In this episode of The Mobile Alabama Business Podcast, we sit down with Lynn and Darrel Campbell from The Grind. Listen in as we discuss how The Grind got its start and what fun things they have planned for the Mobile business community!
Produced by Blue Fish
Darrel Campbell: My name is Darrel Campbell and the owner of The Grind, Statewide Auto and Home.
Lynn Campbell: My name is Lynn Campbell. I'm president of The Grind.
Marcus Neto: Very good. Well, welcome to the podcast to both of you. And we were saying right before this, I've been trying to get this to happen for a while. So I wanted to say thank you very much for both of you being here. I know you're taking time out of your day to come and tell your story. Why don't you start by telling us the story of Lynn and Darrel. Where are you from? Where'd you go to high school? Did you go to college? Obviously you're married. Give us some backstory just about who you are as a person.
Darrel Campbell: Well, I'm from Mobile originally and went to high school at LeFlore High School and ran track, ended up getting a track scholarship to Alabama A&M University. And that's what took me to Huntsville. And so I stayed up in Huntsville for about 10 years before I moved back to Mobile. But my background is in insurance. I started working for an insurance company in 1992. And so this year is 30 years in the business.
Lynn Campbell: And marketing.
Marcus Neto: Wow. That's amazing.
Darrel Campbell: And marketing. I have a marketing degree in Alabama A&M University.
Marcus Neto: Nice.
Darrel Campbell: And so that's how I end up getting my start in business.
Marcus Neto: Very Cool. And how about you?
Lynn Campbell: Oh, that's so quick.
Marcus Neto: Anything you want to fill in, he's a man. So if you want to fill in some-
Lynn Campbell: You told me to stay on course, Marcus. You gave me the notes. So I also went to LeFlore High School. A little bit after him. Then went on to Tuskegee University. From there I was a professional opera singer. I studied opera in Italy. I'm trying to expedite. University of New Orleans.
Marcus Neto: No, you got plenty of time.
Lynn Campbell: Got my master's, undergrad degree, master's degree. Came back, ended up coming back to Mobile. And that's, I guess, when I met Darrel, years later. And we joined forces in a business aspect that grew to what we now know as marriage.
Marcus Neto: Well, that's different. So the relationship was a business relationship first and then that went-
Darrel Campbell: Yes.
Marcus Neto: That's cool.
Darrel Campbell: Really solid, solid friends, friendship, business. And we were like two peas in a pod and all that.
Marcus Neto: [inaudible 00:02:49].
Darrel Campbell: You want me, you want...
Marcus Neto: Well, one of the things that you and I have never spoken about. But I actually went from high school, I went to community college, but then I went to James Madison University and I was actually studying music there as well. I was a vocal performance major.
Lynn Campbell: I didn't know that.
Marcus Neto: Those days are long gone.
Lynn Campbell: Oh my God.
Marcus Neto: But I was actually studying to be an opera, whatever music.
Lynn Campbell: How did I not know this?
Marcus Neto: I don't know.
Darrel Campbell: Some things you just don't say too much.
Marcus Neto: Because then as soon as you say that people are like, "Well sing something." It's been decades since I really carried a tune.
Lynn Campbell: It never leaves.
Marcus Neto: No it doesn't. But the passion for music, so my father's from Brazil and the passion for music is definitely there. And I've just, he's exposed me to music from all over the world. And it was one of the things that really helped me get through high school was my involvement in choir, and the performances, and stuff like that. So I really appreciate what that brought to my life.
Lynn Campbell: For me too.
Marcus Neto: So, I mean, it was a way of expressing myself, but also a way of belonging. And that's not often that you find those. Well, anything you'd like to add to his story about the "I spent 10 years in Huntsville and now I'm here in Mobile."
Lynn Campbell: I really feel like our paths were designed to connect at the time that they did.
Marcus Neto: That's cool.
Lynn Campbell: We're from the actual same community, but we never knew each other until much later in life. And it just works out. It's interesting. It's really a spiritual type movement.
Marcus Neto: For sure. Well, the next thing that we usually talk about is your first job. And I'm talking about your first job, washing dishes, sweeping floors, that kind of thing. And the reason why I ask this is because I think there are a lot of young people that listen to this that don't realize what it looks like for that first job and why they're important. Because I often use the example, and people that listen to the podcast get tired of hearing it, of my very first job. The guy would, how to mop a floor. There's a correct way to mop a floor. There's a correct way to wash dishes, all this stuff. And then you start to realize, "Oh, there's a right way to do most things." But anyway, any lessons that you all still remember from your first job and what was that first job?
Lynn Campbell: For me, it's kind of two parts. I was 17. It's not the typical, I was a jazz singer for a jazz band in Prichard.
