1012 Stacy Walkup
Stacy Walkup might have the title of being South Shelby Chamber of Commerce’s executive director, but she prefers to look at her role as being “executive directed” by the needs of its membership. The chamber, located in Columbiana, serves businesses in Chelsea, the 280 corridor, Dunnavant, Mt Laurel, Wilsonville, Harpersville, Westover and Vincent.
Is Columbiana home for you?
Actually I was born in Albany, Ga., moving to Montevallo when I was a kindergartener. My family lived there until we moved to Riverchase, and I completed high school at John Carroll. I went to Ole Miss, earning a bachelors in business administration.
What was your first “real” job?
After college I moved to Atlanta and worked as a property accounting assistant for a firm that managed commercial properties. My family in Birmingham owned a medical supply company, Critical Systems, Inc., and my parents emphasized the importance of working elsewhere for a year before joining the family business back home. It gave me exposure to a variety of small businesses and how different businesses operated.
In Atlanta I met my future husband, Kevin, who was from Marietta. When I came back to Birmingham, I bought a house in Edgewood in the Homewood area, and Kevin eventually moved to Birmingham and we married.
What lessons did you learn once you joined the family business?
Once I started in our family business, my mom was ready for “semi-retirement.” That meant I jumped in and learned it from the ground up. You do what it takes, from cleaning the bathrooms on up!
After seven years, our family company merged with 11 other medical supply companies. I went into pharmaceutical sales for Professional Detailing, Inc. out of New Jersey and assisted in a Glaxo Wellcome contract. The work involved a lot of travel and our son, Grant, was about three at the time. Kevin was in retail management in the grocery industry that required him to work long hours too. At that point, I chose motherhood over working outside the home to be with Grant. We were living in a home we’d built in Calera, but decided to move to Columbiana.
What led you to open a consignment shop?
We loved being in Columbiana and felt ready to open a small business. A neighbor of ours was interested in opening a furniture consignment shop and my mom and I were interested in a clothing consignment shop. We went into business as The Little Red Hen, named for one of my favorite children’s stories. People really loved the store and our goal was to have things there to appeal to any shopper. I always liked the idea of consignment and saw it, in a way, as a community service. People bringing items to the shop made money too because they received half of what their item sold for. Having a consignment shop in a small town meant you needed the confidence of the clients who brought things in and the confidence of customers who shopped there.
After four years of working with me to operate The Little Red Hen, my mom was pulled in many directions. She was helping me care for Grant, working at the store and helping out with my grandparents who had also moved to Columbiana. It was all becoming a bit overwhelming. In 2003, she and I agreed it was time to sell The Little Red Hen.
How did you come to your role at the South Shelby Chamber?
Bonnie Atchison was one of our store customers and asked me what I was going to do after selling the store. She said she was looking to retire as director of the South Shelby Chamber of Commerce and wanted me to consider working at the Chamber. I wasn’t sure what I thought of that at the time, but I received a lot of encouragement from friends and family.
Share a little about your experiences so far with the Chamber.
When I started here nearly 10 years ago, the growth in the southern part of Shelby County was really taking off. Chelsea was a new city and with an expanding housing market. A lot of new residents there wanted to open a business near where they lived. I describe it as “we were all new together.” With all the growth, the Chamber now says we cover the South Shelby area/region because we have businesses that trade in our area but may be located in other cities, like Birmingham.
We’ve grown from about 100 members to almost 450 members. We have a lot of long-time members, and I think that’s a reflection of the Chamber being relevant to its members. We strive simply to help our businesses and that help is available in a lot of ways. New members are able to go through orientation in a small group setting to see what all the Chamber offers— programs, networking events, multiple ways to plug in.
What are your thoughts on the down-turn in the economy affecting area businesses?
The economy has been tough for our businesses; it’s affected so many people. When people are watching their spending from a small business standpoint, their chamber membership dollars are even more valuable, in my opinion, because the Chamber is there for them all year round. It’s a low membership fee for what is available for that business. If there is ever a time to be involved, its now. We create a venue for all aspects of the community to come together and learn about what each other is doing and a great way for businesses to network with each other. I’m passionate about that.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of your job?
I enjoy being able to highlight our area attractions. We have area wineries that are part of a wine trail and the museum association has a new museum trail in the county. One of our Chamber board members, Jack Bridges, was instrumental in putting the trail together. From a business standpoint, it’s a nice way to draw visitors and tourists in our area to shop and eat in our towns.