In 1973 I opened a small sporting goods store in the little town of Snellville, Georgia. It was your basic retail sporting goods store with football helmets, baseball gloves, athletic shoes and so forth. We also did trophies and plaques, and did iron on letters & numbers for jerseys. I was just out of college and my dream was to own my own sporting goods store. My father went with me to the bank and co-signed a note for $5000 to get me started. He worked at Ford Motor Company on the assembly line and obviously didn’t have a lot of money or resources.
I rocked along about a year and then this nice man came in, a guy named Art Williams wanting to buy a couple of t-shirts and jerseys. And he wanted me to iron on some letters for him. He wanted the words “I Ain’t Average” put on the shirts. So I did them, he left and I thought, “Wow, that’s strange”. Well a week or so passed and he came back wanting seven t-shirts with the words “I Am a Stud” on them. He came back the next day and picked those up. I thought “this nice guy is really weird.” A month or so passed and he dropped by late one day needing a couple of plaques with A.L. Williams on them, but he had to have them the next day! I stayed that night and engraved them and he was very appreciative when he came by the next morning and got them. He always seemed very excited about all this and said it was for his “new company”. I thought to myself “what kind of business is this fellow in?”
As the weeks and months passed, this strange Art guy kept coming by, always excited and in a hurry, and bought more of these jerseys and shirts with these strange sayings on them and more and more plaques. He told me that this was going to get bigger and bigger and I believed him! So I went out and bought a manual screen printer and a little dryer, my dad and I built a screen burner using a street light bulb and a screen drying cabinet out of plywood and an old fan. That meant I was able to print his shirts without having to use those little 2 inch letters which took forever and really didn’t look that good anyway. And also because he wanted his letters BIG with flashy letters.
Well, the next thing you know he wants me to come out to his office near Perimeter Mall and meet with this lady, Barbara King, to see about doing a catalog of our products just for his company. I met with Barbara and she helped me put together our first A.L. Williams catalog. It was only an 11x17 folded in half and had some plaques, pins, and trophies in it. They took the pictures, did the copy, printed them and everything. That catalog was sent out to the field, orders started coming in, and the phone was ringing a lot more. And the rest is history! Art Williams new company changed the insurance industry and Action Awards became a small part of that.
This was the beginning of my 37 year long history with Primerica. Art soon moved out of that little house on Pinehurst into a big house on Nob Hill but he never forgot about his buddy in the little sporting goods store. Art’s new company has been the foundation for my success and my family and the people that work with me will always be indebted to the Primerica organization for allowing us to grow with them and be part of the “family”.