From Passion to Profit



Published:

Five entrepreneurs. Five passions. Five businesses.

See how these successful business owners followed their passions and turned them into sustainable incomes. Maybe we could all learn a thing or two. 

 

Makin’ food look good

At age 35, Savannahian Libbie Summers realized that she saw food differently than most people. Food inspires her in everything she does. From home décor and fashion to crafting, entertaining, and more. It is that inspiration that led her to build her own lifestyle brand, A Food Inspired Life. “I began to focus on all dimensions of food as I embarked on a fresh view of my career and started using food as my muse for all aspects of my life,” says Summers. “It’s certainly a source of endless, beautiful, and unique content!”

A storyteller at heart, this self-made entrepreneur, loves helping her clients tell a story. “I take them on a visual content ride with design, video production, and still photography production. I work primarily with boutique brands and give them the tools they need to create their own branded content,” says Summers.

Summers, who is a three-time author, also runs a blog and has her own sprinkle company. “Sprinkles make people smile! My favorite part about #libbiesprinkles is the backstory that inspired each blend,” says Summers. “I pulled a memorable quote from each story and they appear on the side of the jars. They always render a giggle and make a great conversation starter!”

Her success didn’t just happen overnight. Summers believes everything we do is a step up the mountain. She says she’s still climbing, but she can see the peak. She’s done everything from owning a popcorn wagon at the base of Vail mountain to producing television shows and working in film. “In the beginning, I did tons of work for free to learn from others and hone my own craft. I definitely made a lot of investments in myself to grow my business. But I’m also a huge believer in giving back—sharing the knowledge I have with others,” adds Summers.

Her advice for anyone who wants to pursue their dreams: “Step outside your comfort zone. You sometimes have to say 'no' to good things, so you can say 'yes' to great things!” Summers says, “What do you really have to lose taking a chance on yourself ... nothing! Always bet on yourself!”

When asked if she had to take any risks to get to where she is now, her answer is, yes. Summers inked a quote on a piece of paper in college and it lives in a special place in her home today. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go.” — T.S. Eliot “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go."

 

Smokin’ the Competition

At 24 years old, Sean Geng is a self-made entrepreneur. As co-owner of Smoke Cartel, his business is booming. Smoke Cartel is an eCommerce, wholesale company that focuses on the smoking and cannabis accessory market. They sell anything from jars, pipes, apparel, to backpacks. Geng started the company in 2014 when he was a sophomore at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). “The timing was right. Colorado had just changed their laws,” says Geng. “I did some market research and there was nothing available here in the United States. The closest competitors were in Europe. Now we can ship right here from Georgia.” Geng decided to focus on his business and left SCAD. He hasn’t once looked back.

Earlier this year, Smoke Cartel moved into its new Savannah-based 28,000-square-foot warehouse. The company ships products worldwide. There are 37 employees in Savannah and another 13 customer-service agents scattered throughout the world who offer 24-hour customer support.

While marijuana currently isn’t legal in Georgia, Geng says one of the challenges is the stigma behind his business. “We really fight the stigma of what people think it is we do. We get to know our customers who are lawyers, accountants, and doctors who don’t want to be treated like they are bad people,” says Geng. “They don’t want to walk into a headshop. So, we are able to provide a professional experience. This is a real market to us and we are trying to educate people on the market. The cannabis-accessory business is one of the fastest growing businesses.”

Geng says he’s had a lot of support along the way and Savannah is a great community for those who want to start their own business. He realizes there are a lot of people who have really good ideas, but there are less people who jump on those ideas. Geng was one of the ones who jumped, working 80-hour weeks the first few years of starting his business. “Entrepreneurs don’t think you’re going to go into it and breeze through. If you’re looking to get rich quick, this isn’t it. You have to work hard,” adds Geng.

Geng believes that before the notion of success can be an option, the person has to be willing to take a leap of faith. He says if you don’t at least try, there’s no opportunity for success. When asked what Geng’s secret to success is, “My secret is to fail a lot because that means I’m trying.

