STORY AND PHOTOS BY JOYANNA LOVE
Businesses start in Chilton County in a variety of ways. Increasingly small business owners are getting their start online and growing their business through social media channels.
Maymay Made It, The Clack Shack and Simply Lake and Lace each grew a business out of a hobby and a YouTube channel.
MAYMAY MADE IT
For Maymay Helms of Maymay Made It, YouTube videos were a way for her to share her love of teaching others to craft. Starting a paper-crafting store was not her initial goal, but something that grew out of demand.
After a house fire moved her family to an apartment, Maymay Helms turned to creativity.
“I am a creative person. I have always used my art and my creativity as sort of therapy. It always has been,” Maymay Helms said.
She began seriously thinking about starting a YouTube channel.
“Before the house fire, I had been looking at YouTube and thinking I could really do this,” she said. “I think I could teach people. I had been teaching crafts for years anyway.”
She talked about the idea with her husband.
“We agreed I could do one video a week,” Maymay Helms said.
She did her first video of how to make a craft in September 2011 filming in a 4×6 storage closet at the apartment. There is still a video of it on her channel.
“She really became a student of YouTube too, and spent a lot of time researching how to grow a channel … what it took,” her husband Vince Helms said.
After hearing about her love of crafting, the contractor doing their new house insisted on a craft room, and expanded a closet “as big as he could in our floor plan,” Maymay Helms said.
The 8×15 closet became her new craft filming space.
“At a certain point, I realized that if I was going to grow my channel I was going to have to really take it serious, put emphasis on a schedule and things like that,” she said.
She said the schedule is what increased her views and subscribers because it created consistency and increased the videos from once a week to three times a week.
She was still working full-time 40-60 hours a week in Montgomery and doing videos at night after their four boys were in bed.
“The viewers are what really caused the business to happen because every time I would show a product I’d get inundated with ‘where did you get that?’” Maymay Helms said. “… So I went to Vince and said, ‘what if we tried something?’”
Those words would be the catalyst for quite a few business steps in the future. Her first “something” was to open an online store on Etsy selling “Maymay’s 10 Favorite Things.” She had 1,600 subscribers at the time. Vince Helms admits he was afraid the business would not catch on at first, but he still supported taking a chance.
An entry way was converted into business space, and Maymay Helms turned to the Clanton post office staff for help figuring out labeling and shipping. She said back then one could not print labels directly from Etsy like one can now.
“I was 40 years old when I started my YouTube channel, so when people say, ‘oh, I’m too old to do it,’ No, I was 40, I had no idea how to do this stuff,” Maymay Helms said.
The business continued to grow, and the Helms couple rented a building to accommodate the inventory.
Today, Maymay Made It is on its third brick and mortar location and has a team of 12 with varying work schedules. The sales continue to be mostly online, but the store front at 1616 Seventh St. N in Clanton is open to locals Monday- Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. While the YouTube schedule has changed a few times, the team makes sure to have a video up every time. Maymay Helms said, at this point, her viewers and customers have become like family and will start contacting her to make sure everyone is all right if there is not a video at a scheduled time. Maymay Helms said her market is “very niche,” so the channel has not grown as quickly as some others might.
“My demographic is like 65 and up,” Maymay Helms said, commenting that there are some younger crafters that are viewers.
The YouTube channel now has about 352,000 subscribers.
THE CLACK SHACK
Woodworking and computers are two of David Clackley’s major interests. These interests combine in his business The Clack Shack, which grew out of a desire to upgrade his workshop.
Clackley is the assistant chief for the Clanton Police Department, and basic woodworking had been a hobby when he had the time. When parades and extra details needing off-duty officers were canceled during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Clackley started looking for something to fill his new found free time. He decided to upgrade his shop to be able to work on woodworking projects that he “had always wanted to do but never had the time.” A drastic increase in lumber prices had Clackley turning to the forest on his property for the wood needed to finish the upgrades to his workshop. He bought a sawmill and went to work. He had joined some Facebook groups where others were getting into the same hobby.
“In the Facebook groups, people started asking me questions about how I made this or how I made that or how I adjust this on the mill,” Clackley said.
Since Clackley wanted to answer the questions, “but I am not real big on typing,” he started making videos explaining how he did what he was doing on the sawmill.
As Clackley started doing more woodworking projects in his shop, orders started coming in through his Facebook.
