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Catonsville businessman honored for 'EC Strong' outreach

Dan Swearingen, owner of the EmbroidMe Catonsville shop, was the winner of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce's Businessperson of the Year Award.
Dan Swearingen, owner of the EmbroidMe Catonsville shop, was the winner of the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce's Businessperson of the Year Award.(Jon Bleiweis / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

After last July's flooding damaged parts of Ellicott City's Main Street business district, Dan Swearingen wanted to come up with a way to help fellow business owners.

Swearingen, owner of EmbroidMe Catonsville, worked with the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce to come up with "EC Strong" T-shirts to raise funds for flood victims.

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The shirts sold for $10 apiece, with all proceeds going toward the Ellicott City Partnership, a nonprofit that is helping with flood relief.

EmbroidMe provided the first 450 shirts at its expense, while members of the chamber's board of directors contributed to fund production costs for the rest of the 1,280 shirts sold.

The sales of the shirts and cash donations reached $17,000. A matching $10,000 was provided by Whalen Properties and the community group We Love Catonsville, Swearingen said.

"These were our friends, colleagues and fellow business owners," he said. "Were some tragedy to come and strike Catonsville, we would hope our friends and neighbors would come and help out, as well."

For his efforts there and in the Catonsville community, Swearingen was named Businessperson of the Year by the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce at its annual Business Awards and New Year Kickoff Thursday.

Swearingen said he was honored to receive the recognition.

"The Catonsville business community has a lot of strong business owners in it and I think there were a lot of people who could have been in the same position that I was," he said. "It was very flattering and humbling to have been selected."

Swearingen, 57, and his wife, Maude, 55 opened the EmbroidMe franchise on Baltimore National Pike in 2008 after Maude wanted to return to the workforce after their children got older. Dan had been a real estate agent, while Maude has a background in graphic design.

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The Burtonsville couple chose the Catonsville location because they wanted to be on a major business thoroughfare. It's the only franchise they own.

EmbroidMe, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., has more than 300 stores in 10 countries, including eight in Maryland.

In 2016, the Catonsville business had about $450,000 in revenue, Swearingen said, adding he projects $500,000 in revenue this year. The company has a staff of five, along with three interns.

Swearingen said his store receives between six and 12 orders on a typical day and tries to have all jobs completed in under two weeks.

The company gets about 40 percent of its revenue from selling apparel before it is decorated, 15 percent from embroidery, 15 percent from screen printing and about 20 percent from customized promotional products such as pens, pencils and drinkware.

Swearingen believes what he does — helping other businesses, clubs and organizations keep their name in the public's eye and mind — is important.

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"Businesses must advertise and promote themselves to stay viable and if there are new businesses, to get known in the first place," he said.

The Businessperson of the Year was selected by a panel of chamber officials and its Business Development Committee, to recognize someone who has made a positive impact. The chamber has 352 members.

In addition to the work he did to raise money for the Ellicott City flood victims, Swearingen was the chairman of the chamber's Frederick Road Fridays Committee from 2013-2016. He also helped co-found and is a member of Community Business Connectors, a networking group that meets in Catonsville.

Sally Grace, chairwoman of the committee, said the vote for Swearingen was unanimous.

"Dan is selfless, he's responsible, friendly, outgoing, very focused," she said. "He's so many things that all of the business owners want to be."

Additionally, Wieland's BBQ, Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department, Blue Iris Flowers, The Beauty Bar 402 and law firm Weinkam & Weinkam, P.A were recognized as Best of 2016 members for entrepreneurial spirit, community enthusiasm, revitalization and legacy, respectively. Brian Wolfe was the winner of the President's Award, chosen by the chamber's president for participation with the chamber.

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