Sam Harrelson

Sam Harrelson

My Grandfather’s Name

When I was seven (maybe eight) years old, I decided that I was going to start my own company one day. I come from a long line of entrepreneurs and DIY’ers. My dad has run his own business my entire life. My grandfather before him did the same and dabbled in a number of areas. I blame my dad and “Grandpa Frank” for my compulsion to have my own business, and to dabble myself in many different areas of entrepreneurship from marketing to publishing to racing to a music label to a few things I haven’t made public.

When I decided to make my own business at that early age, I knew I needed a good name and a good logo. I had notebooks full of drawings for imaginary baseball teams and comic book characters that hadn’t found their homes yet, so I knew my company logo would need to be something special. One Sunday morning, I remember seeing a piece of crystal in my family’s china cabinet in our living room that had a very calligraphic “H” etched into it. I decided that the logo would be an H and I would name my company “Harrelson Corporation.” I didn’t know what Harrelson Corps was going to do yet, but I had a name and a good idea for a logo.

Decades later, I sit in my office in downtown Columbia and look over our company’s client list. Things are going well. I was right all those years ago.

When I’m in my hometown of Mullins, SC I like to visit my Grandpa Frank’s grave. He passed away when I was only three and I’m sad to say that I really don’t remember him as a person. However, he’s been a large presence in my life and I always use his name when I get that silly “Who would you want to have an hour long conversation with if you could talk to any human – living or dead – for 60 minutes?” question. I think we would have much to talk about and I know he could give me some good advice on running a company / companies and what it takes to tread down the untrodden path of starting your own business/es.

I was back in Mullins for just a few minutes on Tuesday and stopped by his grave where I took a picture of that H above. His gravesite has four H’s at each corner and it matches the font on his tomb. I think it’s a great stylistic choice and I was taken aback for a moment when I realized that Grandpa Frank still has such a large role in my own professional and personal life as to inspire me with the font on his grave.

When you start a company, you have to know the starting point. You might never get to the end point or finish line, but you have to have a point where you know that this is what you’ve decided to do and understand that after this singular point in your life, nothing will ever be the same. That realization came at an early age for me but has been an extended realization over the last 25 (or so) years.

You also have to know where you come from in terms of your own identity and backing. Even though Grandpa Frank has been dead for some 32 years, he’s been there (in my own head at least) coaching me on the way to starting this agency and helping me to find people to surround it and make it into something that will last so that my children will one day be able to work with us (if they hopefully choose to do so).

So start your business. Go out on a limb. But don’t forget where you come from and don’t let those 3 A.M. panic attacks keep you from hearing the still small voices of your biggest supporters.

Posted: 02.06.2014

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