George, how old are you?
And how old were you when you started your first business enterprise?
DAVISON: I was 11 years old. It was a candy business.
DAVISON: Yes. Every day I’d leave my house, walk into our town and meet with the guy who owned a candy store. I’d buy candy from him in bulk and then get on the bus and take it to my school locker. The kids in that area didn’t have access to candy because they lived further out in the country. And so every day I’d arrive with my goods and I would stock my locker. My best product was Charms lollipops. I’d buy them for a nickel and sell them for a quarter.
That’s quite a mark up.
DAVISON: Yes, and it was a lot of fun. And that went on for a couple years until candy started showing up in areas of the school where they didn’t like it so they said “no, we can’t have you selling candy in the school.” But it was a great time for me in my life because I learned how to manage money. I learned how to manage an inventory. I wanted to turn my inventory and I learned what customers wanted and made sure that I gave it to them. I also learned to serve others the best to profit the most.
…when you are surrounded by creative and business influences at a young age, as I was, you are naturally formed into a person who feels very comfortable in those areas.
Tell me what influenced you as a child– something that resonated with you when you were growing up.
DAVISON: As far as creativity, the biggest influence would have been my Uncle Bob — that’s what I used to call him — who was a family friend. My mother and uncles all grew up with him. He was a scientific guy who experimented a lot and could build anything with his hands. He could tear engines down. He could build a deck, put a roof on a house, do plumbing — he was also my Boy Scout Den Master — and I learned so much from him. I learned, basically, if you think it, you can create it. He was constantly searching for knowledge, which taught me to try and try and if you fall, just get back up and try again. Over time, you can gain great knowledge because most people tire of getting back up all the time. Eventually, others stop getting back up and that’s called opportunity, as I would hear from the business mentors’ side when I was a child. So, I learned to make getting back up my strength.
As you found yourself in this business, did you see those influences as helpful? And do you continue to find it helpful?
DAVISON: Yes, because when you are surrounded by creative and business influences at a young age, as I was, you are naturally formed into a person who feels very comfortable in those areas. I mention this because I have found that those influences are not commonly found. Creative people prefer to spend their time doing creative activities because that’s where they feel good. And business people like the game of business. I was fortunate enough to be exposed to both at a very early age, so I am comfortable working with people who are creative and those people who are involved in the business area.
On a side note, I must mention the influence of my mother. I was about four years old when my dad left and my mom was wise enough to know how to turn that into a great opportunity for her son. She realized that I was going to grow up with no real male influence in the home, so through a family friend, she put me in touch with other businessmen in the area at a very young age. She found out that some of the businessmen used to have breakfast at a restaurant called the Red Raven back then; it’s now the Holiday Inn. And one of the guys there who had bought my grandfather’s business told her to “bring your kid over.” So every Sunday my mother would drop me off and I’d go in and have breakfast with them.
How old were you?
DAVISON: I was twelve or thirteen years old when it started. At the table were people who were vice presidents or presidents of major corporations in Pittsburgh. There were half a dozen and most of them self-made. So, basically, the rule was, “shut up and listen, kid.” So I did — I sat there on Sundays. And years later when I was in college, I would come back and I’d still go and see them and have breakfast with them, because it was better than any college education. Sometimes after breakfast, we’d get in the car and we’d go to their offices. Or, if they were building something — for example, one of the guys was building the largest dredge in the world — I actually went down and saw it after breakfast one day and learned what it meant to dream big. They were always building something. Those were the big influences in my life when I was younger.