Latia Curtis | The Swiss-Army-Knife of Greenville Entrepreneurs

Latia Curtis is the Swiss-army-knife of Greenville entrepreneurs. She’s done hair and makeup for weddings, worked her way up in the Greenville film community as a production manager, and even worked as production assistant for Lebron James during a Nike commercial. This is the story of her journey.

She is a self-proclaimed army brat that grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina.

“My mom hasn’t been in the picture,” she told me. “The last time I saw her I was 9. My dad wasn’t the best dad. My siblings and I were passed around family members a lot. I think the longest I lived with a family member was with my aunt. We never went without, never were hungry. I was raised by friends of the family. Aunts, with kids of their own, that worked really hard. I think that’s where I get a lot of my workaholism from. I’m painfully neurotic about my work.”

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Eventually she moved to Greenville about 13 years ago and has been here ever since. For 5 years she was a single mom, working where she could, usually 2 or 3 jobs at a time. Salons, a bridal company, bars. Waiting tables and working in cosmetics, scraping by to get to where she wanted to be.

She started as a makeup artist. Aware that there was makeup artists for movies, but never thought there was a way for her, from Spartanburg South Carolina, to get on a movie set. In her mind, with cosmetics, she had to work at the mall and puff and powder people. Eventually she got onto the cosmetics counter at Belk. And that’s where she credits her customer service training. “It’s the best training anyone could get,” she said. “retail is so challenging.”

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“Somehow,” she said, after working on various jobs on commercial and film sets, she landed a role as project manager on a set. “I got paid more doing bridal work,” she said, “but my heart is working on film sets. I love all of film. From the pitch, script writing, building characters, all the way to post-production. If I break my arm tomorrow I couldn’t do makeup, but I would be in production, and I would be perfectly happy, because I’m on set. Today I still love bridal because the elements of a wedding day are similar to that of a production set. Both will have 1 or a few VIPS, last minute changes, tight timelines, and only once chance to get it right! No redos!”

There wasn’t one particular moment that clicked in her head that made her realize what she wanted to do. It was the summation of several different events. For example, during a spec commercial, a no pay gig, she scheduled and prepped the order of 35 different outfits, makeup, and hair for their model. “I made it so much more time efficient, they ended up throwing out their schedule and used mine. I had to do it all myself.”

One day she received a text from a connection who asked “Hey, I need someone who is really good with people. Would you want to work with LeBron James on a Nike commercial as the production assistant?”

She laughed and said, “And I replied back, you know you’re texting me right?”

“A couple weeks into the set they asked ‘who wants to be with LeBron today?’ I said, “me!” All that day I was with him and the Cavs. I’m not a crier, but I cried.

The execs from Nike are there. The agency, writers. All in the same room. Standing there watching the rough cut of stuff we had filmed. I felt my face getting hot, thinking I was getting sick, I started tearing up and biting my lip. Every single thing that I had worked for had got me to that point. Loving people, being kind to people on set. I was literally breathing the same air as greatness, the greatest athlete on earth.”

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“All of the jobs I’ve had were opportunities to mold and shape me into the kind of person I am today and the type of person that I am today,” she said. “I’m someone that’s defined by my work and the work that I’ve done. Some people say that’s a bad thing, but I like the idea of independence. I credit all of that to Greenville and its collaborative spirits.”

“Growing up with not much of a family might have something to do with my attachment to my film family. I take it to heart more than most people. All of them are super talented. It’s cool because I never have to have the awkward conversation with a friend about how they suck. They’re always punctual, and even though we may not have access to giant sets and budgets, we find a way to make projects work.”

She continued, “There is so much talent here in Greenville. People sleep on us. Why would I go to Chicago, LA, or New York? The community here in Greenville is warm and welcoming. It’s so easy to partner with boutiques to get them exposure, same goes for coffee and restaurants. I try to only hire and cast local talent.”

She told me the story of someone who had recently moved from LA back to Greenville. “I asked why people don’t come Greenville She looked at me and said “nobody in Greenville knows what they’re doing.” And thought ‘I’ll show you, lady!’ How dare you come to my city talking shit about it. We choose to stay and work in Greenville because we love it here.”

“There are so many locals or people who have come to Greenville with skills,” she concluded. “None of us should settle for mediocrity. Challenge yourself. Challenge others. Be different. I love my crew family here, we take care of one another. It’s competitive in Greenville, but I don’t see anybody being ugly to each other, it’s not a cut throat in this market like it is in other places. If I see someone who really wants ‘it’ and needs that little push, I want to be that to them — because the people around me in this city did the same for me.”




Ryan Calloway | Creative IronWorks | Artistry Gallery

Anderson, SC native Ryan Calloway was born with a creative bug. Through elementary school, middle school, and high school he was constantly drawing.

When the time came to choose a college career, Ryan didn’t have a career path in mind. He had a buddy who was in welding at Greenville Tech, and that’s where his story began.

When Ryan finished vocational school at Greenville Tech with a degree in Industrial Technology, he and his wife, Amy, began a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. They landed in places like San Fransisco and New Orleans.

