Whit Kelly is about to birth a baby. It’s not just any baby, though. In August, his new television shopping network will go live on the air, and it’s based in Salem.
People who know the history of the Home Shopping Network recall that Salem businessman Cabell Brand and his family were involved in what became HSN and which started out as the Stuart McGuire mail order shoe company.
Whitwell C. Kelly’s family has also been a well-known name in other aspects of industry in Salem, the former Salem Vent, but uShopTV doesn’t have any connection with his family.
“It’s a completely new entity,” Kelly said. The company is targeting inventors, entrepreneurs and product-driven companies who want to market their product on TV to millions of people across the nation, starting at $399 and going up to the most expensive package, $2,499.
Kelly and his associates are selling airtime packages now. The segments will be shot in Tampa, Fla., because that’s the center of the American home-shopping industry, he explained.
The others in the company are hosts Jim DeBetta of Atlanta, Ga., who used to work for Kevin Harrington on “Shark Tank,” Kelly said, and Ashleigh Sottile of Myrtle Beach, S.C., a Hollins University broadcast journalism graduate who worked for HSN. Chad Nickle, a 13-year veteran of the home shopping world, “is our technical guy,” Kelly said.
They’re not going big budget to get the word out. “We spent $10 on advertising on Facebook,” Kelly explained.
He was brought on board because of his background in manufacturing sourcing and operations, explained Kelly, who grew up working. “I had my first factory job at age 14, working the machine shop, making wheels for model trains,” he said. “I just loathed it at the time, but it was valuable experience.”
From there, he went on to the family business, Salem Vent International, which made parts for heavy truck companies. “We shipped all over the world. For instance, we had regular customers in Australia,” he said. “We kept a very low profile.”
All the family’s former companies were sold several years ago. In between, Kelly’s father, Tim, asked him to go to South Carolina to help turn around one of the factories there. He made regular business trips to Germany, Mexico, Singapore and China, to name a few.
Two years ago, he and the other two fellows got together for the Ushop idea.
They’ve already started aggressive marketing. “I expect it to really blow up. We’ve sold more than one-half of what we need to go into the studio,” Kelly said.
Kelly and his associates have just returned from a big trade show for inventors in Pittsburgh where they spread their message even more.
uShopTV will be on Dish and Direct TV initially.
When he was in his late teens, Kelly wrote down his goals in life. One was to get married, which he did 16 years ago. He and Christine, whom he met at a college party at Roanoke College after he graduated, live in Salem with their children, Rebekah, who is about to turn 14, and Tommy, 11.
Kelly’s sixth goal was to get rich. Kelly believes he’s on his way.