After the birth of their second child, Shannon Whitley and her husband, Taylor, wanted to raise their girls closer to family. They moved back to Whitley’s hometown of Lake Jackson, Texas. However, a long commute to her job as project manager in the health industry in Houston, along with 60- to 70-hour work weeks, began to wear on her. Whitley found herself open to the idea of finding new ways to create personal and financial freedom in her life.
Whitley’s father, a prominent business owner in her hometown, always taught her the importance of community involvement, and she saw entrepreneurship as a way to invest in her community, while also investing in herself. But with a full-time job and being a new mother, she was not actively looking for a business opportunity.
Then a family friend approached her with an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. Butch Gentry, owner of the local Sport Clips Haircuts, asked Whitley if she would be interested in becoming his business partner. “Butch was looking to grow his business, and my experience and skillset complemented his so well,” she explains. “He’s a great guy, and I knew I could learn a lot from him as well. That is important in a partnership.”
“As I looked at the Sport Clips model, I saw how well it is put together. I wouldn’t be starting from scratch; all the systems are in place. The core values of the brand were in alignment with my personal values. It was the kind of organization I wanted to be a part of because of the value it places on people and team culture,” Whitley continues. “Plus, my dad and husband had been clients there for years and were fans. All around it was a good fit. I may not have had haircare experience, but I understand the client experience, that and I am always up for a challenge, so I said yes.”
In 2015, Whitley partnered with Gentry, and by the next year they began construction on their second store. Ready to be rid of the long commute and long work hours, she quit her corporate job to focus on their growing business.
Whitley compared her corporate experience in medical office build out and staffing to the process with Sport Clips. “In my old job, I had to create a lot of the processes and spreadsheets from scratch. With Sport Clips, they had all of that in place already. I didn’t have to recreate it on my own. It took the guesswork out of much of the process. It was very well put together. It made my job much easier.”
As the business was growing, Whitley suffered a personal tragedy. Her husband, Taylor, passed away suddenly from cardiac disease at the age of 38. “Knowing that my girls and I were going to be ok financially was a huge blessing during that time. The financial stability the recurring revenue stream provides sets up for the future. And I had the flexibility to be there when my kids needed me the most.”
For Whitley, community leadership and providing a service to the community were important goals. Whitley established a foundation in her late husband’s name, providing character-based scholarships and grants to high school and college students who “show up” in meaningful ways for the people around them. “Taylor had this motto that he took with him in all areas of his life, from his career on the football field to his work as a vice president of sales to his role as a husband and a father. It was “Show up. Give a flip. Repeat.” So that is what we named the foundation. We want to recognize young people who are making a difference by valuing others. It’s amazing to see what an impact recognizing young people for doing selfless acts really has on them and those around them. I see people looking for the good in others, just like Taylor did.”
Through all of this, Whitley and her business partner Gentry are looking toward the future and opening their third store. The systems and processes in place as part of Sport Clips’ proven business model have given them the framework to scale in a sustainable way. For Whitley, growing the business had to be in a way that made sense for her family. “The flexibility that comes with being a business owner is really important to me. My kids barely know I even have a job, because I have so much control over my schedule. As a mother, being a Sport Clips team leader has been a good fit for my lifestyle and personal goals.”
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To learn more about the Whitley Show Up Foundation, click here.