Stories of Excellence–Kevin Smith
Kevin Smith believes in the power of perseverance and the courage to make changes in pursuit of a dream. Though his career has taken many turns throughout the years, he never lost sight of his goals. He credits Mitchell Community College with helping achieve his dream.
Growing up in Troutman, Smith followed the path of many peers and spent over twenty years working in the furniture industry. However, he knew this was not his future. Having never used a computer before 2003, he began taking night classes to learn the Microsoft Office suite. His goal was to become a compliance officer with OSHA and begin a career as a Safety Manager at a large facility. Soon realizing this dream would likely require relocation, he began searching for other options and found Mitchell.
Smith attended Mitchell from January 2005 to May 2007 where he majored in Information Technology. He chose Mitchell for the IT program, and his reasons to stay at Mitchell quickly multiplied. “The friends and teachers at Mitchell left a lasting impression on me. I made several lifelong friends,” he said. “They witnessed a 40+-year-old man struggling to adjust to academic life after 22 years removed from high school, and they were very supportive.”
While at Mitchell, he took a position at a small website design business/print shop in Mooresville. Smith was encouraged to grow the website portion of the business, and he began networking with various groups around Lake Norman. He nearly doubled the client base in 11 months. With the increase in business, Smith took on a managerial role and began hiring designers. Travis Hedrick, Mitchell graduate and new hire, propelled the company to an even higher level. With the addition of two graphic designers, the workload exploded. Smith again adapted his career, focusing more on digital marketing and less on website design. Along with his professional endeavors, he also established and grew his personal business into a thriving company. Interested in giving back, Smith also shared his talents with the community. He began teaching computer classes for the Mooresville Chamber of Commerce and Lake Norman Chamber twice a month.
In 2015, Smith began feeling the strain of working two full-time jobs and began looking for a new career opportunity. He began working for Heritage Printing & Graphics as Marketing Manager in August 2015 during a period of great expansion for the company. When he joined Heritage Printing & Graphics, the company was valued at $2 million. The company acquired Beacon Printing and with a facility relocation, began focusing on serving the Washington DC and Charlotte markets with commercial print and interior signage and event displays. In 2016, the company expanded the brand to include Heritage Custom Signs & Displays. Smith’s job was to build a brand for the signage aspect while enabling the commercial print side to continue flourishing under Heritage Printing. As Heritage Printing enters September 2018, they have grown to a $5+ million company, primarily utilizing the Internet for organic rankings on search engines, social media and numerous aspects of advertising online. Under Smith’s management, the company went from 13 employees in August 2015 to 38 employees today.
Smith says that Heritage is his future. He plans to stay in a managerial role and continue to grow relationships with clients and the community, expanding the signage portion of the company. “My journey from furniture upholstery to building a business, owning a business, to Marketing Manager at a $5 million company is directly related to Mitchell College,” he noted. “I will forever be indebted to Mitchell for the opportunity it provided me to grow and be successful.”
Smith knows that his journey as a non-traditional student is not entirely unique. Many other Mitchell students struggle with returning to school after a long absence. He encourages anyone who has doubts to never give up. “You can do something if you want to,” he said. “I realized that you can do anything if you overcome those mental barriers where people tell you ‘you can’t do this’ and your mind builds up this stigma that it is beyond your skill set. You can do these things and you can be a better person. You can do most anything that you really, really want to if you set your mind to it.”
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