High school yearbooks are a snapshot in time. After being passed around and autographed, they are often boxed up and hidden away, perhaps not to be seen again until the attic is reorganized.
But yearbooks can also change lives — it was a high school yearbook class which set Brittany Eller on her career path, and eventually toward owning her own business.
Eller was awarded the inaugural NC Outstanding Young Entrepreneur of the year honor in Raleigh on Monday by the Rural Economic Development Center, Inc. in recognition of her service to rural North Carolina. Eller receives regular counseling and feedback from a Rural Center business coach, which has helped her build a solid foundation on which to grow Cavu Printing.
“I loved yearbook,” said Eller, who owns 80 percent of Cavu Printing Inc. in Elkin. With enough credits to graduate at the semester break, she could have left high school early. “But I wanted to stay and finish the yearbook.”
She moved on to study graphic design and advertising at Wilkes Community College, and had a series of jobs in the design and printing fields. Later, she started her own business, designing websites and marketing materials for a number of local companies.
This is how she came to know David Simms, who also owned a graphic design and printing business in the area. They were competing for the same jobs, and it was driving him a little crazy. He had other business interests, and didn’t feel like he had the time to compete with Eller’s upstart company.
So Simms asked Eller to meet so he could broach the subject of working together. He remembers it clearly: “She said, ‘I don’t want to work for anyone.’ And I said, ‘Great. Because I don’t want anyone to work for me.’”
They came up with a plan. Simms sold the majority of the business to Eller, while keeping a 20-percent interest. This business succession plan allows him a continued income stream, while also giving him the time to pursue his other business.
Simms is a hands-off partner, with the pair only meeting once a month or so. Cavu is Eller’s business to run.
The partnership has worked out well. Although Eller was already an accomplished graphic designer, taking over Cavu meant inheriting a dedicated client base which keeps her busy. Those clients also meant she needed to quickly improve her overall business acumen. With decades under his belt as an entrepreneur, Simms was just the guy to help.
“I needed someone to mentor me with the business part of it,” Eller said. “He’s been really great.”
Eller is highly involved in the communities in which she works. Eller is a Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce board director, Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce ambassador and member, Downtown Elkin Inc. member, Main Street Advisory Board member, The Ark (homeless shelter) board director, Wilkes Chamber of Commerce member, Winston-Salem Chamber of Commerce member, and a Winston Under 40 member, Step For Small Business member, and a New Generation Ventures client.