I would like to thank the Chamber for giving us the opportunity to showcase the rebuilding of Howlingbird.
This business, Howlingbird Studio, with the exception of 5 weeks in March of 2020 has been in continuous operation in this location for over 46 years. Howlingbird is not your typical Main St. business. A functioning production company housed in the heart of the historic district of one of New England’s most charming and desirable seaside communities is truly a rarity. Howlingbird is a gem.
As a result of a series of serendipitous events and convenient business circumstances, I was given the opportunity to save this important and iconic Falmouth business from closure. Although the history of the new Howlingbird is interesting and I’ll share it with you anytime, Business After Hours is a time to connect The Falmouth Chamber members and the community as a whole to the future of Howlingbird, not the past.
From my experiences in business administration over a 40-year career in the Concrete Repair and Restoration Industry, I know that nothing gets done without people. I have learned that it is great fun to put together a cohesive team made up of thoughtful and forward thinking individuals who relish the opportunity to guide their own futures. With their wisdom, guidance, thoughtfulness and solid work ethic, it is the crew at Howlingbird, not I, who have made this project viable. I’m pretty good with a checkbook and I’m fairly handy at fixing things but when it comes to imaging, I defer to the professionals.
Most importantly, I want you all to know who is leading the success of Howlingbird. I would like to briefly introduce the staff. We are organized by areas of interest. Screen Printing, Embroidery, Dye Sublimation, The Howlingbird Brand (which is the store) and future on-line sales and marketing. Each of these individuals has risen to the challenges of running their own business unit.
First on the hot seat is Annie.
I am always thrilled when people randomly take up residence at our tables out front. That’s why they are there, please enjoy them. We are after all living on a Norman Rockwell calendar page here on Palmer Avenue. It’s fun to see dog walkers stop for a while or for families to have full-blown picnics. The patio is known as Tom’s Bistro.
Annie Yakovleva (yok-ov-leva) sat down at our front table one beautiful day just about a year ago. I was coming in from an errand and she had set herself up at our front door with her traveling office. I gave her a casual hello as I walked in. A short while later, I sat down at my perch at Carolynn’s desk to go over the day’s happenings. I looked out the window and Annie had taken out a sketch pad and was drawing what I assume was a beautiful fall Falmouth street scene. At this point, we had a running ad in Indeed for an artist/printer which had not produced a single qualified candidate for a very long time.
The sketch pad got my attention so I sauntered out to investigate this curious individual who landed at our doorway. Annie was on the cusp of walking for her pre-med degree at UMass Amherst. She had done some clinical work which she will openly admit was not to her liking. I offered her a tour of our facility and within minutes of her entering the building, I was trying to figure out where my new desk was to be because she clearly was not leaving any time soon and she needed a desk more than I did. Annie came into Howlingbird under full power.
Annie’s contributions to Howlingbird have been limitless. Her whimsical spin on science art is refreshing and fun, her personality is infectious and upbeat all the time. Annie is our in-house artist, she can draw anything. She manages the store and she can't wait to teach our next employee all about dye sublimation. She is responsible for producing the ever so popular Howlingbird videos on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
Shawn Keaney also joined us about a year ago as a referral from Cody Tiexiera. Cody and Shawn worked together through high school at The Falmouth Ice Arena. We brought Shawn in part-time helping Cody cleaning tools and screens. Shawn was quick to recognize that Howlingbird could be something so much more than an hourly job and we enthusiastically extended his hours to his liking. Shawn immediately recognized areas that needed improvement and took the initiative to make those improvements. He is not shy about making suggestions and he follows through on his commitments. I find it incredibly refreshing that Shawn presents concepts, ideas, improvements and opportunities in a well thought out and logical manner. His wisdom belies his age.
Shawn was instrumental in helping plan, budget and execute the development of our brand new embroidery department which he is pretty much solely responsible for. I thoroughly enjoy coming into the facility everyday to see what new things Shawn has been working on. His wit and enthusiasm are inspiring. Shawn has shown a particular acumen for the nuts and bolts of our business and is constantly excelling in everything he does.
Shawn manages all things embroidery. He also wears a constant path to the printing department as he works closely with Cody in screen printing.
