by Cele and Lynn Seldon
What started out as a kiosk selling brightly colored, Southern-inspired T-shirts in a Greensboro, North Carolina, mall in 2005 has morphed into Simply Southern, a multi-million-dollar national brand of apparel, accessories and gifts, as well as a steward in corporate philanthropy. This is all thanks to the founder, Ginger Aydogdu, and her company’s vision for “living life simply and loving the blessings we are so privileged to enjoy.”
Today, Simply Southern — aptly named by Ginger to reflect the values of a Southern lifestyle, “where things run a little slower and you are always there to help your neighbor” — employs more than 400 people supplying wholesale products for almost 6,000 independent retail outlets and 27 company stores selling their bright, colorful and inspirational clothing, accessories, giftware, travel items, and home decor.
As important as the retail business is to this former corporate accounting executive and her husband, Georgio, their commitment to giving back is equally paramount. “My husband and I have always thought that you have to give back to show your appreciation for what you have been given,” says Ginger. That commitment has led to the company donating over $6 million in cash and merchandise to various charitable organizations.
With specific merchandise lines for varied causes, a percentage of the proceeds are funneled directly to charitable organizations near and dear to their hearts, such as their Simply Faithful label going to Child Fund International, Save the Turtles label going to several turtle conservation foundations, and varied pop-up brands where 100 percent of the proceeds assist with relief efforts for natural disasters and, more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The labels allow for someone who, like us, wanted an opportunity to give back,” says Ginger. “It also gives our retailers in disaster-affected areas a way to help their community.”
Ginger has been a card-carrying AAA member since she was 16. “When I got my driver’s license, my parents signed me up. Once I was on my own, I just kept it,” she remembers. “Knowing that I can call somebody if something happens gives me so much security.”
She also uses a lot of AAA services, including going to Disney on vacation with AAA. “I also love the magazine,” says Ginger. “It helps me pick out the next place I may want to go visit.”
(Go Magazine Holiday Nov-Dec 2021)
(Photos: Ginger Aydogdu)