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It was in New Orleans where he started started his welding business. This is where he spent several years of doing welding work for small businesses. He primarily did architectural and structural iron work, such as gates and railing. Over time he began working with local artists and incorporating his creative side.

While in New Orleans Ryan and his wife had their first son. Nine months later, Hurricane Katrina made her way on shore, and they were forced to evacuate to Greenville. This push was only the beginning of their transition back to the Upstate.

At first, they went back and cleaned up as much as you could clean up 5 feet of water. “It felt like a mass population apocalypse scenario, there were piles of gutted houses on the street,” Ryan said. It took about a year for them to deal with the house after they got back. Ryan did the clean up and repair by himself for the most part with the help of a few friends before selling it to a development.

Initially, the Calloways chose Asheville as their new home. However, they decided to come back to Greenville in 2006.

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“I had developed a good list of work in New Orleans, that was the hard part of pulling out of there. I was starting fresh coming back to Greenville. But it was great, I had gotten to the point where I wasn’t enjoying my work in New Orleans,” Ryan told me. “Renovation work wasn’t great. I had to deal with lead based paint and a lot of old, heavy piece. Coming back allowed me to come into the market with a clean slate. I had to make as many connections as I could. I started connecting with interior designers. They push the high end work. Luckily I had a little bit of cushion. The place I was working allowed me to create a lot of samples. I had a lot fun doing that with traditional blacksmithing and welding. That was a huge turning point for my business.”

Ryan was now able to focus on his passion that was there from the beginning: art.

The first step was to find a place to operate.

“I got really lucky and I had a friend who had an old barn I could work out of,” he said. “I worked there for about a year after landing in Greenville. I didn’t have to pay rent, and I could make all the noise I needed. I went through 3000 pounds of coal in that space. I was able to make a little bit of noise on the property. I wanted to be ‘the blacksmith’ in town.

Over time Ryan started getting jobs from a local interior designer. They took him in to meet their team in 2007, and 12 years later and he’s still connected to people because of them. Ryan has been able to connect with the majority of well known and established design community.

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“I’ve learned that contacts are big. I was doing a lot of networking. Calling up people out of the phonebook to set up appointments so I could show them my portfolio.” He smirked and said with a laugh, “The Katrina thing probably didn’t hurt.”

At an art show Ryan met the owner of the building that he operates out of today, in the Village of West Greenville. He moved in to this space in ’08 for a great deal, which allowed him to save up for the thousands of dollars worth of tools he would need.

It took about a year to get the building up full to code. Fortunately the landlord was also patrons of the arts, creating an ideal situation for both of them. Both are community people and want to continue championing the artist community.

He continued, “I’ve gotten lucky a lot. This building is perfect for what I do, I was willing to stay here no matter what. It’s a great place to meet clients and host events. It brings up a nostalgic feeling for guests.

Today, Ryan is the owner and operator of Creative Ironworks and the Artistry Gallery which consults and then designs custom ironwork. It shares a space with the Artistry Gallery, where local artists can display their work. When you take a walk through his shop and the gallery, you’ll see so many unique and unforgettable pieces of artwork and furniture.

Creative Ironworks is Ryan Calloway,. While the Artistry Gallery is a community effort. In about ten years Ryan’s goal is occupy the gallery consistently and selling more of his metal artwork. “It’s got a lot of good energy, it’s not only for me, it’s a collective thing,” he said.

He continues, “I found that from my networking with other blacksmiths, ideally I will get to the point where I own a space, do less commission work, and sell right out of my gallery. That would be awesome. This would get us back to on the travel, allow me to work shows on my own timeframe. My wife and I can get back on the road again.”

We got to talking about work/life balance and Ryan’s words struck me. They are so incredibly honest and powerful.

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“Doing production and welding work has helped me a lot with staying mentally healthy in starting a business. If you make the time, have the drive, you can get it done. I take the work home, for sure. When I started I would talk business 24/7. I’ve sculpted myself to shake it off and get some other hobbies. That goes back into the business just as much as taking from it. If you’re going to have happy family that’s what you gotta do. I’m still working on figuring out my work/life balance. Amy and I love camping and going to the lake on the weekends. But, if someone walks in the day before we leave asking for a 35,000 dollar job, that’s not something we can say no to. I’ve learned that scheduling is key. Saying no is hard. There’s a balance even with Amy wanting me to say no. We make decisions as a family. I’ve found that saying yes to something is just not worth it sometimes.”

Ryan Calloway is an artist to the core. He and Amy run Creative Ironworks and the Artistry Gallery together. Creative Ironworks is a network of metal artists. He told me with a smile, “if they’re going to come hang out, they’re gonna get put to work.” Often the metal artists will help run the Artistry Gallery.

I asked Ryan what some of his favorite work is. If you’ve lived in Greenville for any amount of time, chances are you’ve seen his work around town. He told me that the Dalia piece on Stone avenue, across from Universal Joint, is one of his favorites to this day.

Anthony & Olivia Esquivel | COPA Indoor Soccer | Southern Pressed Juicery

Meet Anthony and Olivia Esquivel, owners and founders of Southern Pressed Juicery and COPA Indoor Soccer.

