I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandy Gholston, who has more than 20 years of award-winning professional experience, including graphic design, journalism, marketing PR, public relations and media relations. Sandy is the News Services and Social Media manager at Ferris State University, in Michigan, and is the founder and CEO of SG3 Communications, a full-service digital marketing agency. His passion and talents include creative writing, photography and broadcasting football and basketball games on the radio.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path? My story is one that is rich with a lot of twists and turns. As a college student in my home state of Michigan, at my alma mater Ferris State University, I developed my passion for writing. I blended one passion, writing, with another, sports. That was the start of my journalism career at Ferris’ student newspaper. I transitioned into a professional career writing for the Big Rapids Pioneer, covering Ferris State University Athletics and the local high schools. After 10-plus years of award-winning work as a writer, a columnist, a photographer and a designer, I started the next phase of my professional career working at Ferris in the University Advancement and Marketing division. I started as a marketing specialist. In short order, I moved back toward the media as I took over our News Services department, working in public relations. Eleven years later, I’m still working on Ferris even as I’ve taken on a new challenge: being an entrepreneur. I started my company, SG3 Communications. In addition to all that, on the side, if you will, I am a radio announcer for Ferris’ football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball teams.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? Before I started, I invested a great deal of time studying the landscape. I did a lot of the usual stuff like market research, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis of my situation and interviewed other entrepreneurs to pick their brains. Advertising can be expensive. However, I invested significant resources into advertising in getting the word out about my business. However, my first two clients came via word of mouth, recommendations from people who knew me and trusted me to work with people they care about. A good reputation can pay off. So, the lesson is to work hard to advertise your business, but don’t forget to make the personal contacts that could bring you leads.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that? I was prepared to sign my first client to a contract when my company was literally just getting off the ground. I was so excited during the negotiations until I realized something: I had not developed a contract. Needless to say, I had a long night of work to put the contract together, got it signed, and the rest, as they say, is history. The client didn’t know any better, but I did. It was a good lesson to learn. I had so many of the pieces of the puzzle in place, but I needed one more.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story? What makes SG3 Communications stand out is that we bring a broad range of experiences to every client or potential client that I encounter. I’m good at becoming a true partner to my client to help them work through challenges and build on successes at the same time. Additionally, I have a network of partners I can call upon for a variety of services. This network is a significant component of what makes my company, though small right now as an upstart, high-quality in the services we can deliver. We have seasoned professionals with proven track records. When I first started my company, I had associates from my past and present who reached out to me offering to work with me, to work with SG3 Communications. It pays to have a network of talented professionals.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Pursue your passions, vigorously. But … pace yourself. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Remember to take time to do the things that you enjoy and to be with the people who make life worth living. Don’t work yourself into the ground. Live a full life. A significant part of that is enjoying life’s pleasures. That balance you bring to your life will pay off personally and professionally.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story? I am blessed to know several entrepreneurs who have achieved success. That they are friends is a bonus for me. We continuously network and inspire each other. I could name one, in particular, but that would shortchange others who have made a significant impact on my life. The exciting part is that a few of these entrepreneurs are in the same field I’m in. We are supportive of each other. The most influential people in my life, the ones who have inspired me most, are my parents who always believed in me and pushed me to pursue greatness. My mom remains supportive and my dad, who passed away in 2004, continues to inspire me.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Yes. I always take on at least one client, pro bono, as a service. Many potential clients have great businesses or promising brands and need a start. This is where I like to come in to find a client that I can boost. Additionally, I partner with the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter at Ferris State University to mentor students and give them real-world experience working with external clients. This relationship has been beneficial to the PRSSA students, to me and to my business.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life? “Faith is the first step when you don’t see the whole staircase,” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is one of many quotes that inspire me. Then again, many things about Dr. King can serve as inspiration. This quote inspired me as I was ready to start my business. When you start something, like a business, you don’t know how every step of your journey is going to play out nor do you know how the journey is going to end.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- Don’t waste too much time thinking about it that you stop yourself from doing it. I thought about it for years before I finally made my move.
- Seek out and solidify partners you trust. Doing this gives you a trusted ally who hopefully shares your goals.
- Have a mission, believe in your mission. Trust that what you’re doing is the right thing, the right way.
- Write a thorough business plan. Think through your business plan, carefully.
- Seek out a trusted, knowledgeable mentor. Find this person and use this person as an essential resource.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂 I would start a movement that would have a public college education fully funded for students. I believe this would make us a more educated society, it would relieve student loan debt, and I’m confident that would also benefit our economy. An educated population is a progressive population.
How can our readers follow you on social media? I am all over the place in social media.
Here are some personal social media accounts:
Here are my SG3 Communications accounts:
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!
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