By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
As a small-business owner, Andrew Jones pays attention to detail. Take, for example, the name of his apparel brand, FLY V.
“FLY is an acronym for Forever Live Young, and V is symbolization for wellness and empowerment,” Jones said. “V is the only letter in the alphabet that has one origin and grows upward in two different directions. I took on the meaning for the letter V having one origin, meaning no matter the direction, you always grow upward, stay rooted, and remember where you started.”
Jones, FLY V founder and CEO, opened his first store in 2016. Now his clothing is sold in more than 30 stores across the Southeast, and his flagship FLY V Showroom is in downtown Birmingham’s historic 4th Avenue Business District.
Growing a business is always a challenge, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created hurdles few expected.
“It definitely stopped the foot traffic we had worked so hard to create,” he said. “I went back to operating the way I did before — contacting people, using social media, sending email blasts, encouraging people to shop online, fulfilling shipping. … When someone wants a delivery or something like that, they can call a number and instead of coming into the showroom, and we can drop it off to them.”
From Hobby to Passion
Jones’s business started as a hobby when he was a high school student, and it turned into a passion.
“I played sports, so I used to make shirts for other athletes,” he said. “We would wear T-shirts with collages of our newspaper articles on them. … That’s how the word spread about my custom T-shirt business at that time.”
Jones grew up in Birmingham with his mother, Ardell, and he attended Princeton Elementary, Bottenfield Middle and Minor High schools. He was well-known for his athletic abilities, as well as his custom T-shirts.
After graduating from Minor in 2004 and attending Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, on a full football scholarship, Jones’s business grew along with his athletic success.
“I had a lot of notoriety for sports,” he said. “I was an All American, and different write-ups about me in newspapers or magazines always included [something about my] T-shirt business.”
At Furman, Jones was a business administration major, which fit with his entrepreneurial pursuits.
“[My major] prepared me to run a sustainable business and, more or less, a small business,” he said. “It taught me how to get things done with little funding … how to be very resourceful, as any entrepreneur would be, and … how to do a lot with a little.”
After graduating from college in 2008, Jones became a National Football League free agent, during which time he had a lot of different tryouts and attended several pro days.
“I tried out with the St. Louis Rams, but I was unable to make an active roster,” he said. The Rams moved back to Los Angeles at the end of the 2015 season.
In late 2008, Jones moved back to Birmingham and started working as a marketing account executive for Northstar EMS, an emergency and medical service transportation business.
Forever Live Young
Jones came up with FLY V as an apparel brand in 2010.
“It wasn’t a real business yet, but it was a business concept, and I was able to try different things. I got a lot of friend and family support and input to see what works and what doesn’t work,” he said. “I had a few years of doing that, trying to get money for the business, and getting things off the ground. … Around 2013, I started selling the brand in a mobile way, doing pop-ups, and selling it out of my car.”
Three years later, FLY V got its limited liability company designation and became a “real business,” Jones said.
What began as solely a T-shirt line grew, as Jones, based on customer feedback, added hats, jackets, sweatshirts and pants. He also started selling his products in stores across Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.
“FLY V was sold in more than 30 store accounts, and other stores bought my brand wholesale to sell,” he said. “I decided after maybe two or three years of doing that, as a business and as a boutique brand, more money can be made by going directly to the consumer.”
Jones decided to sell his own products through a flagship type of store that hosts various events and holds the annual FLY V Donation Party, which supports Visions (VSNS) Inc. a nonprofit organization that promotes wellness-, empowerment-, and health-related events designed to bridge the health divide among diverse populations.
His apparel business continues to grow, and he is doing what he can to reach more customers — even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Jones said.
“You have to be creative to get customers to come to you, but it’s been improving year after year,” he said.
To find out more about FLY V or to make a purchase, visit www.fly-v.com; also, learn more about the brand on social media platforms at FLY V on Facebook and flyvcollection on Instagram.