Please enter your login information to view this article.
Username and Password Help
By Yelena Serrato/The Hesperian-Beacon
FLOYDADA—What was once a simple Christmas gift five years ago from her mother-in-law is now the cornerstone of Whitley Nutt’s small business– Nutthouse Designs.
At first, the silhouette machine from Laura Nutt gave Whitley a chance to make small items and gifts and eventually T-shirts.
“I started making little decals for cups and experimented on tumblers,” Whitley said. “I even started making shirts for my kids and cousins and I started having friends who asked me where I got them.”
Soon, Whitley found herself with enough requests to make numerous items which led to her finding there are not enough hours in the day to do everything she wanted.
“I would teach and get done at five and come over here and work my little hinny off until about eight and go get the kids in bed,” Whitley said. “And when my husband would come home, I would work until about three or four in the morning, and then I would get up and teach all day. I would spend my weekends here as well. It just seems like there is not enough time in the day to get things like that done.”
The long days with little rest helped Whitley make a tough decision, to leave her position at Floydada High School as a math teacher and coach.
“All I ever wanted to do was teach math and coach basketball,” she said. “I loved it, but I was sad because I was never around my kids, 5-year-old Paislee and 4-year-old Stetson. My kids were lucky enough to get to go to Kids Korner, but I felt like someone else was raising my kids.”
Now that Whitley is more in charge of her daily schedule, she finds time to do things other than work.
“It is nice to say since I’m the boss, we are taking off at three and going to park and spending the afternoon playing with friends,” Whitley said.
The young businesswoman said she is lucky the business grew fast enough to give her a chance to be with more family and some of her former students.
“Starting off I hired a friend and she helped me ,and now I have to two girls who were former students of mine who work here full time,” Whitley said. “If they weren’t here, I wouldn’t get a third of what I need to get done because half the time I’m like okay what am I supposed to be doing. They keep me in line.”
Since the business has grown, so have the number of custom designs on T-shirts, polos, jackets and hats, which is another business aspect Whitley has had to figure out.
“I was a math teacher. I wasn’t very creative, but I’ve actually just started doing my own designs and I’ve never done that before, so this is my creative outlet,” Whitley said as she looked around her shop.
Whitley also said she is proud Nutthouse Designs offers name brand apparel.
“We use Richardson brand hats, which are super popular, and we have Columbia and Nike apparel. We are in the process of getting North Face.”
And along with offering big name brands, Nutthouse Designs has shipped products to the panhandle, around the nation and the world.
“We go everywhere. We have actually shipped to Australia,” Whitley said.
Another thing Whitley said Nutthouse Designs has done for her is to teach her how to step out of her comfort zone.
“When I was teaching, I was up in the front and I knew what I was talking about,” she said. “It’s one thing to stand up and be able to say I studied math for five years and I can teach you this. I never took a business class in college, so I had to learn how to become business minded. I had to teach myself how to be very organized, so I don’t mess things up.”
The small business owner also has had to learn to hear “no” because she hears it quite often.
“‘No, we don’t really need your help’ or ‘no we don’t need this or that,’” she said. “I built confidence and learned that 10 people may say no, but you know with Western I wasn’t even going to call them, and my husband told me the worse thing they can say is ‘no’. And by the grace of God, they needed hats two days before and they gave us an opportunity.”
Recently, Whitley has had to learn how to work with unforeseen uncertainties, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the coronavirus happened, we had all three of our machines running all day, everyday,” she recalled, “but when it happened, a lot of our customers weren’t buying. The virus slowed us down and forced us to shut down for two weeks because we weren’t deemed essential, so we had to find a way to be essential.”
Whitley filed for a small business loan so she could come back and make sure everyone could be paid.
“It was horrible,” she said, “but we started picking back up thank goodness. I’m so afraid they are going to try and shut down again. We don’t have time for that.”
And for the last few years, according to Whitley, the business has been growing from the moment they decided on a business name, which came fairly simple considering she has been a member of the Nutt family after marrying her husband, Jason Nutt, in 2011.
“I’ve always wanted to name something Nutthouse because I thought it was so funny,” she said. “So we made a little group and named it Nutthouse Designs, and we kind of built from that.”
And grow it has, especially after Jason encouraged Whitley to venture off and purchase a screen-printing machine from China through Amazon three and a half years ago.
“I then somehow talked one of our old churches into letting me screen print shirts for them,” Whitley said. “They were definitely not the best, but it helped me get started. After, my husband encouraged me to get into embroidery, he was really the one that pushed me to try new things and go for it.”
According to Whitley, family has been by her side from the beginning, such as when she partnered with her sister-in-law, Kaylie Nutt Hooten, who brought in hand-lettered and customized boards and signs – even though some of their pair’s custom work “clashed.”
“People would message our business asking for her and if I looked at the message, she wouldn’t see it and vice versa. We were missing out on people’s orders because of the confusion,” Whitley explained. “I still do use my sister in-law. She’s very artistic. She’s the art teacher at Abernathy, and I also use a guy out in Petersburg who does graphic designs.”
But with all the growth in the last few years, Whitley said there is still more that she wants to do.
“I am trying to get more big businesses and bring in more machines and just run this place like Don Hardy…become like a Don Hardy Empire,” she said. “I would love to be able to have more people in here working. I think it’s a big deal for Floydada to build jobs here and I also think it’s awesome that there are tons of businesses that are run by women. It’s awesome to see women out here doing these things. I think it’s great. I want to keep it 100 percent women owned.”
The growth Nutthouse Designs has experienced has not been slight, according to numbers someone recently gave to Whitley.
“I had one of my suppliers call and tell me three weeks ago that my business has grown 235 percent,” she said.
And that growth has seen Whitley and her Nutthouse Designs move into a store front, something she said she never would have thought, but is proud it is going well.
“I (was) sitting in my garage doing this,” Whitley said. “So, I think that’s what has been most exciting. Is growing and being able to make something out of nothing.”
Nutthouse Designes is located at 117 W. California Street and can be reached at 806-983-9298.