 

Smooth Sailin’

It was 1999. Shawn Donnelly was 21 and six months from graduating with a degree from Georgia Southern when he entered the playing field of yacht brokering at Baker Marine, Inc., on Hilton Head.

“They contacted me and said, ‘Hey we need somebody who can work in the Hilton Head area.’ I had never even really thought at all about possibly being a broker, but I already knew the boats and I had a knack for sales.”

The youngest in his profession, Shawn had to prove himself as a salesman, and not just the type who can sell a washing machine or tupperware. Selling a yacht is more along the lines of selling a $3 million home on water. In order to gain the respect and reputation of a serious broker, Shawn worked on developing sincere relationships with clients, a technique that gained him recognition in the brokering communication and from his boss. After nearly seven years of working for the company that kick-started his career, Shawn made a decision to take his love for yachts and sales and turn a profit of his own.

The result of his endeavor manifested through Donnelly Yachts, Shawn’s proud establishment well-regarded among many yacht owners in the Hilton Head and Savannah areas.

“The rewarding thing is customer or client loyalty,” Shawn explained. “You do a deal with a client whether you buy a boat with them or sell their boat and you do a good job. They appreciate it and they come back to you. Client loyalty is really hard but it’s what you aim for.”

Shawn believes it’s his identity as an individual broker that sets him apart from the competition. Compared to big brokerage houses that have anywhere from 20 to 30 salesmen, Shawn is able to tend to his customers one-on-one, even making friends with some of them.

“The individuality and the knowledge of the boats make me stand out, because a lot of these brokers I deal with don’t really have it in their blood. They might know how to sell something but they don’t know the boats as well as I do.”

 

Lock & Load.

Sometimes the unknown is truly a blessing. Just ask Toby Hansen and Kyle Christiansen, co-owners of 17 South Rod and Gun Club. The two, who have a 20-year friendship, built the 300-acre gun club from the ground up. Christiansen says if he knew what he was getting into, he may not have had the guts to go through with it. “If you would have told me what it would have taken, I’m not sure we would have done it. Not knowing what you’re getting into can be one of the best things that can happen to you,” says Christiansen.

What’s impressive is that the pair did pretty much all of the work themselves. They installed flooring, put in wiring, built every beam, and begged and borrowed to get their hands on heavy machinery. “We spent every waking hour when we weren’t at our day jobs at the gun club,” says Hansen. “We would go there after work and worked most nights until 10 or 11. We were there every weekend.”

Hansen works as a manager for a local construction company and Christiansen runs his own veterinarian practice in Richmond Hill. Despite having full times jobs, passion is what pushed them to turn an idea into a lucrative business. “The idea started seven years ago. We both had little girls and we would take them to other ranges,” says Christiansen. “It was loud and we wanted to have a place where we could take our children and they would feel comfortable.” The pair also wanted to create a gun club with a unique twist. They say there wasn’t a club that offered everything you could do with a gun or one that provided a family-friendly atmosphere like they envisioned.

At 17 South Rod and Gun Club members have access to a variety of ranges, an archery course, a world-class sporting clay course, and tactical bays. There is also a 10-acre stocked pond, a pro shop and a clubhouse where meals are served every Thursday night.

The gun club officially opened in 2016 and Hansen and Christiansen had a three-year business plan to obtain 500 members; they signed those members in four months. Today there are 600 members and a wait list inked with names. Since opening they have doubled the amenities they offer without going up on price and employ 15 people.

“We look at other clubs that charge more money and offer a fraction of the amenities,” says Hansen. “We designed our club so that anyone can be a member; everyone is welcome.” For Hansen and Christiansen, their hard work truly has paid off, however, that doesn’t mean work stops. They are constantly striving for the best. “There aren’t a lot of gun clubs we can learn from. We’ve made mistakes and improved on those mistakes. We’ve rebuilt ranges to make them safer and user-friendly. This club really is a moving target and we won’t stop until we hit the mark each and every time,” says Christiansen.

 

Ready. Aim.

