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Apex mom turns idea into multi-million dollar business

Posted March 20, 2016 8:48 p.m. EDT
Updated March 22, 2016 10:37 a.m. EDT

The last time I met with Kelly Shiley, she was a mom of three young kids with a small business that overflowed from boxes in her garage.

Shiley, along with her sister, had launched Scripture Art, which sold vinyl peel and stick products with Bible verses and other inspirational messages. Fast forward a few years and Shiley has expanded the business exponentially, renaming it Mary Square and leading a team of 13 employees.

The multi-million company now offers accessories; apparel; home and office items; and gift items. Many pieces can be personalized. You can find them at local boutiques, such as Bless Your Heart in Holly Springs, and major chains such as LifeWay Christian Stores, Books-A-Million and Family Christian Stores.

And Shiley is working hard to give back. Late last year, the company announced its Five & Two program, a philanthropic initiative that provides resources to people in need through a corporate partnership with World Help, a faith-based humanitarian group.

All profits from Mary Square's Five & Two Marketplace, which is comprised of about 150 items on the company's website, will be donated to World Help to provide clean water to third world communities around the world. Online customers also can round their online purchases up to the nearest dollar to donate to World Help. Mary Square employees also plan to travel to Uganda this year as part of World Help's international mission team.

The initiative is something Shiley has wanted to do since starting the company as Scripture Art in 2011.

“Our desire is to see Mary Square retail and wholesale customers gift with purpose and make a long-term impact in lives of those less fortunate," she said at the time of the launch.

Shiley renamed the business just over a year ago as it turned its focus to a variety of products. (Mary Square is named after Shiley and her business partner's grandmothers, both named Mary). Right now, the company offers more than 70 different types of pieces - from ceramic mugs to dresses to Bible covers.

From the beginning, Mary Square has been a faith-based business. Some of the pieces feature Bible verses and other Christian themes. Others can be simply monogrammed or have other fun messages such as the "Boss Mom" line and the ceramic mug that says "Woo Hoo, it's Friday. Oh wait, I'm a mom."

The focus remains on inspirational and trendy items at an affordable price. That ceramic mug is $15, for instance. The Conquer the World dress, which Shiley wore during our video interview, is just $35.

As a mom herself, she knows the little things - like a fun mug or a new dress - can sometimes help make a day a little brighter. That's what she hopes to bring to her customers.

"It doesn't have to be life changing," she said. "But it makes a difference."

Shiley travels some for her work, including to the company's warehouse in Texas. (Her husband is pretty thrilled she's moved out of their garage). This year, she also will be joining the board of the Gift & Home Trade Association.

But her office will always remain where it's always been - in her home. There, she's able to lead a company and run her home. She pegs her success on a few things - including knowing what she doesn't know and hiring the right people to help.

"The way I've grown the company so quickly is by having people smarter than me," she said, "and lowering my standards on laundry."

Go Ask Mom features local moms every Monday.