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Chattanooga man uses his online business to rescue sea turtles

Matt Schroeder owns online apparel company Shelly Cove. Part of the profits go to rescue endangered sea turtles. (Image: WTVC)

A Chattanooga man is turning his love for an endangered species into a multi-million dollar business.

22-year-old Matt Schroeder and his parents started started online clothing and apparel company Shelly Cove two years ago while he was still a college student.

"They were like 'well we could start something as a family like why not' and I was like 'ya that would be really fun,'" Schroeder said.


On top of his full time job at TVA, he works about three hours every night on the business from his downtown apartment.

Some of his main duties include taking pictures of new products, creating designs and updating the website and social media platforms.

"It was a lot of work and it was a lot of like I have no clue how to do this I'm going to have to look it up."

They order the shirts from a supplier, then the designs get stamped on from a screen printer in North Carolina.

"Then we package them and ship them out from our distribution center," Shroeder said.

He wants unwrapping your Shelly Cove items to be an experience.

"There's a lot of I guess TLC that goes into each order, so it's a whole experience for the customer," Schroeder said. "They feel good ordering it, they get it they feel like they're a part of the mission."

Part of the mission is to donate 10 percent of profits to the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue and Rehabilitation Center.

They take in injured turtles with the goal of getting them healthy and back out to sea.

Turtles are a part of nearly every design the company makes.

"I think it's something that I'm really passionate about. I really enjoy doing this, it's really cool."

Social media is a huge part of marketing for Shelly Cove. The company has more than 100,000 followers on both Facebook and Instagram.

The posts are pictures of new items, mixed in with rescued turtles.

"You get people posting about you on social media, you post a picture of a new product and you get all these comments like 'oh I love that so much.'"

Getting customer feedback is one of Matt's favorite parts of running a business. The hardest part is staying relevant, or else...

"People are going to forget about you, they're not going to be excited anymore, so you have to constantly stay on top of it. It's never ending."

The payoff has been huge for Matt, and not just financially.

One of the turtles at the hospital is 350 pound Snookie. She now has a 17 feet tank that donations from Shelly Cove helped pay for.

So far Matt and his family have donated more than $100,000 to the turtle hospital.

Matt says his parents are considering moving to Chattanooga from North Carolina to have a central place for the business.


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