiful, and fearless. We have a 15 foot tall fiddle leaf fig tree in our store named after her <3.
- Do you have a favorite, inspiring quote? Not really, but I did just google this...haha-- A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.
If you could choose anyone to pick as a mentor, who would you choose? I constantly find myself asking “WWABD?” What would Amber Brewer do? She’s a local super hero and legend. I don’t know how she does it but she calm, cool, and totally collected while she's constantly designing new restaurants for Yellow Rocket, new merch, new products, and so much more. If I could be a fly on her wall I’d be a more efficient person.
Who are you in your next life? A puppy. Man, everybody loves puppies and there’s just zero pressure. I respect that.
- Any secrets on how you balance the ins and outs of running a small business? Time management is a crucial part of running a business. The goal is to be more efficient and less distracted and I’ve learned that those things come a little easier as I figure out how to motivate and reward hard work. A reward for me can be something like “If I finish replying to all of my emails I’ll take a 10 minute stretch break and listen to my favorite song” or if I get this project done I’m going to go see a movie tonight.” Having something to look forward to in the immediate future helps me cut out distractions and procrastinate when the task at hand isn’t the most exciting.
- What’s the best advice you have for other women wanting to be entrepreneurs? Just be a good person. You may not be able to be everything that everyone needs you to be at all times when you’re running a business and that’s okay because you don’t have to be. Ask for help where you can and help other people where you can. Don’t stretch yourself too thin and take time out of your day away from the chaos to do something you love.