The importance of small business has been ingrained in me for as long as I can remember. The spirit and vision that has guided my family for hundreds of years in West Virginia have created pioneers, educators, innovators, and entrepreneurs–a rich heritage that I am truly proud of and one that has driven me to launch my own small business.
My Italian ancestors immigrated to the United States from Calabria, Italy, in the early 1900s settling in Piedmont, West Virginia. They opened a barbershop, boarding house, and grocery store selling penny candy. The boarding house was more than just a place to sleep. It was a vehicle that allowed my ancestors to protect one of the most important things to them, “family.” The boarding house served as a refuge for other Italian immigrants planting roots in West Virginia at the turn of the last century.
My paternal grandfather, better known as “Pap,” was the first principal of the first free-standing vocational-technical center in West Virginia — the Mineral County Vo-tech. He also served as the Superintendent of Mineral County Schools.
My maternal grandfather, or “Granddad” as we endearingly called him, taught science at Bruce High School for 33 years. The high school is no longer in operation, but to this day, I still hear stories about students my granddad taught at “Bruce.”
My mother was in the education system for almost 30 years, teaching English at Keyser High School for many years. I used to roll my eyes when she corrected my grammar, but I owe my attention to detail, thoroughness, eye for design, and determination to “get it right” all to her.
I spent many nights watching her grade papers, developing lesson plans, and thinking of creative ways to engage her students. Her grit and perseverance to keep pushing even when things got tough — because, let’s face it, being a teacher isn’t for the faint of heart — inspires me every day and has helped me navigate the peaks and valleys that come with entrepreneurship.
My father, Tom, started his own real estate business, The Campbell Company, in 1976, and it’s still in operation today. He started by going door to door, asking people if they wanted to sell their homes. He quickly rose in the ranks, becoming a Top Graduate in the first GRI class in West Virginia. He earned the Dale Carnegie award, the Top Producer in Land Sales award (7 times), and was entered into the Historic Highlands Association of Realtors Top Producer Hall of Fame, to name a few.
After school, in the summers, on weekends — business never stopped for my dad. It was a family affair. When I was young, I would help him file papers, greet clients, send faxes, and answer the phones.
Being a West Virginia small business owner is special. You’re part of a family, a tight-knit group of people that support one another and the communities they live in.
I have fond memories of piling in my dad’s “Landman” Jeep and riding in the Christmas parade. My mom would spend hours sewing our holiday-themed costumes, and we would throw candy to the screaming kids on the side of the street. It was a creative PR campaign for my dad as he slapped a Campbell Company magnet on each side of his Jeep (those were big back in the day) and waved to the hoards of people lining Downtown Main Street.
As I look back on my family’s journey, it makes me more resolute in my quest for building a sustainable and authentic marketing agency. I hail from a proud family of those who contributed selfless service to others. And it is my mission to do the same.
On my journey to becoming a business owner, there have been many individuals who have helped me develop along the way. I would like to pay it forward and close with one of the best pieces of advice my dad provided me years ago, “Always smile before you answer the phone.” He told me the person on the other end can tell when you’re upbeat and positive, and it goes a long way with a potential client.
Try it! I promise it works.