Guns have always been a staple in Buck Holly’s life. From deer hunting as a kid to his nine-year stint in the marine core, there’s no doubt his fondness for firearms is more than just a passion. After years of different career choices—all involving guns, no less—he’s finally been able to start a business that allows him to make money, yet be with his family, while still actively pursuing his passion.

“When we had our third child, I wanted to be home more, travel less,” Holly says. “And that’s why I ended up forming my current rifle manufacturing company, so I could be at home building and shooting guns competitively. I wanted to turn my hobby into a profession that allowed me to be home more and enjoy the benefits of that industry.”

He’s now the owner of C&H Precision Weapons, a successful and innovative custom rifle shop in Richmond Hill, Ga. C&H Precision was Holly’s solution to having a passion for working with firearms and not being able to spend time with his family. The majority of the company’s business is building guns for the shooting enthusiast. The minority of the company’s business was designed after realizing a need for keeping the machinery in the shop running; upgrading pistols and other firearms became a way to not only evolve the company and strengthen their portfolio, but also help clients find interesting and innovative ways to tailor their firearms to their personal specifications.

Holly is no stranger to finding innovative ways to firearm deficiencies. Six years after leaving the marines, he began working for the Department of Defense as a contractor. When members of the military found issues with their weaponry, they would send a memo of the issue to Holly and his team, and he would develop a solution to the issue, whether that be a gadget for the weapon or an entirely new weapon altogether.

But the long and winding, firearm-fueled route (which included hog extermination and brand ambassadorship for Advance Armament Corporation) to the creation of Holly’s rifle manufacturing company has led him to one of the most successful ventures of his career.

“If you’re going to buy a racecar,” Holly proposes, “You can either buy it from a nationally ranked racecar driver or from some little shop that has no pedigree. People say they’ve built guns, but my team is trained.”

His team is made up of nine individuals from across the country, all nationally ranked and trained. Why do they do it, some may wonder.

“We do it not only because it’s fun,” Holly would answer, “But because we’re good at it. It shows the quality of our workmanship. We must be doing something right.”

 

Subscribe now for instant access to the digital edition, or pick up the 2018 Power Issue from one of our distribution partners. 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

South's Greatest Moms Contest 2019

We've looked for the greatest, most authentic and sincere, southern moms, and we found them! Winners coming soon!

South's Greatest Dads 2019

Show your dad some love and enter him in the South's Greatest Dads contest and get him some votes!
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Events Calendar

  • "Keita Takahashi: Zooming Out" Exhibition at Telfair Musuems

    Jan 24, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums hosts the first museum survey of the work of visionary videogame designer Keita Takahashi (Japanese, b. 1975). Takahashi is noted...

  • "The Prints of Dame Laura Knight" Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Jan 19, 2019
    10:00 AM - 5:00 PM @ Telfair Museums' Jepson Center

    Telfair Museums exhibits nine prints by Dame Laura Knight (British, 1877-1970), together for the first time since they were acquired by the museum...

  • Historical Marker Dedication: Susie King Taylor (1848-1912)

    Mar 26, 2019
    11:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ Midway First Presbyterian Church

    A Georgia historical marker recognizing Susie King Taylor will be dedicated at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, March 26, 2019 at Midway First Presbyterian...

  • "Rembrandt and the Jewish Experience" at Telfair Museums

    Mar 15, 2019
    12:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    This exhibition contains 21 etchings by Rembrandt and one drawing by Rembrandt’s teacher Pieter Lastman (Dutch, 1583-1633). These works highlight...

  • “Jaume Plensa Talking Continents” Exhibition at Telfair Museums

    Mar 01, 2019
    12:00 PM - 5:00 PM @ Jepson Center

    Jaume Plensa (Spanish, b. 1955) is one of the world’s foremost living sculptors. He is widely known for large-scale public artworks and more...

  • Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo Style)

    Jan 16, 2019
    7:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Fit912savannah

    Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo Style)    Fundamentals of Salsa On2 (Mambo style) is for beginners and advanced beginners  of this type of...

