By Emma Kent
Shane Butler never imagined he would own his own business at the age of 26. But with a background in playing and coaching basketball, business training and some good connections, he decided to take the leap and start SB Fitness, an athletic apparel company.
Butler, a 2011 graduate of Tupelo High School, was working on his Master’s in Business Administration degree while coaching basketball at Shorter University when he decided to go for it. Before coaching at Shorter, he attended Blue Mountain College where he played basketball. He graduated from BMC in 2015 and spent a year trying to pursue a career playing basketball professionally. Seeing as he was still in touch with a lot of contacts from his basketball career, he felt like he had a network of people who could help him get his business started.
“I just really wanted to piggyback off of that audience and start my own brand,” he said. “You just never know what you want to do until it catches your eye, but I am loving every minute.”
It was also an emotional decision for Butler, whose brother passed away in 2017. That loss motivated Butler to pursue the venture, and he said he has dedicated his work to his brother.
“Just realizing that he died so young made me think,” Butler said. “You never know when it’s our time, and you only live life once. I didn’t want to regret not doing it.”
SB Fitness was launched in September 2017, and just a year and a few months later, Butler said business is good. SB Fitness has three components: uniform apparel, workout gear and personal training. The company makes a lot of sports gear for teams across a range of sports including basketball, soccer, tennis, football, cheerleading, gymnastics, dance teams and more. SB Fitness also makes coaching gear.
“Right now the business is really hanging its hat on the uniforms because there are always sports going on,” Butler said.
The company has worked with around 50 teams so far, most of them from Mississippi and varying from youth to adult teams.
The SB Fitness team is small, with just eight people working in-house for the company. Butler said they also work with a number of ambassadors who help them get their name out, and social media has played a huge role in growing the business.
“Social media makes the huge world very small,” Butler said. “We use it a lot for advertising and it’s been working out great for us.”
And of course, it helps to have celebrity clients like Tupelo-native Rae Sremmurd. Butler said he hopes to one day do business with college and professional athletes. For right now, though, his focus is building the SB Fitness brand. The most exciting part of that work, for Butler, is working on the company’s athletic apparel and workout clothes.
“We’re always coming up with new stuff,” he said.
All of SB’s apparel is made with the same high-quality materials that major players in the industry use, but at a fraction of the cost. According to Butler, they’re able to sell at a lower price simply because they’re a small operation and they don’t work with many third parties to get their product created and delivered.
Butler is also focused on making the apparel “people-friendly,” as he puts it. To do this, he frequently uses social media platforms to gather information from followers about what styles and types of new products they would want to wear.
“We want to make it stylish enough that people will love wearing it,” he said.
So far, finding out what people want has also been a game of trial and error. They’ll try one thing and if it doesn’t work, Butler said they’ll keep trying until they find a winner.
“I knew it was going to be hard, but it was a lot harder than I expected. When you run your own business the work is non-stop, but it’s well worth it,” he said. “I just came to the conclusion that you get out what you put into it.”