When two Leighs launched their LeighDeux dorm room and home décor company in 2013, they had some priorities in mind:
Everything had to be made or sourced in the U.S.A. Students would be part of the business message. And they would add a philanthropic piece to their venture as soon as possible.
Leigh Goodwyn recalls hearing advice from others that the charitable part should come later, when their venture was more established. But the two were long involved in good causes through different Charlotte groups, co-founder Leigh-ann Sprock says, and they wanted to continue that.
Recently, LeighDeux (rhymes with me too) launched the Women for Excellence in Entrepreneurship scholarships at UNC Chapel Hill, Goodwyn’s alma mater. Now totaling $5,000 a year, their intent is to grow the scholarship program right along with their business. It’s offered in the school’s entrepreneurial minor program within the College of Arts and Sciences.
This year's recipients are two students launching separate beverage companies, who will use the funds to cover start-up costs.
“Now it’s neat that we're focusing on young women and education,” Sprock says.
“It’s a very cool aspect to watch young women grow, and (know) we’re behind some of these entrepreneurial endeavors.”
In the same circles
Sprock’s and Goodwyn’s friendship started in Charlotte about 11 years ago. That’s when Goodwyn, a Gaston County native, returned to the area following marketing executive posts at Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta and Discovery Channel in Maryland. Back in Charlotte, she spent three years as head of marketing with Discovery Place before staying home with her two children.
Goodwyn, who is 49, and Sprock, 48, a University of Georgia grad with a background as a real estate agent, found themselves moving in Charlotte's philanthropic circles, which included both serving on the board of directors for the Mint Museum Auxiliary.
Then Goodwyn’s oldest child planned to head off to college.
“She had difficulty in finding bedding that she liked in the extra-long twin size” to fit dorm beds, Goodwyn recalls.
Goodwyn thought she could fill that product void – and knew Sprock, who has a business administration degree and is also a parent of two, “would have the appetite for a startup.”
Goodwyn says her grandfather’s business, Gastonia-based Jenkins Metal, manufactured machinery and parts for the textile business. This gave her an appreciation for the industry – as well as focus on made-in-America products.
Still, they both had much to learn about launching a textile and interiors company – from how to make their own fabrics, to starting an e-commerce site that would draw clicks. Sprock and Goodwyn attended a textile trade show in 2012 to make contacts and understand the fabric business.
They also hired an artist to translate their vision of “preppy boho” – ethnic patterns in vibrant colors.
Then came finding local manufacturers, which they say “was harder than making our fabric.” Start-ups like theirs weren’t as appealing to mills, since they would bring in less money than big hotel chains placing huge orders.
Eventually, they say, mills in Newton-Conover, High Point, Hendersonville and Asheboro signed on to make their print fabrics.
An operations manager is the company’s one full-time salaried employee. The duo invested about $10,000 each, Goodwyn says, to get LeighDeux up and running. Their slow-but-steady launch started with trunk sales in 2013, and starting their e-commerce site in 2014.
They also have a team of student ambassadors, who decorate their dorm and home spaces with LeighDeux items and tout the products on social media. They earn commissions on their sales.
Goodwyn says revenues, which have tripled from this time last year, go back into the business.
Their showroom is off East Boulevard, in an arts-and-crafts style cottage painted aqua and white. Products displayed in a decorated bedroom include bolster and headboard-style pillows, window treatments that can double as closet partitions or shower curtains, and clutter-hiding “Curtain Call” bedskirts, which run on a rod underneath the bed.
They say running a student-focused business makes their scholarship program a natural fit.
Their company tagline: Making beds and making a difference.
Smith: 704-358-5087; Twitter @celestesmithobs