Marcus Neto: Oh, gosh.
Lynn Campbell: I kid you not. They had a special program. I was in high school, like 11th grade or whatever. That was pretty cool because it gave me something to prepare me for later. But the job that really shaped me in college for the summer, I sold meat on the back of a truck. I've never told anybody that. You remember those people riding around in trucks selling meat?
Marcus Neto: That's a hard job. I do remember that. What's the company that does that?
Lynn Campbell: I don't even know who they are anymore. It was unreal. But it gave me something. It stirred something up in me. It let me know, number one, get your education.
Marcus Neto: Because you don't want to be doing that for the rest of your life.
Lynn Campbell: But I got a tan that I still have. On the back of a truck telling me... I learned how to drive a stick shift. The lady who was partnering with me was like, "Oh, you're cute. The guys like you, you should do some other things." I was like, "Oh God." But no, it built character. It taught me the importance of how to earn a living, just honest, earn a living. And that will never leave me. It gave me a work ethic.
Marcus Neto: There's something very difficult about going up to a door that you don't know anybody and saying like, "Hey, you want to buy some meat?" You definitely have to gird up the loins in order to make that happen.
Darrel Campbell: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: Cold calls are hard, but that's especially hard. What about you?
Darrel Campbell: Well, my first job, I've kind of, a two in part here. My first job was Woolworth downtown. I don't know if many people remember that.
Marcus Neto: The sign is still there on the corner.
Darrel Campbell: Is it? It was Woolworth and I was actually a dishwasher, and cleaning the plates off, the whole nine yards. I mean really, literally, the hardest job I think I've ever had to this day. Because carrying the heavy dishes and all of that, it was a back breaker. And so I knew that I did not want to do that for a long time. And so I went on from there to Davis Photography, Willie Davis. He hired me on as a dark room printer in terms of-
Marcus Neto: Explain to those people that are listening, what a dark room is.
Darrel Campbell: Oh God, I'm sorry. Well, back in the days, back in the days we had developing and printing pictures, black and whites we had to actually-
Marcus Neto: I was just playing. [inaudible 00:07:47].
Darrel Campbell: Well I'm, for people don't know.
Marcus Neto: Actually my oldest son is a big photographer and we've had some discussions. And I don't remember if he's done any development of film and stuff. But I remember eighth grade or something like that, you went in, and they had the solutions, and take the picture.
Darrel Campbell: Absolutely. So I did that for Davis Photography and I actually liked that a whole lot. And that's where I really thought my career was going head in the realm of photography.
Marcus Neto: Really?
Darrel Campbell: Yeah. So that's what I really like to call my first job, not the dishwashing. But the dishwashing actually did build a lot of character, taught me hard work, how to work hard, and the whole nine yards.
Marcus Neto: Well, so I was turned on to The Grind a number of years ago just through the community. There were a number of people that were saying very good things about what you all are doing there. So why don't you tell people, how did that even become a thing? What is The Grind? Give us a little bit of information there.
Darrel Campbell: Well, we were actually looking, again, my background was in insurance and that's what we were doing, in insurance. And one particular time, the building that we were leasing from, they came and told us that we needed to leave, vacate. They was going to bring in a pizza place or what have you. And at that point we had to find another place. And so Lynn, she started searching and everything. And there was a building next door to us that was about 5,000 square feet or whatever. And I said, "Absolutely not. It's too big. We're in a small area right now. We need something very similar." But she kept on it, and kept on it, or what have you, until she twist my arm and all that.
Marcus Neto: Came up with one of the most amazing ideas you've ever heard of.
Lynn Campbell: Thank you.
Darrel Campbell: I know. I know. But when we got there, it was a lot of space, a lot of offices and everything. And so we had to develop and come up with an idea. And Lynn, I'll let you take it from here, because it's so colorful when you talk about it.
Lynn Campbell: He really already had the concept because before, we had talked about it before, he had always said when he first started his first storefront, not your first, maybe a second storefront, that he was paying maybe $2,000 a month, after he first moved back to Mobile. And he was probably bringing in a fraction of that when he first opened the doors here. And it was just expenses, of course, all business owners...
Marcus Neto: It's part of a business owner.
Lynn Campbell: Exactly. He said he wish he'd had a place where he could just lease a space. So he had this concept in his mind. And so when this happened, of course, if you're heading into some trouble or things start to just blow up under you, be looking for something great to happen on the other side. This is my concept because this is what happened. Even though we were thrown into a tail spin, the man said you got 30 days to get out of here and find a space. And we were leasing a portion of that building at the time. God just put it in my spirit like, "Hey right next door, there's this huge building."
