Photo by Milton Morris
EDUCATION: Bachelor’s degree in business management and an MBA, both from Francis Marion University
CLAIM TO FAME: Cotton farmer and owner of Homegrown Cotton, a manufacturer of Carolina-made clothing
SIDE JOB: Works as an on-call commercial pilot and, in his spare time, enjoys flying his own Cessna 172
CO-OP AFFILIATION: Santee Electric Cooperative
When you want something done right—and close to home—sometimes you just have to do it yourself. In a nutshell, that’s why Santee Electric Cooperative member At McIntosh took the leap from growing cotton to manufacturing and selling his own line of polo shirts made entirely in the Carolinas.
It started when McIntosh, an eighth-generation cotton farmer with a mind for business, toured the world headquarters of Cotton, Inc. He came away with a renewed sense of pride in his work, but dismayed that his cotton had to travel around the world to be made into finished products. Before long, he was typing up a business plan for Homegrown Cotton, an apparel company dedicated to keeping every aspect of production close to home.
“I originally wanted it all made in South Carolina, but that turned out to be hard to do,” he says.
Cotton from McIntosh’s 1,000-acre farm is processed by Tri-County Gin in Salters and woven at White Plains Knit Fabrics in Jefferson, and the fabric is stitched into shirts by Craig Industries in Lamar. Spinning and dying take place at plants in North Carolina. From planting the seed to delivering shirts to the store shelf, the process takes about a year.
“I’ve heard some people call it dirt to shirt, but I say grown and sewn in South Carolina,” McIntosh says.
Marketed through social media and word of mouth, the first run of 1,000 shirts in four colors sold well enough that McIntosh is planning to double his production and color choices this year. He’s also contemplating the addition of high-quality T-shirts and long-sleeve button-down shirts to the line.
Watching the business take off has been gratifying, he says, but supporting local industry is another reward, one he enjoys every time he dons one of his shirts with the cotton boll logo. “It’s something that I wear with pride.”