If you ask Jesse and Melissa Strickland, owners of Kings Creek Apparel, what they are most thankful for, they’ll tell you they’re thankful for relationships, the clear presence and direction of the Lord, and the opportunity to minister to others.
After marrying ten years ago, Jesse and Melissa welcomed Jesse’s two children, Noah and Olivia, into their home full time. They were so excited to have this opportunity, but Jesse quickly realized his demanding work schedule kept interfering with family time, and they began praying for a solution.
Around the same time, Jesse was involved with Augusta Outdoor Ministries, an organization founded by Warren Baptist Church. The ministry leaders wanted to expand beyond hosting the yearly Expo and begin ministering throughout the year. In order to do that, they needed funding. It started with a hat simply bearing the Kings Creek logo, which sold out in its first year at the Expo.
“So my idea,” says Jesse, “was to come up with this apparel line to generate incremental business throughout the year so that we could use that money to give back to the community.”
The Augusta Outdoor Ministry Board agreed that Jesse, who had the most interest, should branch off from the ministry and pursue the apparel line. So Jesse and Melissa took it on, first as a hobby. “It was a hobby and passion for him,” says Melissa. “It made sense for him to continue with it, and we operated out of our house while we both had full time jobs.”
As Jesse transitioned to working with Kings Creek Apparel full time in January of 2016, they saw an answer to their prayers regarding family time and seized the opportunity to be intentional in building a company that reflected their desire to prioritize family. “We didn’t want our business, if at all possible, to tie us down. We wanted a business that we could operate in a way that maximized the time we could spend with the kids, each other, and the family.”
Being home more became a distinct reality for both Jesse and Melissa, who soon followed Jesse in running the company full time. “We were still operating out of our house, which I think is such a point of reference for us, to bring us back to that not-so-distant memory,” says Melissa. “It humbles us. We had this small room in our house, and I remember we had both of my sisters working for us and our kids working for us. It was a family affair for sure! We would even have friends who would ask if we needed help during the holiday seasons, and they would come over and help pack boxes.”
As the business grew, Jesse and Melissa began to see how those special relationships and friends truly played a huge part in the success of Kings Creek. “I think the biggest part of this whole business puzzle for us is that we didn’t just have people trying to help put the pieces together. We had so many people who were the actual pieces of the puzzle. It wasn’t that they just came and helped us pack boxes; these are very good friends of ours that are sold completely out to our company.”
Jesse continues, “When we’re talking about those friends who came alongside us, they were probably the best brand ambassadors that we could have asked for because it became a challenge for them to figure out who all they could involve and tell about our business. We would look like marketing geniuses if we were to sit back and try to act like we planned for it to go the way it did, with people wearing our stuff at the right time and in the manner they did… but that’s something only God could do.”
Take, for example, Luke Combs wearing Kings Creek while accepting his New Male Artist of the Year award on the Country Music Awards. Luke’s connection with Kings Creek stems from a friendship Jesse and Melissa have with singer/songwriter Ray Fulcher.
“I think early on, our relationships built some credibility along the way, and those were things that never could have been orchestrated,” adds Melissa. “It was all just very natural and organic growth. We didn’t know at the beginning what those relationships would mean or how they would blossom into business relationships and meeting other people.”
Relationship building has been the focus of Kings Creek from the very beginning. Jesse says, “I wanted people to talk and ask about the logo and name so that I had an adequate opportunity to explain, in detail, the goal and idea behind the business. The King in our name comes from God. Creek symbolizes that no matter what we’re doing, wherever you are – God should flow through you. You shouldn’t have to be a pastor for people to see God in what you’re doing. It’s not telling everybody that I’m a Christian, it’s living the life.”
When it came down to the concept behind the apparel design, Jesse says, “If I wanted to get out in the woods and hunt then show up to eat with Melissa, I might throw on some jeans instead of the pants I just had on, but I’d still have on a camouflage shirt and hat. So I wanted something that would bridge the gap between what you’d normally wear in the woods to what you can wear out as well.”
All of those conversations and relationships have given Jesse and Melissa amazing opportunities to use their products as a vehicle to minister to the community.
“One of the biggest things that I’m personally grateful for is the platform and all the opportunities that it puts in front of us to make an impact,” says Jesse. "We have an opportunity to help people.”
“The most recent [opportunity we've had] - and we're still working with - is the Police Benevolence Foundation,” says Melissa. “We just have a heart for supporting not only the police officers but also their families, especially in today’s culture and climate. We made a hat with them, and it sounds so insignificant, but they were able to raise $10,000 off of one hat that we designed.”
Throughout sharing their story, Jesse and Melissa exude a sincere gratitude for their family, their friends, the business with which God has blessed them, and the privilege of ministering to the community.
Located in Martinez, the Kings Creek Apparel corporate offices and warehouse supply apparel to over 40 retail outlets in the Southeast, including local stores Escape Outdoors and Palmetto Moon. For more information on Kings Creek, their products, and the special causes they support, visit KingsCreekApparel.com. And for those of you wondering, when it comes to being happily married and working together full time, this husband and wife team jovially shares that the true key to a making it work is driving separately to the office each day.