  • Sherrill Milnes Master Class

    Mar 26, 2019
    7:30 PM - 8:30 PM @ National Opera Center, MacKay Studio

    VOICExperience’s annual Opera as Drama week in New York City is taking place from March 24-April 1 this year at Manhattan’s National Opera...

  • Fundamentals of Bachata

    Jan 16, 2019
    8:00 PM - 9:00 PM @ fit912savannah

    Fundamentals of Bachata    Come learn the sensual dance of Bachata with us. We're a small Savannah group and  would love to expand it with dance...

  • Launch Party for 2019 Enmarket Encourage Health Educational Series

    Mar 28, 2019
    5:30 PM - 7:30 PM @ Cha Bella

    Enmarket will present the selected speakers for its sixth annual Encourage Health Educational Series during a kick-off party Thursday, March 28, at...

  • Let's Talk Mental Illness Community Discussion Series: Mental Illness & Faith

    Mar 28, 2019
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM @ Wesley Oak United Methodist Church

    The fourth event in The ELLA Foundation’s Let’s Talk Mental Illness Community Discussion Series will explore the intersection of religion,...

  • The Annual Savannah Tour of Homes and Gardens

    Mar 28, 2019
    All Day @ Savannah

    Admire the buildings, furnishings, décor and stunning gardens of the most elegant homes in Savannah on the annual Savannah Tour of Homes...

  • Savannah Music Festival

    Mar 28, 2019
    All Day @ Savannah

    Almost 30 years old, this annual 17-day festival is Georgia’s largest musical arts event. In fact, it brings nearly 500 artists from all over...

  • Savannah Golf Championship

    Mar 28, 2019
    All Day @ Deer Creek Course at The Landings

    Every March, golf fans flock to Deer Creek Course at The Landings Club on beautiful Skidaway Island for the annual Web.com Savannah Golf...

  • Master Class with Kate & Kim

    Mar 29, 2019
    5:45 PM - 7:45 PM @ Savannah Power Yoga

    Kate and Kim are going to the SOURCE. They will be studying with Baron Baptiste at the Baptiste Power Yoga Global Summit in Ojai this March. This...

  • Arias on the Eastside

    Mar 29, 2019
    6:30 PM - 8:30 PM @ The Explorer's Club

    VOICExperience’s annual Opera as Drama week in New York City is taking place from March 24-April 1 this year. On Friday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m.,...

  • Horizons Savannah Announces Fifth Annual Louise Lauretti Hoops for Horizons

    Mar 30, 2019
    9:00 AM - 1:00 PM @ Savannah Country Day School

    The fifth annual Louise Lauretti Hoops for Horizons “three vs three” charity basketball tournament will be held on Saturday, March 30, at...

  • Acting FUN-damentals

    Mar 30, 2019
    1:00 PM - 2:00 AM @ Southwest Chatham Library

    Have you ever wanted to act but were afraid to try? Come out for a fun and relaxed intro to acting with Dr. Calvin Walton from GSU! Join us each...

  • Sleeping Beauty

    Mar 30, 2019
    5:30 PM - 7:00 PM @ Savannah Civic Center

    Columbia City Ballet proudly announces its third annual collaboration with the South Carolina Philharmonic in presenting The Sleeping Beauty....

  • Funny Bones, The Comedy of Charlie Chaplin

    Mar 30, 2019
    7:30 PM - 9:30 PM @ Tybee Post Theater

    Charlie Chaplin has been making audiences laugh for over a hundred years now, and you’ll find out why in Funny Bones, hosted by renowned physical...

  • Benedictine Cadets Prom 2019

    Mar 30, 2019
    8:00 PM - 11:00 PM @ Jepson Center for the Arts

    For the Upperclassmen of BC, Prom 2019 will be taking place at Jepson Center for the Arts. For more information, go to www.thebc400.com


Show More...

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Scenes of the South

The Fire Ball

IAFF Savannah Firefighters gathered together at Savannah Station March 15th to celebrate with friends and family. They welcomed their newest members, honored those that recently retired and acknowledged departments joining from around the world! The event was a blast. From 6pm-10pm guests danced to live music, sampled premium foods and even played with local puppies up for adoption.

