By Tiffany Cooke
Nick “Turtlefish” Weymouth joked to his later business co-founder Joe “Iceman” Steepleton that he should start his own clothing line after he created shirts that flashed “Turtlefish,” Weymouth’s high school nickname. This joke, though, soon became so much more – it became an idea that evolved into TurtleFish Clothing Company.
Weymouth and Steepleton first considered printing their shirts and designs at local shops, but then settled on going all in. They bought the equipment to do it all themselves. In December 2012, the company was founded in an apartment kitchen.
There was competition and a learning curve. They started with basically nothing – no graphic design experience or equipment. They spent hours watching Youtube videos and asking questions.
“I thought I’d be in construction the rest of my life and he thought he’d own a saw mill”, Weymouth said. “We just wanted to see how far we could take it and we ended up being good at it.”
Jimmy Sneed joined the company in 2013, offering an extra hand as the hours multiplied while they still worked in the apartment. Late September, Steepleton unexpectedly died. Grieving, Sneed and Weymouth were left to take care of the company.
Just a few months later on May 1, 2014, they opened their first offical shop – a 750 square foot building on Market Street.
From there, the company began to grow faster than anticipated. Though they started with only making their own designs, they soon began making custom orders for other businesses and individuals. Now, they offer customizable apparel items and personal and commercial decaling, taking on big and small jobs in association with their off-site location. Because of this, they take pride in offering “quality shirts at a lower price.”
When they were forced to add more equipment and inventory, TurtleFish Clothing Company moved again to where it is found today on the Salem Public Square.
“We’ve been in business five years so it’s too late to turn around now,” Weymouth joked.
Though the business built a name and reputation that brings in new projects and customers throughout Kentuckiana, it still operates with its first goal in mind – to give back to the local community.
When founded, TurtleFish donated all profits into the Washington County community. When it developed into a career, not just a side job, it wasn’t probable to continue giving all profits away but they still wanted to continue to give back to the community.
Today, TurtleFish give much of their profits to local and national charities and offer special discounts for nonprofit organizations that are hosting benefits or events.
Beyond monetary contributions, TurtleFish holds several different benefits each year to help less fortunate families in the community. They’re also willingly to be involved with other individuals’ projects or events by giving creative advice for design, helping plan, and proving fundraising assistance.
“I like to have the chance and resources to help people or help others help,” Weymouth said.
Focused on proving a better future, the company’s owners and employees stand on a mission to help less fortunate families and children, hoping to help them access both needs and wants.
TurtleFish is involved in the lives of children and their families by collecting and giving to the food banks, helping with “hunger in the summer” for kids who go hungry when school is out, collecting donations to give families a Christmas and Thanksgiving, and providing school supplies when back-to-school seasons comes around.
By focusing on the youth in the community, TurtleFish hopes they’ll inspire the future generation to develop a community-focused, appreciative mindset that will lead them to help the children in generations to come.
They hope that one day, this kind of inspiration will be able to make differences in children across the country, not just the county.
TurtleFish won several awards that they credit to their community involvement and mission to give back including the 2016 Business of the Year, and People’s Choice Award ” Most Community Involved Business for three consecutive years. Weymouth received the Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2015.
Each year, the business fundraises for the Christmas Assistance Program. Some of their other notable contributions to the community include their effort to give back to the 2017 Salem flood victims in which they raised $4,500 with the Softball Floodraiser Tournament and the 2018 Relay for Life Softball Tournament that brought $4,200 in partnership with Walmart.
Three years ago, Weymouth and Sneed proposed an idea for a Halloween Parade to the Salem City Council, another event to encourage the community to come together. In the most recent parade, over 2,000 citizens attended.
“We like being involved in the community,” Weymouth said. “It’s part of why we like being located in Salem.”
For TurtleFish, being involved in the community means attending and giving fundraising events, giving back profits to charities and people in need, making shirts that stand for a cause, and encouraging people to interact positively with each other. It also sometimes means standing on the Public Square in “crazy costumes” to collect change as cars drive by, an activity that Weymouth says he genuinely enjoys.
The hours are long, sometimes 80 to 90 hours a week in the summer, but Weymouth finds completing a project rewarding and knowing that he’s giving back to the community fulfilling.