A few months ago a young University of Texas at Arlington Student came in my store, and asked if they could interview me for a case study they had to do in one of their classes.
I really do not think they had any idea of who I was. They simply came in because their boyfriend was a softball player and suggested me as an interesting interview subject.
I just received the Case Study and while she did get a few facts wrong, all in all it was pretty good.
I thought I would share it with you.
Gary Leland, a South Carolina native with just a high school education would have never foreseen the promising happy life he has now. Leland came from nothing and everyone that he knew from his neighbors to all of his family members were all manual labors, his parents even sent him to a two year vocational school so that he could learn the craftsmanship of being an electrician.
Leland did not want that to be his story in life, so he moved to Texas in 1979 in his early twenties to get away from his environment and start fresh. He knew he couldn’t be great living in his hometown. Leland started out as a salesman in home sales with just $24 he built himself a small empire by selling mini blinds door to door, which now has turned into numerous small successful businesses.
Leland, an owner of SoftballJunk.com which came into fruition in 2000, then he turned the website into an actual store in 2001. The store was the first fast pitch softball store to be established in the country. Leland’s store is a small but lucrative shop that originally sold just softball gear, but over the years developed into also carrying baseball gear is celebrating its 14’Th year in business. Leland, a father to two girls, Amanda and Lauren one could say he owes a certain amount of gratitude to his daughters. Gary’s daughters both played softball and he was their coach.
Gary first created softballjunk.com in 2000 to help pay for the cost of uniforms and equipment, with four teams under his belt, one can imagine how expensive playing softball could be.
Gary also owns Leland’s Interiors which was founded in 1981 by Gary and his wife Kathy. The Lelands first began selling mini blinds, and now sell custom blinds, wallpaper and other decorative textiles to suit all customer needs rather it be business or personal.
Leland’s online world began in 1996, he has 25 websites and is the owner of 450 Facebook groups with 100,000 followers, he has written a number of books and owns and runs two magazines, he is the former National Director of Social Media for 3.7 million member strong United States Specialty Sports Association.
Leland has his own show the Gary Leland Show, along with Fast Pitch T.V. Network. He owns and runs Podertainment.com and is the publisher of Podertainment Magazine, a magazine at a rate of $12.99 a month, which welcomes ideas for original editorial content from guest writers. Leland is believed to be one of the first 50 pioneers of podcasting.
At a point in time in the interview Mr. Leland described his business as a wagon wheel, all spokes… his websites, his books, and his magazines all lead back to his stores Sports Junk and Leland’s Interiors.
Gary first started working in small jobs that most teenage kids have while maturing and growing up. Gary worked at a clothing store, he did telephone sales in high school and worked at a dance studio signing people up for classes, working at the dance studio was one of his favorite jobs; “It was a blast working at the dance studio, all we did was play around.”
After high school, Gary, a 27 year old young man worked for a marketing company which travelled 3-6 months per city opening cable t.v. markets that taught people how to be door to door salesmen. The business was supposed to move on to Louisville, Kentucky but he met Kathy, his wife to be and stayed in Texas and started selling storm windows.
He wanted to get out of in home sales so he got involved with a vending food company. The company ran restaurants for larger corporate companies, General Motors was one of the accounts Gary personally ran. Gary stayed with the company for a year or two and then went back to in home sales selling mini blinds door to door, at that time new houses and sub divisions were built and no one had mini blinds to protect their privacy.
New home owners would just put up sheets, the 1 inch mini blinds had come into fashion and the blinds couldn’t be purchased at home depot or other retail stores. Gary would sell the mini blinds and receive a thousand dollars per house, he and his friends were rolling in the dough. He had a quota to make which was a million dollars a year, Gary had made his quota by January 8th, he gave his boss two weeks’ notice and decided to go into business himself selling mini blinds full-time.
One could say that Gary Leland fell into his own businesses he loved in home sales, and still does. Leland did not have business plans or business models, he started out going door to door selling high pressure storm windows.
He did however have some help when it came to establishing his first website in 1996, against the advice of his friends, who said nothing will come of that Gary pursued it any way. Gary can see the big picture, “you gotta know what the people want”.
While being an in home salesman Gary was bringing in thousands of dollars, he was an optimistic, charismatic person who could sell anything, who just happened to be a relatable average guy and people loved that. The success that in home sales brought him was what started his first business Leland’s Interiors.
At that time there were many small interior businesses in Arlington on Cooper Street and Gary’s was one of them. His friends saw how successful Gary was becoming and they wanted to work for him, and they did. After years of working under Gary his friends realized that he was receiving 100% of the business revenue and they wanted that income for themselves; so Gary helped his friends establish their own interior businesses.
To this day Gary has gone on to accomplish a plethora of successful small businesses and his friends still just have one interior business, and his friends are all college educated; in fact they all graduated from Texas’ top schools. A college education isn’t everything when it comes to being successful, Gary’s many successes are proof of that. Gary agrees and strongly feels that a college education is important and that everyone should go to college. He tells the technology gifted people he frequently comes in contact with that they too should attend college, regardless of how skilled they are at being techs.
Leland’s Interior’s is now one of the largest and most successful interior stores in Texas, Gary and his wife Kathy started in a smaller shop but over time their business grew and they moved into a larger brick and mortar store. The other textile companies that were located on Cooper Street have since then gone out of business, when they did Gary bought their textile books and materials for pennies on the dollar. One could say that Gary was and is successful from the other business owners’ failures.
The same with his softball and baseball junk store, Gary heard that a business owner was going out of business in Fort Worth, Texas and Gary offered to buy the man’s gear, but the man refused to admit that his business was foreclosing. In the end Gary was able to save money and buy the gear for pennies on the dollar, another success from someone’s failure.
When asked to describe his life as an entrepreneur Gary replied, “What does that mean? I know what the term entrepreneur means I learned it ten years ago, but I don’t know what that means.” “These days everyone wants to be an entrepreneur it is such a big term that you didn’t see fifteen twenty years ago.”
Gary starts his days at six am, gets up checks his emails and social media sites as he watches T.V., specifically the news. He then heads to the Leland’s and arrives at his stores by eight am, he gets a couple of hours to himself before the stores open at ten am. He works from ten to closing which is 6pm, heads home to get ready to walk two miles with his wife and then works somewhere until ten pm and afterwards calls it a night.