O’FALLON – The O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce will celebrate its 43rd Annual Salute to Business Awards on Wednesday, April 10, at the Regency Conference Center.
Tye-Dyed Iguana owners Matt and Stephanie Smallheer say that receiving the O’Fallon-Shiloh Salute to Business Sprit of the Chamber award is “humbling” and “surreal.”
After quitting their jobs at the YMCA and opening their store in 2006, they say their lives became incredibly difficult.
“The early days were wildly difficult for us,” Matt Smallheer said. “It was just the two of us for the first four years.”
Matt said he would work open to close every single day for four years straight. As time went on, Matt and Stephanie were able to take days off such as Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Stephanie said their son was only two years old at the time of opening Tye-Dyed Iguana. “He grew up living in our store and that’s all he knew.”
“It was a tremendous amount of sacrifice,” Matt said. “No one took us seriously.”
“Here we are, 13 years later and we have been able to not only build a living for our family, we have 16 employees making livings off of what we are doing,” he said.
While Matt and Stephanie were involved with the Chamber of Commerce when they opened their business in 2006, it wasn’t until two years later when Matt was asked to become a Chamber ambassador.
“To be asked to represent the Chamber of Commerce was a defining moment,” Matt said.
Being involved with the Chamber lead Matt and Stephanie to become involved with Rotary Club of O’Fallon.
“I would attribute all success to those two organizations,” Matt said. He added that both organizations taught him how to give back to the O’Fallon community.
“In those early days it was very survival-orientated,” Matt said. “I learned over time, the more you give, the more you get.”
Matt said his business is centered in large part on the youth in the community – through summer camps, educational classes, after school activities, birthday parties and various free events.
“It’s giving the community something to do and giving their kids something to hold onto and remember,” Matt said. “Now, we are at point where kids are coming back with their kids.”
Matt said the secret to Tye-Dyed Iguana’s success is that he and Stephanie knew that failure was never an option.
“You can’t run a business as a hobby, it has to be your prime focus and dedication,” he said. “We both quit our jobs at the YMCA so if TyeDye would have failed, we along with our son at the time literally would have had nothing,” Matt said. “Failure is just not an option especially when you are trying to raise a family.”
“It’s really just doing something you are passionate about,” he said. “Exotic reptiles was always something we were passionate about. Even today, it’s just not work.”
Matt said in terms of the future, he plans on expanding Tye-Dyed Iguana’s section of exotic plants. He also plans on continuing to serve St. Clair County as county board member.
Chamber president Sid LeGrand commended the Smallheers for building their business from the ground up.
“In doing so, they have invested much of themselves to make an innovative business successful,” LeGrand said, “Yet, they have excelled in community spirit with their volunteer activity in the Chamber and Rotary.”