By SAM TERRY
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
“We’re losing our young people” – it’s a frequently heard comment in Glasgow, Cave City, and every area of Barren County – and every other rural community in Kentucky. Conventional wisdom tells us that rural communities are in decline and one of the chief factors is the loss of young adults who choose to work and live in larger places with plentiful opportunities.
For some, the smell of success is found in bright lights, big cities, expensive homes, and a fast-paced lifestyle. For generations, the concept of graduating from the local high school, going to college or technical school, and then embarking on a rewarding career has been equated with success. The common belief is that most young people go away to college and then don’t come back home. In many cases, that is correct.
By contrast, there are young adults who choose to return to their rural and small town places of origin and others who simply choose places such as Barren County to make a life for themselves. Much of the time, the conventional ideas mentioned above overshadow the reality that young adults are quietly practicing their chosen career, rearing families, and enjoying a quality of life they find preferable.
The Barren County Progress has taken notice of the young adults in our community – who they are, what they do, and how they are quietly impacting the community. What we discovered was an enlarging group of young adults full of fresh ideas, creativity, and innovative mindsets. Further, we found many up-and-coming movers and shakers motivated by a deep sense of community and driven by a profound sense of purpose.
This week we introduce an on-going series we’re calling “Forty under Forty” to highlight 40 Barren County residents, all under the age of 40, who are bringing vitality and vision to their careers, professions, and the local community.
Erica Spillman: A Passion for her Community
Consumed by a passion for her community, Erica Spillman says she can’t imagine not living and working in her native Barren County. “I have huge dreams and goals and aspirations but I love my community. I love traveling, but this is home. I can’t imagine another community taking the place of Glasgow and Barren County in my heart,” Spillman says.
In April, Spillman took a giant leap from her corporate career and launched Visibly You, a full-service marketing agency in downtown Glasgow. “I have that entrepreneurial blood in me – both of my parents continue to own businesses – and I knew that someday I was going to own a business,” Spillman explained. “Luckily, I found my passion in marketing, specifically helping businesses find the small, missing piece to the puzzle. I’m doing what I love, which I feel ultimately helps my community.”
Spillman’s agency offers services such as social media management, corporate planning and training as well as advising clients on effective marketing strategies. The idea of opening the business in a community other than Glasgow was not a consideration, according to Spillman. “This is where I’m meant to be. I’m very people-oriented. I want to know people and know their story. How do you ever get that in a big city? I love the sense of community that I find in Glasgow.”
One of the avenues that led Spillman to embrace the local community was participating in the Leadership Glasgow-Barren County program offered by the Chamber of Commerce. “It was one of the foundational experiences that helped me recognize my passion for this community,” Spillman says. As a result, she became an Ambassador for the Chamber of Commerce and now sits on its board of directors.
Earlier this year, Spillman recognized the fact that young professionals – those 40 years old and under – didn’t have an organized group of peers for networking and social interaction. Thus, she founded and is the president of the Young Professionals, now a 50-plus member organization that meets monthly for informative programs and seasonal social functions. The group has also adopted projects within the community, most recently helping with the Hops and Horses event featuring the Budweiser Clydesdales.
“All I have is heart for this community. If I can find people to embrace new ideas that help our community grow and become even stronger, I will have met a goal,” Spillman says.
Spillman credits her dedication to whatever she takes on as the secret to her success. In recent years, she focused much of her energy on female bodybuilding. In 2015, she placed among the top contenders in the prestigious NPC Kentucky Derby Bodybuilding Championships, a stepping stone to national competition. While her bodybuilding career has ended, Spillman finds she continues to follow the same spirit of dedication in her new role as a small business owner and up-and-coming community leader.
“I have so many people ask where my motivation comes from. Well, it doesn’t come from anywhere. It comes from the fact that I’ve committed myself to doing this. That dedication results in daily habits that become so natural, there’s no other option. I look at my community much like I look at myself. I don’t want to give up on myself nor do I want to give up on my heart, my home, my community, or my family. I’m looking at what kind of future I can create for my daughters within this community,” Spillman said.
To that end, Spillman says she feels there must be “a constant flow of ideas and a desire to better something and do more. This community cannot settle for being mediocre. You can always do something more, do something better, or help someone else.”
On a more personal note, Spillman is quick to credit her husband, Daniel, as her most ardent supporter. “I always have crazy ideas and he’s used to that by now. So, when I came to him and said I wanted to leave my corporate job and dive head in first in a business with no guarantees of success, his response was ‘if it’s your passion and you want to do it, then do it.’” While her husband is supportive “he’s good about not swaying my opinion. He wants me to make my own decisions and give it everything I’ve got,” Spillman said.
While the couple grew up in the same vicinity of Barren County, they didn’t know one another until Daniel attended a soccer game in which his sister and Erica were playing. “It was in the rain in Pulaski County but it was the best game of my life,” Spillman recalled. The couple has two daughters, 9-year-old Alli and 18-month old Nora.
To learn more about the Young Professionals group or Visibly You, contact Erica Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-670-7796.