BETHLEHEM - Cody Murray, 25, of Winder, was named Young Entrepreneur of the Year in both Georgia and the Southeast by the Small Business Administration.
Murray, president and CEO, and Corey Bramblett, chief financial officer, opened Raw Talent Inc. in June 2002. Both men were then 19. The company specializes in T-shirts, fleece garments and head wear embellished with screen prints, embroidery and other decorative design work. It employs 35 full-time workers in its 13,000-square-foot Bethlehem facility.
A career in fashion came naturally to Murray. Raised in Winder, a city built upon the clothing manufacturing industry, Murray's father also worked many years in fashion. After one semester of college, Murray followed in his late father's footsteps by taking a job as a clothing sales representative.
"I saw a need for fresh ideas," Murray said. "The design work was real novelty focused. Branded apparel had no style, no edge, no creativity to it."
That unique creativity brought customers to
"We've stuck with them because they have really superb attention to detail," said Regan Avery, spokeswoman for ThinkGeek. "When we have intricate designs, we send them to Raw Talent. Screen printing can be technically complicated, but 'that can't be done' isn't in Cody's vocabulary. They always find a way to make it happen."
Murray and Bramblett, who have been friends since 6th grade, opened Raw Talent in Bramblett's bedroom with a computer and a telephone.
"I made about 100 sales calls a day and we outsourced everything - design, production," Murray said. "We bootstrapped everything, no outside investors. Doing it that way is an enormous undertaking. We've never taken a business class or anything. We'd have been where we are now about two or three years earlier if we'd known what we were doing."
Today, Raw Talent serves 700 customers in 10 different countries. Murray and Bramblett plan to build a 40,000- square-foot facility in 2009 that will employ 80 to 90 workers. They project generating $30 to $50 million in revenue in 2010.
"Neither of us are money- driven, although it is a measuring tool of your success," Murray said. "Our purpose is to do something different, be the best in the industry and have fun. It's hard to look back and go, 'Wow, did we really do that?'"