One thing Devin Goodman never figured was that he would wind up building a business in an old building his great great grandfather built well over a half-century ago. Back then, his ancestor, Steve Hughes, was an automobile mechanic who maintained a fleet of delivery vehicles for Tom’s Foods, the legendary Columbus, Ga., company that got its start selling packaged peanuts that the company’s founder, Tom Huston, often got in barter from southwest Georgia farmers. Eventually, Devin’s grandmother took over the building and converted it into a flower shop, and then Devin’s dad, Scott Goodman, succeeded her and set up a custom cabinetry business.
Like many high school graduates, Devin planned to leave home and head off to a college at least a little distance from home. He was, in fact, headed across the state to Statesboro and Georgia Southern University to study graphic communication management. But a not-so-funny thing happened on his way to Georgia Southern. “They scrapped that program,” he says. “At first I was disappointed that I didn’t get to go off to another town, but now, a little further down the line, I’m grateful that it happened the way it happened.”
“The way it happened,” as Devin puts it, was that he stayed home, enrolled at Columbus State University to study business management and marketing, and focused on building a business he and one of his Harris County High teachers, Ryan Miller, had started while he was still in high school. Called The Shirt Jerks, the business is a screen printing business that specializes in printing custom designs on various kinds of shirts – and the business grew directly out of graphic design and production courses Devin took as part of Harris County High’s Career, Technical and Agricultural Education (CTAE) program.
“I think that’s what really gave me an edge,” says Devin, “the fact that I did so much hands-on work.”
Starting his freshman year in high school, Devin signed up for a CTAE course in graphic communication and was hooked from the start. He loved the design work and was soon fluent in working with Adobe Creative Suite on his Mac. Then he was offered an on-site internship at the high school and was soon running school-owned presses to print virtually all of the school’s materials, including banners, signs, booklets, forms, tickets, and t-shirts. Very quickly, he was managing a $50,000 wide-format printer.
“I think that’s what really gave me an edge,” says Devin, “the fact that I did so much hands-on work.” When he and his former teacher decided to get serious about The Shirt Jerks, they started out in a spare bedroom that was “smaller than most people’s closets,” he says. “It was a struggle to get two people in the room at the same time.” In a fairly short period of time, they put together $5,000 to buy a used printer capable of printing 300 shirts an hour and worked out a space-sharing agreement with Devin’s dad in his cabinetry business in the old family building near the corner of 12th Avenue and 22nd Street in Columbus.
“I’m very grateful for the skills I learned from the graphics department at Harris County High School,” Devin adds, “and I credit them for the success I’ve experienced so far in my business and personal life.”
Already the business is turning a modest profit and Devin is able to cover his college costs at Columbus State without going into debt. Nearly half of The Shirt Jerks’ business is repeat business, Devin says, and virtually all their growth has been generated word-of-mouth through the community. At the tender age of 19, Devin has been designing and printing shirts and other textiles for five years. “I haven’t gotten tired of it yet and I don’t think I will,” he said. “I could see doing this for the rest of my life. You never do two jobs that are the same, you’re always meeting new people, seeing new things. I love it.”
You’ve got to figure his great great granddaddy, the old auto mechanic, would be proud.