Marc Brawner will tell you how much cheaper it is to do business in South Carolina than Colorado and how easy Sandy Davis of the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corp. made the move East for his company, but the real reasons he’s making scary sculptures in North Myrtle Beach are two feet in the sand and a book in a hand.
“My wife told me,” he recalled a conversation they had after a day on a Grand Strand beach, “this is the way I want to live.”
It was more complicated than that, of course, and included the emergence of a couple of obstacles for his business near Denver in much the same way as his career move from the pulpit to the art studio years earlier.
Within five years, Brawner has pledged to create 35 jobs at Little Spider Creations for artsy-type professionals making $15 to $20 an hour creating one of a kind props for amusement parks, museums, haunted houses, restaurants, miniature golf courses and the like.
“We will do it Disney style,” he said of his company’s creations. “High-end, high-quality and family friendly.”
Brawner, his wife Laurie and his team were first introduced to the area through a months-long job on a haunted house in Wilmington, N.C. There wasn’t that much to do in the North Carolina port city, he said, so they found themselves spending leisure time in Horry County, where the Strand worked its magic.
“We fell in love with the place,” he said.
Back home, he’d been dealing with a nasty local government regulator and too many employees who came to work stoned after Colorado legalized marijuana, and so his wife’s wish fell on willing ears. He started looking for space on Craig’s List, and when that didn’t pan out, he contacted a couple of local Realtors.
One of them suggested he contact the MBREDC, where he found Davis, the organization’s director of operations and project management.
“I walked them through everything,” Davis said.
They toured possible locations, talked about taxes and checked out the workforce. Davis arranged meetings with Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus and Jim Apple, CEO of Burroughs & Chapin Co. Inc.
She even arranged a kind-of date for one employee to reassure him that life on the Grand Strand would be OK.
After all the attention, Brawner said he was aiming toward a warehouse in Conway when Marc Jordan, CEO of the North Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce, stepped forward with a $25,000 check to help offset the cost of the move.
The North Myrtle Beach chamber has made the attraction of new, year-round employers one of three prongs to build the city and used some of an incentive fund it created to snag Little Spider.
“This is exactly the type of company we seek,” Jordan said, “which can be profitable within our community, creating wealth through sustainable jobs, for themselves as well as our community members.”
The Spider they plucked from a web in Colorado grew 600 percent last year, Brawner said, and is on track to double that this year for a total revenue of as much as $1.8 million.
Brawner said he started Little Spider as an offshoot of an advertising company he founded about five years ago.
Before that, he was a student in a Christian college in Idaho, where he met his wife, and the youth minister at a church with an expanding roster of young people.
But he began to get a feeling that maybe he wouldn’t be a full-fledged minister as he had assumed since he was 12 years old and then his grades plunged from As and Bs to Ds and Fs.
He got the message.
He enrolled in a private art school after finishing college and there he honed his drawing skills and learned to sculpt.
His ad agency started as a graphic art shop and grew into a full-service operation.
He’d done Halloween-themed events at college -- its colors were orange and black, after all -- and the eventual move into scary creations for the big candy day was smooth as a ride on an Atlantic wave.
Yes, he’s heard the protests of some Christians against Halloween, claiming it deifies dark monsters.
But his creatures aren’t created as gods, he said. They’re created to be scary and he says there’s nothing in the Bible prohibiting scary things.
“I don’t mind doing death, that a part of life,” he said. “I don’t mind doing scary, that’s part of life. But when my heart says it’s too much, I back off.”
He doesn’t do blood, guts and gore. And he won’t do two-headed babies or evil Santas.
The move to Horry County happened almost overnight, he said.
“A month ago, we were saying, ‘I don’t see how this is going to work,’” he said.
But then the final door opened and, whisk, the company had relocated.
Brawner still is awed at the way government, education and business, seemed so open and welcoming to his company. It just wasn’t the experience he’d had in Colorado.
Davis helped Brawner and the six employees he brought with him find places to rent, and Neyle Wilson, president of Horry Georgetown Technical College, has talked with him about creating a degree program for the kind of talent he’ll need.
Eighty percent of Little Spider’s customers are along the East Coast -- the big one is the Six Flags amusement park empire -- and Brawner said the company will save $50,000 to $60,000 in shipping costs this year.
And, no, the lack of a direct interstate highway connection is not a problem.
The company’s move marks the second to emerge from the MBREDC in recent months. The other is a New York-based company that will make and market safety monitoring equipment for health care facilities.
That one had a Davis stamp on it, too.
And on Wednesday, she said, “I have another one in the works.”
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765 or on Twitter @TSN_SteveJones.
Need a job?
Little Spider Creations is looking to hire sculptors, muralists and painters. Send photos of work to email@example.com.