Southern style: RHS 2020 grad launches men’s clothing business
For many new college students, the transition from high school to pseudo-adulthood proves to be a challenging time in life. Between making new friends, enjoying new levels of independence, handling a full course load of classes and solidifying basic life skills like doing laundry and grocery shopping, most 18-19-year-olds find their plates are plenty full.
Then there’s Sydney Medley.
The 2020 Russellville High School grad finished her first semester at the University of North Alabama, celebrated her 19th birthday and launched her own men’s clothing store within the space of a month in December 2020.
Born and raised in Russellville, the daughter of Cassie and Jamie Medley said she once thought she might be a nurse or a teacher. With her mother’s role as director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, however, she wound up with plenty of opportunities to work with local small business owners – and she fell in love with the local business community, especially “the interaction with people, being able to help them find something they need and provide customer service.”
A conversation with Chase Sparks at Russellville Florist pushed Medley to take her own leap and join the Russellville business community with Kyle and Company Menswear, a men’s clothing shop named after her brother, Nathan Kyle. With her parents’ support, Medley made her new business official Dec. 27, 2020.
“It’s growing little by little every day,” Medley said. “I’ve loved every second of it.”
Although right now her business is conducted solely online and based out of her Russellville home – “My house looks like a storefront has thrown up a little bit, if we’re being honest,” – Medley said she hopes to one day join downtown business owners with a brick-and-mortar Russellville shop. Basing the business in her hometown is a no-brainer. “I love Russellville. I know they will rally behind me,” Medley said.
The UNA marketing major/sales minor said she has put her business focus on providing clothing for the Southern gentleman, as well supporting other locally-owned small businesses across the nation. Kyle and Company carries four brands – Burlebo, based in Texas; Southern Fried Cotton, based in North Carolina; Live Oak Brand, based in Maryland; and Smathers and Branson, also based in Maryland. T-shirts constitute the bulk of her merchandise so far, but the shop also offers dress shirts, shorts, caps and other items, and Medley said she aims to continue to expand.
“This is something she has dreamed about for a while now,” explained mom Cassie. “Hopefully by the time she is finished with college and has her degree, she can have it already established and be ready to work.” She said she is proud to see her daughter take the initiative at such a young age to embrace the local business community and follow her passion. “It gives you hope for the future, that others will step up and do the same. I love new businesses coming in and being part of the chamber.”
The 6-month-old business has already received community support, as the younger Medley has leaned on people like Sparks – “He was the one who pushed me to actually create a business. He was like, ‘Just go for it. I wish I would have done it at your age,’” – and Yaneli Bahena, co-owner of The Ville Nutrition and a fellow 2020 graduate. Her parents have also been her continuous cheering section.
“I have leaned on my mom a lot, and it’s been awesome for us to get to do stuff together,” Medley said. “She saw the need just like I did.”
Medley said although she knows many new business fail, she is determined hers won’t be one of them.
“I’m just not going to give up. I’m not going to be the one who closes after a year,” Medley said. “I’ve learned a lot about how I just have to roll with it.”