Originally from Baton Rouge, La., Jeff Conner grew up in Georgetown. He spent nine years in the Army National Guard First 178th Field Artillery, including a year doing convoy security overseas. “We took convoys from the border of Kuwait into Iraq wherever they needed to go,” he says. He was involved in junior ROTC in high school, and a benefit of putting in service with the National Guard was the opportunity to pursue higher education, which he did, with stints at Charleston Southern University, University of South Carolina and finally Coastal Carolina University. “I finished up my art studio degree when I got back from overseas. They were still working on their graphic design program when I graduated.”
For a time, Conner was a retail manager at MagiQuest at Broadway at the Beach, but when he finished school he was looking to do something else. “I wanted to do something art-based – working with artists, since that’s what my degree is in and is something I enjoy doing.”
A year ago, he hatched plans for a business called Community Custom T Printing, LLC [www.communityprint.net], which has now been up and running for ten months in Carolina Forest. “We started off with just an idea of me and a couple of other local artists getting together and doing T-shirts,” he says. “We went through a couple of different companies on the Web, but we couldn’t make too much money off of that, so we were going to try to do our own shirts.”
This idea grew into a retail line with local artists. “We also do local crafters – jewelry, hand-made cards and toys. We do bulk printing for small businesses – but the big thing with Community is that we try to focus on our locals.”
The business operates two printers. “One of them runs textiles – like your clothing and T-shirts, and the other printer we have, we’re doing things like canvases for artists, but we have the ability to print on metal or wood – anything that can fit through the machine.” Conner was busy with projects related to XCON World V, which took place at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center in May. “I did a lot of stuff with [artist] Kanesha C. Bryant – ran some shirts and bags for her – and we’re working on getting art shows together to raise awareness about our local artists.” He has worked with artist Jeffrey Schnaus, Swampfox Media and the organizers of Brawl at the Beach, a gaming event.
He says he was so busy with orders that he didn’t get the chance to set up a booth of his own at XCON, the local comic book/fantasy convention.
His workdays vary depending on orders. “Usually I’m here printing eight to 10 hours a day – and I’m taking orders, dealing with everybody, getting graphics or designing logos. I run until I’m done and can’t stand at the printer anymore.” He says he usually works from Monday to Saturday.
The entrepreneurial path can be daunting at times.
“It’s a lot different from getting a paycheck. One thing I enjoyed about working for somebody else was getting that paycheck every two weeks. You know what you’re getting, and if it’s slow you know that you are still going to get paid.”
Conner lives in Carolina Forest with his wife, Jen Conner. “It’s a little bit quieter than actually being downtown, but you still have access to everything.” Downtime might find them hitting up the dog park. “We might go out and have a few drinks here and there when we get a chance.” Favorite watering holes include Tavern in the Forest or the Village Bar & Grill.
He says that he’d like to expand his shop eventually, but stresses the unity of community. “I’d like to always stay around here, where we started.”
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