Winston, a Memphian since age 2, graduated from Baylor University in 1964. He started his career at First Tennessee Bank in the management training program as a small business lender. At First Tennessee he learned about the issues of running a business from his customers. Like many young bankers he went to work for one of his customers, Great Southern Corporation in 1969, where he stayed for seven years. Winston talks about the entrepreneurial spirit and the passion to grow and succeed at Great Southern shaping his life. In 1976 Winston founded Olympic Optical as an importer of sunglasses from Taiwan. He was a one-man operation for the first year. His warehouse was a 10-foot by 30-foot rental storage unit and his office was a bedroom in his apartment. After a year of early success he hired a secretary, a sales rep and rented a real warehouse and office. Olympic Optical experienced slow and steady growth for 20 years. Big events along the way included a licensing agreement with Jack Daniels and Zebco. A major breakthrough at that time was an agreement with Remington to market shooting glasses. This allowed the company to sell to chain stores including Wal-Mart and others under the Remington name. The company began engraving company names and logos on sunglasses as well and this brought about a growth spurt. In 1997, an agreement was made with Smith and Wesson to market shooting glasses under their name. A part of the agreement was to market industrial safety glasses under the Smith and Wesson brand. This enabled Olympic Optical to enter a new market, Winston holds nine design patents for safety glasses. The company realized revenue growth of from $3 million to $15 million in four years, maintaining high profit margins. The company grew to 25 employees and 25 independent sales reps. In 2005, the company was sold after 30 successful and highly profitable years.
Winston has been very generous with the money he has made from Olympic Optical. He has continued his interest in Baylor University by endowing a scholarship for the Management and Entrepreneurship degree within the College of Business at Baylor. Currently, Dr. Marlene Reed of Baylor is writing Winston’s business success story as a case study for students. He is also substantially involved with the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Home as a donor. Winston serves on the Board of the Orpheum and on the Advisory Board of the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. Winston hosts many fundraisers for various organizations in his home.
“‘Throughout history, entrepreneurship has played a key role in the economic development of many countries. It is no less important in today’s business world. Entrepreneurs filling the voids in our economy with new products and services is vital to our prosperity.”
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