By Brandy Cochran
Special to The Press
One of the best things about living in a small town is the fact that everybody knows everybody. The idea of a neighborhood takes on a personification that reveals an “If we don’t know you yet, we will soon,” attitude. Small businesses, too, realize that staying close and working together makes for much more success rather than cut-throat competition. That is one of the many reasons why Makenzie Vincent of Vincent Outfitters chose to pair up with Martin’s local T-shirt company, Project 731, about a year and a half ago, and both have seen nothing but positive results since.
Project 731 was originally a small non-profit designed specifically out of the love that Whitney Stover, founder and former owner, had for her hometown. She wanted to support local events and spread the pride for West Tennessee-living across the public spectrum; thus, Project 731 came to life. Although she was knowledgeable on how to run a successful non-profit organization, Stover knew she would need a fun gimmick to help gain the public’s attention while bringing in helpful revenue. This is when Grant Harper, T-shirt designer came into the picture. With such slogans as “Love Where You Live,” “Back Roads and Bonfires,” and the ever-so-popular, “The Quad & Cabana & Soybeans & Caddy’s” on their shirts, Project 731 has made supporting small town living not only fun but personal to anyone who has lived in the area.
Loving the mission Project 731 had set forth, Vincent jumped on the chance to partner with them, and the small business of young professionals could not had been happier to have been asked. Soon, Vincent Outfitters, a West Tennessee staple, began carrying several designs produced by Project 731 at their own first pick and sold them in their chains across the region, including Milan and Dyersburg. “If it is a design we really like and want to sell it at one of our stores outside the 731 area, like Dickson,” Vincent said, “we will pick it anyway, and Grant (Harper) will just take the 731 emblem off the shirt for us. Our relationship is really close, especially since their business is literally right next door to us.” That’s right, the Project 731 headquarters is located next door to Vincent Outfitters in Martin—these businesses really do work side by side!
As business grew for Stover, so did her family life. She decided to take a major step back from the business, become the accountant, and hand the keys over to Grant and Suzanne Harper. Harper gives much credit to his wife, Suzanne, whom, he says comes up with a lot of the ideas since she grew up in West Tennessee and handles the social media and marketing for the business. “We make a great team, Harper shared, “she thinks of a T-shirt idea and marketing plan, and I bring the design to life.” Since the couple both have full-time jobs outside of Project 731, they decided to downsize the company into primarily a t-shirt design company. They still believe in the same original mission and use their sales to support local charities and events, such as the local school spirit line whose profits go directly toward the local Arts support group, The Weakley Arts Can, and their most recent series, the “Be Kind” line, inspired by the life and morals of Mr. Rogers, that which profits were donated to the Be a Village program in Dresden to help buy essential items for foster children and families. “Our biggest passion is giving back and really making positive change in our region,” Harper expressed, “and Project 731 has made a lot of that possible.”
The next step for Project 731 is to cover more of the area code region, which covers all of West Tennessee with the exception of Shelby County—that’s a lot of land to cover! Harper says they want to eventually reach out and pair up with businesses in Jackson, but, for now, they are happy with focusing on Weakley County and its surrounding towns. So far, they have made their reach in Milan, where Project 731 will be supporting the Milan’s Farmer’s Market, and those living in South Fulton can even go right over the state line and shop for their 731 swag in the 270 at the clothing boutique, 2 Doors Down in Fulton. Look for their new Spring collection coming out soon; one thing is for sure, no matter where one resides in the 731 region, there is a shop to be found that carries Project 731 products and the pride that comes along with them.