When Brilliance Isn't Enough

I idolized my grandfather. He was a brilliant man.

He was a World War II veteran, a rule-breaker who enlisted in the U.S. Army prior to finishing his high school education requirements.

He was a musician, waking me up during summer mornings on the farm with classical music. This inspired me to become a violinist at just 7 years old.

He was a mayor, respecting, representing, and fighting for Lovettsville, a small town full of people that he loved, even though its future was blurry.

He was a pioneering engineer, creating custom control panels for complex electrical grids in a world without computer technology.

This led him to become a successful entrepreneur, turning his passion into profit. He even changed his company logo from a green line to a black one, because he could finally afford the black-label Jack Daniels.

Unfortunately, this success lasted only for so long.

While my grandfather was many amazing people in one man, he was not a believer in marketing. Someone was even quoted saying, “There is only one way to do things, and that's Hummer's way."

And Hummer, my grandfather, was scorned by the egotistical distaste of a directory listing and the self-promotion of a newspaper advertisement. He saw marketing as a sham.

"There is only one way to do things, and that's Hummer's way."

He received no new business when he “invested” in marketing, but this mindset cost him.

While my grandfather was a well-liked person with a great sense of humor and an inventive mind, he didn’t have a finesse for business development. To complement his lack of marketing, my grandfather didn’t have a legacy plan, which was essential due to his serious health complications.

When his word-of-mouth referrals and loyal customers slimmed, his business permanently closed. I watched the rise and fall of his company, and when I was 20 years old, he passed away.

Fast forward to a 30-year-old me. I was crushing my career in a male-dominated industry and company, but I didn’t receive the respect, responsibilities, or acknowledgement that I deserved.

I checked all of life’s boxes. I had a high-profile career, house, and master’s degree. I’d always been able to visualize what I wanted, but was this it? I felt stuck and unhappy. Working for someone else, I wasn’t being true to my roots.

I pondered how my grandfather mustered up the courage to do what he did. Why did he join the military? Why did he believe in a small town that had trouble mapping its future, literally?

How did he start his own company? I wanted to do the same, but I sat on the idea for three years. He quit his job on the spot.

Above all, I wanted to teach honest, hardworking entrepreneurs like my grandfather that marketing is a thoughtful, practical business tactic. I wanted to help businesses succeed through what I knew how to do best.

I wanted to arm businessmen and women with the tools they needed to grow their company. I wanted to prove that marketing wasn’t a sham or distasteful or political. It was more than a newspaper ad or directory listing.

It was what all businesses needed. It’s what my grandfather needed.

"Above all, I wanted to teach honest, hardworking entrepreneurs like my grandfather that marketing is a thoughtful, practical business tactic."

That’s why I founded Illumine8 Marketing & PR, to ensure no good company goes out of business because they didn’t engage in marketing and business development.

Even though my grandfather passed away about ten years before starting my own agency, he’s in every client that we partner with.

It was to pay it forward to my grandfather for how he inspired me, for everything he taught me. Lead by listening. Be humble. Laugh a lot along the way. Take a deep breath, and jump.