Cody Tiexiera joined The Bird in the Spring of 2021. He was brought in, again, to do the dirty work. Carolynn and I were working with our printer Bergan, and a summer hire named Sara. At the time, Howlingbird’s only in-house process was screen printing. Cody supported our printers throughout the Summer. He contributed a refreshing combination of humor and hard work to our daily activities.
In late August of 2021, we found ourselves without a printer and Sara was back to school. It was a serious situation; Carolynn is a fantastic printer but her daily schedule didn’t allow for continuous printing production. All of a sudden we went from 5 to 3 people and we had a huge job on deck. Carolynn, Cody and I sat down and developed a collective strategy for survival.
Cody is a graduate of the IT Department at The Upper Cape Tech School and is an incredibly quick study. When I think of Cody he reminds me of the discussion I had with a tenured mathematician professor who explained his take on higher education in the electronic age. He argues that today one can gain an education without institutions and the financial burdens that come along with them, that there is no information that isn’t publicly available in today’s electronic world and that limitations to gathering information are simply personal limitations. Cody recognized that he could expand beyond the rote function of screen printing and become a student of the industry right at his own desk. He has learned to engage our vendor partners and he is constantly looking at new processes and technologies which have opened Howlingbird to endless opportunities and efficiencies. He is in charge of our core screen printing business, he has developed new skills and continues to build upon his strong work ethic and unwavering curiosity to be a leader in the future of Howlingbird.
Now I must introduce to you, Carolynn Sullivan. Many of you know and love Carolynn from her years at Howlingbird and also serving as a local advocate for the VNA. Those of you who don’t know Carolynn simply should, she does not disappoint.
When Cindy Moor and I walked into Howlingbird on a beautiful day in late April of 2020 we had no plan. Cindy simply said, we have to call Carolynn. Carolynn came into The Bird cautiously, neither Cindy nor I had any idea what direction Howlingbird was going. Howlingbird had been closed for roughly 5 weeks, Carolynn was the last employee out the door and she had heard nothing about the business since her last day, she was in the dark, and frankly wanted an explanation. I don’t think she had any expectation of working at Howlingbird again, she had in fact committed to another job which was indefinitely postponed as a result of Covid lockdowns.
Carolynn and Cindy shared a very positive working relationship in years past when Cindy was at the helm. We asked Carolynn to come in and give us a hand. The pandemic had shut everything down, her husband Paul was still working everyday and aside from having an affinity for Howlingbird, she had time on her hands. She rose to the bait but ever so cautiously, her presence was conditional. I know for a fact that she was thinking who the hell is this Tom guy? Cindy’s bike riding buddy?
The pandemic delayed her start of the other job which gave us the opportunity to get her back into Howlingbird. She ended up quitting for about 5 minutes when they called her in to work months later. I’ll never forgive her for putting me through that terror but as a small consolation, I had the pleasure of personally writing her letter of resignation to the other guy.
Carolynn brought Howlingbird back from the brink, it’s as simple as that. There is no task she hasn’t done or is not willing to do. She heads up this team tactfully and cheerfully. Howlingbird would be but a memory if it weren’t for Carolynn.
I can tell you, Howlingbird is the best place I’ve ever worked and Carolynn is the best boss I’ve ever had. Thank You Carolynn.
So before you is a young and energetic group of future business owners who need your support, your advice and your attention. This is a local company providing opportunities to local residents.
Howlingbird isn’t about Tom if it were, this meeting would have been postponed until another time so I could tell you all about myself! Howlingbird is about these workers, the ones who follow and the importance of supporting diverse businesses within your community so these neighbors of yours and residents like them can be part of the Falmouth dream. It’s an opportunity to continue the operation of a viable production business which supports local, stable, good paying jobs. With the investments we’ve made in top shelf equipment, this business is poised to meet the challenges of the future and frankly has no bounds for growth. We have invested in new popular processes to meet demand and we continually strive to improve.
Howlingbird is a model of what can be achieved by instilling trust and empowering people in creative and frankly, fun ways. I have the utmost confidence in this young crew. I have been doing my part to help to keep this legacy business alive for what I plan will be another 46 years. I trust that you as our business and community leaders will continue to do your part and support this fascinating small business.
FALMOUTH CHAMBER OF COMMERCE & ITS MEMBERS
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