Savannah's Newest Hot Spot Opens

SEED Eco Lounge, Barrelhouse South and Rogue Water welcomes a new addition to the family. Vice is located on Broughton at Saya's former location. Few pursuits tap into the pleasures of nightlife more than music. Giving yourself over to the rhythms, the lights, and the energy is a total release. Amazing DJs get the crowds moving, and other patrons ensure that there's plenty to see and socialize with. This sleek and sexy underground spot is sure to be one of the best spots for Savannah's night life.

The Royal Flush Casino Night Presented by Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah

Roto-Rooter Plumbers of Savannah hosted “The Royal Flush Casino Night” on Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Savannah Station, with all of the proceeds going to benefit families at the Ronald McDonald House of the Coastal Empire. The casino-themed party will feature heavy hors-d’oeuvres, an open bar, live music, dancing and complimentary casino.

The Telfair Ball

The 39th annual Telfair Ball celebrated the 200th anniversary of the remarkable architecture of Telfair Museums historic buildings and the pioneering legacy of Mary Telfair. This year the Ball was held in Forsyth Park among a myriad of carnival performers and fanciful nymphs. Hundreds of Savannah locals and many visitors came together to celebrate a love of art and South Eastern heritage. The ball supports the future of the Telfair Academy, the Owens-Thomas House and Slave Quarters, and the Jepson Center. Proceeds directly fund the museum's educational outreach, exhibitions, and release activities, bring the benefits of art to over 190,000 people each year.

Hearts for Healing Gala

The Faith Equestrian's Annual Hearts for Healing Gala at Tybee Wedding Chapel on Friday evening started out with a bang as the Free Spirit Orchestra' violin twins played their rendition of some of the greatest musical hits. The attendees were reminded what the event was all about as the founder Bonnie Rachael was recognized after story after story was shared to a room of teary eyed party-goers. Congrats to event director Bonnie Karr and her amazing team for a job well done!

Southern Coast Heart Ball

The American Heart Association's 22nd Annual Southern Heart Ball took place on February 2, 2019 and celebrated all the life-saving advances made so far while raising funds to continue to further AHA's mission. The black-tie gala brought together more than 400 guests to enjoy a night of dining, dancing, live entertainment and both live and silent auctions. Those in attendance got to hear the story of Lily Cochran, who was born with several congenital heart defects. Her father, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, also had a heart disease and was honored at the event.

PUTTING Away Crime

On Saturday, January 12, 2019 Savannah helped McGruff the Crime Dog take a bite out of crime at the Crimestoppers Savannah's 3rd Annual Putt Putt Mini Golf Tournament held at Island Miniature Golf and Game on Wilmington Island. Proceeds went to helping fund rewards for the Crimestopper's anonymous crime tip line.

Dining in the Dark

On Saturday, January 12, 2019, the 3rd Annual Dining in the Dark event presented by The Charles C. Taylor and Samir Nikocevic Charitable Foundation benefitting the Savannah Center for Blind and Low Vision, was held at the Embassy Suites/Downtown Savannah.

Beaujolais Nouveau Day 2018

Savannah's 39 Rue De Jean celebrated Beaujolais Nouveau Day, the official end of this year’s growing season. Harvest is complete and vintners—especially in France—are ready to celebrate the completion of the harvest. Beaujolais Nouveau is a red wine that is annually released on the third Thursday in November. Nouveau wine undergoes a very short fermentation process, and yields an extremely fresh and fruity wine.

A Chefs Collaborative

This five course dinner held at Pacci Italian Kitchen and Bar allowed guests to taste exceptional flavors steeped in tradition. Included were the culinary skills of Chef Adam Barnett of The Katharine Brasserie & Bar, Winston-Salem, NC, Chef Robert Hoffman of Angeline’s Charlotte, NC, Chef Daniel Gorman of The Henley Nashville, TN, Chef Sebastien Rondier of Brabo, Alexandria, VA, and Chef Lauren Teague of PACCI Italian Kitchen + Bar.