Husband and wife team enlist SBDC assistance to grow business

LoweGear Printing Inc. of Hillsborough County

LoweGear Printing Inc. of Hillsborough CountyIn 2007, Cotton Lowe was working as a high-end men’s fashion designer in New York City. Although he enjoyed his job, he felt as though there was something missing in his life. He decided to request a transfer within the company to Tampa, where he found the keys to unlock the door to his future.

Shortly after relocating, Cotton began the process of becoming a middle school teacher. He knew he wanted to make a difference, and felt it was the job to do just that. But in December 2008, Cotton met his wife, Leah, after a church meeting and together they discovered a need within their community.

“I received a call from my brother-in-law, who was the president of his local youth baseball organization” Cotton said. “The organization had about 2,000 kids that needed shirts to be made. He asked me if I could come up with a design for them to use for the league’s shirts. I did that, and he then asked if I could orchestrate the development and production with a local vender. I was able to negotiate a good price and realized there was money to be made doing this.”

That’s when the couple decided to create LoweGear Printing Inc., a company that provides printing, promotional products, and various clothing items to businesses, schools, sports teams, and more. Leah adds that what makes their business different is that they serve as a “one-stop shop” for clients, creating custom plans for their success.

While the business was established in 2010, the duo encountered some difficulties from the start, like many other new business owners.

“There have been many ups and downs, trials and tribulations, success and failures along the way,” Cotton said. “If I would have known about the SBDC during my start-up years, I could have avoided many of these harsh times through the wonderful and knowledgeable council they bring. I could have received the type of advice that a first-time business owner needs to protect his investment and be profitable.”

The couple reached out to the Florida SBDC at University of South Florida during the pandemic, in November 2020.

Thankfully, Cotton was able to get in contact with business consultant Bradley Mix.

“He has been my representative and he has been wonderful to work with. He has provided council on several different loan options for my building purchase, and was able to save us over $150,000 in interest rates and fees over the course of the loan. The Florida SBDC at USF has also assisted me in receiving and granting forgiveness on the PPP loan,” he said.

The Paycheck Protection Program loan was an important asset for the Lowe’s as they tried to protect their more than 30 employees throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cotton and Leah are looking forward to what’s to come for their business. The next project for the duo and their consultant is the Growth Acceleration service. “What’s nice about the acceleration program is that our ideas are not just going to be ideas,” Leah said. “They’re going to be executed in a formative way without all the hiccups that we had. [I’m] so excited to know that we’re not going to have to make these mistakes again.”

The Growth Acceleration service assists business owners in uncovering hidden profits, finding new market opportunities, and sustaining growth for long-term success.

“We are excited to work with such great council and help make our dreams and aspirations become a reality,” Cotton said. “It takes a village to run a business, but it takes council like the SBDC provides to help a company become successful. We know with their help we can bring further jobs to our area and nation. We hope and pray that our work can change the world for better.”