“I wanted to be able to put a mark on there you know like a brand,” Clackley said.
His search for the best option led him to laser engravers.
“It uses computers, that’s kind of my strong suit,” Clackley said.
He purchased one and made a few videos about using it, which started him on a path from casual content creator to a recognizable YouTube name.
When Maymay Helms saw his videos, she encouraged and challenged Clackley to “get serious” about creating online content to drive his business.
He said his videos really started getting noticed when he created a “jig kit” for his engraver to make lining up the laser for engraving easier. Enough people wanted one that Clackley started selling the digital files for the kit through Etsy. He estimates that he has sold thousands of files for making the improvements to people as far away as Germany, Ukraine, France, China and Russia.
“You can go into almost any laser (engraver) group now and scroll through the videos and the pictures and usually within the first 10 pictures, if they are showing their actual machine, you’ll see my jig kit,” Clackley said.
YouTube videos he has created explain how to use the kit.
Now, he has created jig kits for multiple engravers.
His videos took off to the point that Clackley has been able to monetize them as a part of the Google Partnership to receive a portion of the Ad Sense revenue from the ads running on his videos. Clackley said he had to reach 4,000 hours of consumed content, meaning his videos have been viewed that long, before he could become a partner.
“That was the obstacle for me … 1,000 subscribers for me wasn’t hard,” Clackley said.
He has over 5,000 subscribers now.
SIMPLY LAKE AND LACE
ollie Minor of Simply Lake and Lace began her social media journey on Instagram posting photos of decorations at her home.
She and her husband Drew had bought and moved a double wide manufactured home to the family farm. Naturally, she chose a farm house theme to make the double wide feel like home.
House accounts, where people shared photos of their home, were popular at the time, so Minor set one up to give friends and family updates on how the decorations were going. She said she had friends that would ask her what she was planning next.
“I have always liked decorating … my whole life,” Minor said.
In high school, she developed an enjoyment of photography and always had a camera with her.
“So whenever I fell into this, and it became my career my mom was literally like, ‘this is what you were born to do because you have done this stuff your entire life,’” Minor said.
Minor entered the world of YouTube in 2017 at the urging of her cousin Maymay Helms. Maymay also encouraged some of her subscribers to go check out Minor’s channel. Later, a friend urged her to really get serious about posting to the channel. Minor decided to commit to two videos each week in 2020. She picked specific days to be able to “manage and time block my time better.” Wednesday and Sunday are her usual days to post.
“I feel like consistency is key if you are wanting to get paid and get the sponsorships,” Minor said.
She said she also focuses on “content that people want to see, not just sharing my life.”
“When you’re smaller, people don’t really know you yet, and they don’t want to see really about your life, they want to see how-to videos or something that is going to help them,” Minor said.
However, as the channel has grown, Minor said she had made many friends through the channel.
“I don’t want to just be a channel where I show what I am decorating, I want to connect with my people,” Minor said.
She said staying in her rustic meets glamorous niche is important. She has done tours of friends’ homes as well as videos about decorating, shopping and flipping thrift store finds. She
is also branching out to include cooking videos.
“I feel like God has had a huge hand in all of this,” Minor said. “I feel like one of the best things in all of this is the people I have been able to meet, like my subscribers, who are amazing … It is honestly one of the biggest blessings I have ever had in my life.”
She has also used her platform to share her faith.
As her channel grew, Minor began receiving messages from small businesses wanting to collaborate. She said these collaborations secured several accessories for her current home. The items were then a part of one of Minor’s videos. In some collaborations, additional revenue is generated through commission on items sold by a link Minor shares with the video. Some collaborations pay her a fee.
Recently, Minor has been able to collaborate with local business MorLyn’s to promote their rings.
While many hours go into keeping the YouTube driven business going, Minor said “I do love it.”
Moving into the couple’s dream home in August 2022, built on the property the double wide had been on, has created more opportunities for videos.
Minor also sells Young Life essential oils and shares information about this on her channel, so it has helped grow that business also.
“That is a big part of my life — living a more natural lifestyle, so I feel like I am able to put that out there, too,” Minor said.
Creating the channel has also helped Minor go beyond “my own little bubble.”
“I have learned how much I love meeting people, and just loving on people,” Minor said.
Subscribers came up to her during a trip to Huntsville after they recognized her.
Her channel has grown to 40,000 subscribers. Her goal is 100,000.