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Meet Sheila Fox-Lovell of Shandy Creative Solutions in Marietta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Sheila Fox-Lovell.

Sheila, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I grew up in New York, where my father owned a mid-sized envelope manufacturing company. I had worked there periodically summers and vacations, but since my role was primarily as a glorified errand girl and filer, I had very little interest in the industry.

Having graduated college with a degree in Criminal Justice, I slowly realized that a job in that industry was not going to pay enough for any kind of life, While I was floundering with “what do I want to do with my life?”, I went back to work for my dad’s company. This time, since I was full time, I was actually taught things. I interacted with customers on the phone, and had a few responsibilities that made me feel like a contributing member of society.

During this time, my dad was in negotiations to sell the business so he and his business partner could retire. The company that bought the plant had locations around the country. My parents wanted me to start having a fun life, outside of their home. Turns out that one of the locations that the purchasing company owned was in Austell, GA.

So I relocated. The only person I knew was a family friend who was my age. I spent 3 years working at that plant, I left to pursue an ownership possibility and learned some very valuable lessons along the way.

As my career moved along, I went to work for a “forms distributor” that had a very heavy presence in the healthcare industry. I was intrigued by the amount of automatic business that came in because there was a relationship with a medical software company. They would sell the software and the practice info was turned over to my manager to work with them on all the “printed products” they would need to work with the software.

I wanted in on that niche, for a variety of reasons. There wasn’t enough of that business to go around, so I went looking for a company that I could work for in that niche, and I found one.

15 months of torture working for that company taught me how NOT to run a business. It seemed pretty simple to me. Sell stuff, purchase from a vendor, PAY that vendor, invoice customer and move on to the next order. This company wasn’t paying their bills and I was in a tough spot. Until I ran into an old high school friend who just relocated from NY to Atlanta. After much discussion, 6 weeks later we opened a little company named “Shandy Graphics” (the name changed as we added product lines that weren’t necessarily printed). That was in July of 1993, and here we are, still in business.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As the healthcare industry changed, we had to adapt as well. The biggest impact was the introduction of EMR (electronic medical records). We had a significant amount of business selling medical charts, the printed dividers that went in the charts and custom encounter forms.

We branched out and put our efforts towards with the marketing side of a medical practice rather than the front office.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) presented new challenges. Physician practices didn’t really know how this would impact their practices, so for many months they did as little marketing as possible. We hunkered down and added promotional products and website design and development to our product offerings. There was a significant learning curve for both new ventures, but we did what was necessary to stay in business.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Currently, we still work with physician practices, but not exclusively. We work with quite a few MGMA (Medical Group Management Association) local chapters and other similar associations as a “business partner”, as well as being their printer for a variety of association conferences or other events. We exhibit at those conferences as well, and consequently quite a few other companies that work with physician practices. The promo products that we either give away or have at our booth has interested quite a few of those “other” companies. We now do some business with them too! We are known for showing the latest, greatest, coolest products in the promotional products industry. Consequently, we get a great deal of booth traffic at conferences.

We are proud of the patent we have on what we call our “Confidential Sign-In System”. That simple product is still selling like gang busters.

Some people are under the misconception that since we are technically “brokers”, that our pricing won’t be competitive. They couldn’t be more wrong. Over the last 2o+ years in business, we know where to go for most products, most designs, any quantity, and any type of production times. We are always looking for vendors that we can count on for meeting our high expectations.

Quite a few of our customers have been with us since day 1, and many know we can provide that “one stop” solution, which makes their very busy jobs a little simpler.

What were you like growing up?
Being the youngest of 3 girls, had its own dynamic. My sisters are 18 mo. apart, so many times I felt left out. When they had to baby sit for me, I made their lives miserable. I am told a story about me that now lives in infamy. After a rough week of me running out into the street, putting a key down the back of one of those old TV sets, and trying to shave my face like my daddy did, with a curling iron, I’ve been told my mom tied me to a tree with a long rope.

I went to an 8 week sleep away camp from the time I was 6 until I was 12. Then, I apparently did something to get into trouble and my mother punished me by not sending me to camp for a summer. Camp was a fantastic memory for me. We did all sorts of sports and other activities, but more importantly this time away from home gave me the courage to go out of state for college and to move to Atlanta. AND, my parents had 8 weeks of freedom so they could travel.

Always being stubborn, I went head to head with my mother frequently. Probably because I’m most like her. I was very argumentative, to the point that my parents tried to push me into becoming a lawyer. I did outgrow it and we got very close once I went away to college. So much so, I named the company in my mom’s memory. Her nickname was “Shandy”.

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