“I’ve enjoyed and I’m thankful for the failures,” said Craton, who is in the process of moving his Craton Promotional Products headquarters to Rome.
“If you want to be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be a risk-taker — risk your time, risk your money,” he advised the students.
His speech was the finale to a semester-long entrepreneurial speakers series that brought six Berry graduates back to campus to talk about their experiences.
“These are people who have gone on to have diverse and
successful businesses,” said Paula Harveston, assistant
professor in Berry’s business school, who organized the
speaker series for her small business management
class. “And the students think, ‘If this person can go on
and do these great things, I can do that too.’”
Craton, a 1980 Berry graduate, started working with his uncle in 1981 in the promotional products industry.
Since then, he’s started his own company, and in 1993 he signed a contract to handle Chick-fil-A’s specialty advertising. The partnership eventually brought about the stuffed miniature replicas of the famous Chick-fil-A cows.
Entrepreneurial success doesn’t come over night, Craton told the Berry students, and it requires certain personality traits — good communication skills, creative thinking to find ways to improve and a tremendous work ethic.
“One thing I’ve been very fortunate about that a lot of people don’t have is the ability to find my career choice young,” he said.
Craton also warned students about two common pitfalls of business success — ego and what he called the ostrich syndrome, or the tendency to bury your head in the ground to hide from problems.
The speakers that the students heard from throughout the semester came from a variety of industries — advertising, insurance, retail sporting goods, technology and restaurants.
Harveston said next time she organizes a series of speakers the only thing she’ll do differently is publicize it so more people from the community will come as well as students. “I think some of these speakers really came in and changed these kids’ lives.