Anthony, a Texas native, grew up playing soccer from a very young age. He was introduced to the Upstate when he chose to play for Furman during his college years. During his time at Furman, the success of the team was unparalleled. And throughout a four year period Furman was consistently a top 10 team, won 4 conference championships, and made the Elite 8. It was during this time USMNT legend Clint Dempsey was playing at Furman. At the height of his career Anthony won the MVP of the team and Furman’s conference.

When Anthony graduated from Furman he was nominated for the MLS combine and had a few A-league teams offer him contracts. Amidst the offers one was to be coach of the Dallas Texans, the #1 youth program in the country at the time. Anthony quickly became the youngest director ever for the club.

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He spent several years there and worked his way up the ladder. The higher up he got into the club, the more he found that the amount of coaching he was doing went down. Towards the end he was doing more behind the scenes with the club. He had transitioned to being the face of the club and away from his passion which was working with kids. “It was a privilege to be in the position I was,” he said, “but it took away from something I loved, working with kids, trying to be a role model, and give back to the game that I loved so much. It got to a point where I was itching for a change.”

Anthony resigned and was ready to be in a new city.

Olivia and Anthony had met while attending Furman and stayed in touch over the years. In 2011 they took the next step with their relationship and decided to no longer do long distance and come back to Greenville.

Olivia’s path was very different than Anthony’s.

“We are both hispanic,” she told me, “I’m first born American from Cuba, Anthony is of Mexican heritage. It is very important to us that we keep our heritage and culture in front of our boys.”

Before COPA and Southern Pressed Juicery, Olivia worked at GHS doing community outreach. She spent almost a decade working with community centers in Greenville. During these years Olivia discovered that the hispanic population was very underserved. Coming from south Florida, where the majority of the population speaks Spanish, Olivia was used to having the means and materials necessary to do effective outreach. Unfortunately, that was not the case in the Upstate.

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“Often community centers have nobody that’s Spanish speaking and center’s lacked culturally appropriate materials for the Spanish speaking population. It was not easy for me from a programming standpoint to get them in there, they may not speak english, be undocumented, and have different eating habits.”

That plagued Olivia as she was passionate about the hispanic culture and helping the Spanish speaking residents in the Upstate embrace their heritage. “This played a role in our decision in where to put COPA,” she said, “as it is surrounded by a large population of hispanics. Now it is a place that they can call their own. It is culturally sensitive to hispanics as well as english speaking population.”

Before COPA, though, was Southern Pressed Juicery.

Olivia saw Greenville becoming an active city — health and wellness are a focal point of many locally owned businesses. People are spending more time outdoors running and cycling. Where they lived in Texas and Florida had juice bars, but when they came to Greenville they noticed there were none. While working, they were juicing at home and working on a concept for their own juice bar. Health was very important to their family, and they quickly realized that they had to make the jump. They opened Southern Pressed Juicery alongside Table 301 in 2015.

The Esquivel’s wanted to continue their impact on the community beyond health and wellness. After 5 years of coaching at Furman, Anthony resigned so that he could commit fully to giving the community what he felt Greenville needed, an indoor space to play soccer. This led Anthony to COPA indoor soccer, allowing him to make an impact in the community while staying close to his love of the sport he had devoted his life to.

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When Anthony and Olivia chose to put COPA in Berea they knew the would be able to make an impact on the surrounding hispanic community. “I knew those who were well-off, those who I already had a relationship with in the soccer community, they would follow me there. These were people who I knew wouldn’t normally be here otherwise, and that’s what we wanted. There’s an underground soccer community in Berea that the mainstream soccer community is totally unaware of. We wanted to bring new eyes to an area that needed a little bit of help. I wanted to connect with people who I didn’t necessarily have relationships with.”

Olivia jumped in, “A good example is the Berea high school soccer team. There’s a high school league that plays at COPA. There’s JL Mann, Christ Church, all the typical schools with players who can afford to play in the league. The Berea team just won the state championship. They wanted to play in the league but didn’t have the money. We went out and found a sponsor that gave them the money to play, sponsored brand new jerseys. What good does it do to put this in the community and they don’t have the money to play? How can we remove all the obstacles? What’s the point in building something cool that they can’t actually use? Start building bridges. What can we do, who can we partner with to break down those obstacles?”

“We had these ideas,” they said. “We wanted to make an impact on the community, and we executed. We took those risks. Hopefully our kids will see that. That you can have goals, you can have dreams, and the next step is to make it happen. We’re not from Greenville but it has become our home. This is where we want to raise our boys. We’re constantly wondering how we can play a role in improving an already unbelievable city.”

“A lot of people work their whole adult life to try to give back at the end of it,” Olivia said. “For us it’s not money that we’re giving back, it’s opportunities. We want to show our boys that we can be busy, go to school, and still ultimately make an impact on those around us.”

“The passion for our projects has always been there,” Anthony said. “Soccer is who I am, it was easy for me to make this happen, just like health and wellness was Olivia’s life and an easy decision for her.”

Southern Pressed Juicery is located on 2 W Washington St in downtown Greenville.

COPA Indoor soccer is located on 3044 White Horse Road, in Greenville.