“Don’t give up, don’t give out and don’t give in.”
That was the advice dished up with a smile by state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, for other business owners right before he was inducted into the Northeast Georgia Business Hall of Fame.
Miller, who is the co-owner and general manager of Milton Martin Honda, was inducted alongside Saul’s owners Lorry and Sherrie Schrage, and Lake Lanier Islands owner Virgil Williams at Junior Achievement’s fifth annual Hall of Fame event Thursday evening at the Chattahoochee Country Club in Gainesville.
“It’s quite an honor to be recognized by the families and citizens here in Hall County and Gainesville,” Williams said. “It’s quite an honor and it’s one that I’ll cherish forever.”
Junior Achievement, a worldwide organization that promotes workforce readiness, entrepreneurship and financial literacy to students, annually highlights the business accomplishments and community service of selected individuals.
“(The event) gives the community a chance to really get inspired by the people in their area that just have been doing really amazing things as entrepreneurs,” said Lee Highsmith, executive director of Junior Achievement of Northeast Georgia. “Their entrepreneurship extends beyond just the business world, because they take that spirit of ingenuity and they take it into the community. They’re also involved in community service as well as the business life.
“Our laureates ... they work to make this community better, not only through the business they’ve created and the services they provide and the jobs they have created, but also through all the giving back to the community that they do,” she added.
The business owners shared their life stories and personal advice on how to succeed.
“You’ve got to be outgoing and bold,” said Williams, who has developed a variety of businesses from Georgia Trend Magazine to Williams Group International. “You’ve got to be willing to take the risk and the challenges. Sometimes they don’t always turn out well, so you have to be able to stand up under those difficult times as well. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.”
With the Schrages, professional success came as a family affair.
“I was a schoolteacher by profession and my husband was in the business,” Sherrie Schrage said. “I decided that it was important that I knew what he was doing and that I would be a partner in what he was involved in.
“He’s very easy to work with,” she added. “He is very easygoing, and his strengths are my weaknesses. We work well together, don’t we?”
“We actually agree most of the time, which is really scary,” Lorry Schrage said, as they both laughed.
Miller also credited his family, particularly his grandparents, for instilling the entrepreneurial spirit in him at an early age.
“My grandparents were in the retail business,” Miller said. “They had shoe stores in South Carolina, North Carolina, North Florida and Georgia. My grandfather, I would go with him to work a lot ... and this is before the days of the fax machine, and he would go from store to store, and I would go from store to store with him.”
Another common thread between the award recipients is one of community service; Miller actively supports Meals on Wheels, the Field of Dreams and Challenged Child & Friends, while the Schrages were named the 2013 Philanthropists of the Year by the North Georgia Community Foundation.
Also recognized Thursday were Wade Rhodes as Volunteer of the Year; Hall County School District’s Career Technical Coordinator Rhonda Samples as Educator of the Year; Georgia Power for Business Partnership of the Year; and Regions Bank for the Advocacy Award.
“So many people do so many things for Junior Achievement,” Georgia Power Area Manager Darrell Snyder said. “It’s a great organization. It does a lot to promote business in schools, and to help schoolchildren understand what to do.”
While the honorees all have a long list of professional and personal achievements, Lorry Schrage said at the end of the day there’s a fairly simple formula to success.
“It’s important to be honest to yourself and to your customers,” he said. “I think you have to be willing to work hard. You have to take care of your employees and you have to take care of your customers.
“Other than that, it’s easy.”