Whether they attend Western Carolina University or not, many people in Jackson County have become quite familiar with the clothing company Whee, Inc. It has risen quickly in popularity in the past year as COVID-19 eliminated in-person shopping for a period of time.
The founder, owner, and chief executive, Dillon Anderson, said that he was inspired after having a difficult time finding gear and clothing from Cullowhee and Western Carolina. He had just graduated, along with many friends, and wanted something to remember their college years by.
Anderson had an idea to create a brand that is central to the Cullowhee area to promote the culture and outdoors. His mission is to keep the lifestyle of this mountain valley area alive and spread the beauty across the nation, which he has already had success with.
He had a large amount of background knowledge as he graduated from Western Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in entrepreneurship with an inclusive development cognate. He is now a graduate student in the innovation leadership and entrepreneurship program, which gives him a lot of time to work on his business. He also grew up in a family where most people were their own bosses, and he said taking that role “sculpts you professionally and personally.”
Rather than accepting and seeking investments, he paired up with two pay-as-you-go suppliers. Having received profit quickly, investments became unnecessary and unwanted, as all of his equipment, such as tools for videography, were paid for by said profit. Whee, Inc. is filed under an S Corporation with the Secretary of State, meaning they are not publicly traded, and it is its own entity.
He has had great success with using social media, specifically, Instagram, which has led him to conversations with James Schrader and Tristan Hamm over clothing designs and orders. This has led Anderson to see his clothing across the country in California and Arizona, which has been great for marketing.
Marketing is something very important to Anderson, and he uses a variety of methods to network and get the word out about his business. He began by hiring two interns to go around the Western Carolina campus and downtown Sylva area with the company’s pullovers and other attire, along with face masks. They were tasked with promoting the line while also getting people to complete surveys about the line, such as what they want to see.
Anderson said that a huge factor of success is keeping the employees happy and healthy. The business itself is all through online ordering rather than brick and mortar “until COVID-19 is alleviated.” He also explained that when he sends out his employees for marketing, they remain six feet away and he provides face masks for everyone as they are “very COVID conscious.”
Another way Anderson guarantees his employees are happy is by building a positive culture because “if you promote positivity, people will follow,” meaning both employees and customers. He has been able to be so successful by assuring the clothing is of high quality and listening to what they want to see.
This opens up even more communication between the business and customers, which builds a network, and “owning and operating a successful business is as simple as networking,” according to Anderson. By being personable and dedicating eight hours a day every day of the week, he has been able to create this network. He is extremely open-minded with his business and strives to listen to his employees and customers.
He also promises to accurately portray the Cullowhee lifestyle as that is his sole purpose. As his business grows further over social media platforms, more and more people who have never been here see how great the western North Carolina area is and are growing “fascinated with what it has to offer.” Anderson hopes this will drive up the economy of the Sylva and Cullowhee area to better the region.
Whee also loves to give back, “giving away money and items totaling over $2000 to individuals in Cullowhee during this pandemic.” They have partnered up with numerous local businesses and Region A Partnership for Children to give back to the region.
Anderson said that he is “amazed at the growth that has happened over such a short span of time.” His advice to anyone seeking a future in entrepreneurship is to be brave and consistent in your endeavors.
“If you are determined to bring your idea to life, you will.”