I met James 6 years ago. My family had just moved to Guthrie and we crossed paths often—the way it's done in small towns. He was in the middle of his first business and starting his second. James has strong convictions, and he's vocal. He's also an accidental, astute, and now, seasoned entrepreneur. He's also committed to Guthrie, America. So much so, he moved from the edge of town to the center in order to connect with the community and make a difference. Grab a beer or fruit smoothie with him from Guthrie Nutrition sometime, you will enjoy the visit. In the meantime, read on to learn more about his journey and vision for community impact.
How did you become an entrepreneur?
Well, it started out as an accident. I was an employee for an oil and gas land/lease company. In 2007, the company restructured and began to focus on their core business. But, they had a problem and I guess I was the solution.
What was the problem?
They wanted to divest a small training business they owned and they offered it to me. I said, "look, you guys know what I make, you pay me. I don't have the money to buy much of anything at the moment.” But, they saw something in me that I didn’t even see in myself at the time.
I think laughter and candidness helped the negotiations. After more detail and discussions than anyone cares about, it worked out. They wanted out of the training business and I got into it...
What did you learn from your first business?
Out of the gate the business did great. It generated a lot of cash. But, I didn't understand all the details of accounting, tax liability, processes etc. I did a great job marketing the business and training people. But, I wasn’t a great business operator at the time.
Hire a good accountant. Learn how to operate the business, not just do the work you do to make the money.
Fortunately, I partnered with a strong accountant near the end of the first year. It was expensive. But, not having them could have cost me the business.
What happened next?
Well, we had the real estate crisis around 2008, the credit crunch, whatever you want to call it. It wasn't directly related to oil and gas but it hit that too. My business slowed down. But I thought it was also an opportunity.
Well, it's a funny story. Houses in my home town were affordable so I called a realtor. She didn't know how serious I was so she directed me to another realtor, Patricia Cornforth. As I said, houses were affordable. I bought my first three properties that day and that's how I got into real estate.
Since then, you obtained your Real Estate license and you and Patricia opened Guthrie Real Estate. You've since got your Broker’s license and rebranded as, Jameson Real Estate.
A moment ago you said you found opportunity in a “down market.” Explain that and, what advice would you offer to others facing their own crisis?
It just seemed that there is an opportunity amidst every crisis. I've learned to look for them. When things get bad, I look for opportunities. Fortunately I’ve found them. But, if I had been scared I wouldn’t have even looked. So, just keep looking and working.
When things get bad, I look for opportunities.
Congratulations on the hard-won experience. At every stage of your business ventures you've been for your community. You were part of the founding team of Red Brick Nights and you invest in the local schools. Why?
There are a few reasons. In general, I love my community. It’s a hell of a place—unique even. I just want the town and the people to do well.
Tell us about Red Brick Nights.
You know, there are a lot of community parties. But, Red Brick Nights is the only one that is centered around the community, Oklahoma artists, and the town. Also, it’s an environment that caters to families and kids.
North Church sponsors a great kids’ area. This is unique to Red Brick Nights. The music is curated by Justin Fortney and features amazing talent from in and around Oklahoma. It’s an event that’s big enough to feel electric and small enough for my kids to run and get an icee and come back on their own.
How did it start?
Guthrie has a tradition of community based festivals and is a sleeper community for musicians. We had a couple of ladies that started a monthly music event several years ago, Christie & Shirley Clifford and it unfortunately ended. A few of us had the idea to restart that and rebrand it and it just rolled from there.
Did the business community and other community organizations embrace the idea?
Absolutely. Without the support of Meghan Vance with John Vance Auto Group, The City of Guthrie, Long Hair Repair, the Guthrie Chamber of Commerce and a dozen other businesses we couldn’t pull it off. The business community sponsors it and our city government supports it. The entire event is only possible with the support of the businesses, volunteers and civic leaders.
What about Schools? You’ve invested in the local schools, public and private alike. Why?
I don’t care where you stand on the school funding issue. The issue aside, the problems aren’t the kids fault or the teachers. So, let’s just get some damn supplies into the classrooms. If we won’t invest in our own children, who will?
If we won’t invest in our own children, who will?
What made you get on the City Council.
I realized I can’t live in a bubble centered around me. So there are so many cool things going on in the Guthrie community and so many challenges. I just want to be involved and help our community move forward.
Thank you James. Any closing thoughts for entrepreneurs and difference makers?
If you want to leave things better than you found them, you’ve got to get involved with people. People aren’t easy. I’m not easy. But, making a difference isn’t easy either. Get involved with the people around you.