And sure enough Darrel, he was like, "Absolutely not. You're crazy." But I set up privately with the realtor for us to take a look at it. And I was like, "Hey look, we're going." When we walked in, the whole vision, everything was kind of already there. It started to make all the juices flow and everything kind of pop. And long story short, we ended up purchasing that building. And then everything that was kind of in us, we sat down on the floor one night, came up with the whole concept, the name, which was really interesting. Because he was like, "I got the name, The Grind." And I was like, "People going to think we're nasty."
Marcus Neto: I never thought of it that way. It means that said something about me.
Lynn Campbell: You'll be shocked how many people have come through and said, "Is that at that club?" I was like, "No." But the whole thing's it's been a godsend. It's been great. The concept is to allow people who are interested in being business owners, entrepreneurs, a place where they can come in, get support, help, assistance, have someone to sit down with them, just like we're doing right now, and talk through their ideas, help them if they're in the beginning phases, or if they're more advanced, wherever they are, meet them where their needs are. And listen, let's see if we can work together and help you to grow this thing. So you can miss all the bad stuff, jump over the bad stuff and get to the good part.
Marcus Neto: People don't realize just how invaluable that can be to have somebody that's been there. You know kind of shortcut them through some of the headaches that every business owner goes to.
Lynn Campbell: Absolutely. Do this. Not that.
Darrel Campbell: And also, Lynn, had mentioned that when I first got my first storefront, I was paying about $2,000 a month. And that was, I mean for a person just getting started, haven't sold his first policy, it was a lot. So I had to kind of climb from that and it was extremely hard. I had a whole lot of hard days. And so understanding that with a place like The Grind, that $2,000 could have turned into $300, $350, or what have you. And a person coming in at 350 with overhead can make it a whole lot better than a person that's starting off with $2,000.
Marcus Neto: For sure. That makes sense. And so you've expanded that. I mean it's grown quite a bit, so I mean even now The Grind Awards and all kinds of other stuff that you all do in the community. You didn't stop at just having a co-working space. I mean, was that all just kind of part of the original vision as well or?
Lynn Campbell: In part. But it's grown way more especially with The Grind Awards. The whole concept of just reaching out to people in the community because the initial idea was the co-working space and then we'll help them along the way. But what we found in doing this, that people, the desire and the need for business support is so great that it's overwhelming in fact. We can hardly keep up with it in certain aspects. But then The Grind awards, that's a whole nother baby.
Darrel Campbell: Definitely. Definitely. We wanted to develop something that would really give recognition to local business owners. We wanted to treat them just like the celebrities are treated at the Oscars, the Grammys, they get to walk the red carpet, the whole nine yards. And we wanted to bring that concept, but make it for business owners. Business owners are the real stars of the community. And we want to design an event that really highlighted the business owners of the community.
Marcus Neto: I'm getting goosebumps, just talking about it. I mean, for you to recognize that, and I don't know that people realize just how important business owners are to the community. And Mobile specifically, because as we've said many times on this podcast, the Chamber did a study a couple years ago and found that there were some 30,000 small or micro businesses in this area, which is exactly the people that you're targeting. You got 30,000 people in Mobile alone that have micro businesses than, I don't know, the driver that that provides, the economic driver that provides for this area is just insane. I've never lived anywhere, been anywhere that, maybe New Orleans would be similar in the sense that there's all kinds of little restaurants and shops and stuff like that. But they're a bigger city. But I just think it's amazing that you've recognized that and that you went out of your way to make business owners feel so special because I was lucky enough to have won an award from you all. And I remember that feeling. It was amazing. I felt like a rock star.
Lynn Campbell: You earned it. Truly.
Marcus Neto: Well, that's debatable. But thank you. It's too late you already gave me the award.
Lynn Campbell: No, no, no. Seriously. I mean a lot of time, and this is part of it, Marcus, a lot of time, people just like you, from the outside looking in, everybody sees you, they see what you're doing. But a lot of time for the entrepreneur, for the business owner, we're just in the mix. You don't feel it. You don't see it. You don't acknowledge like, "Oh my God, I'm making a difference in the community."
Marcus Neto: When people say that to us, it just doesn't...
Lynn Campbell: It doesn't register.
Marcus Neto: Because there's so much...
Lynn Campbell: But see we see it. We see the impact you're making on this community. The difference that you're making within this community and beyond in fact. And so it's so hard, and so this is about that opportunity to say, "Hey, we see you. You're doing amazing." Even though it may not feel like it on every day, trust and believe the community sees you. Our state sees you. Our nation sees you. Keep doing it.
Marcus Neto: It's amazing. I love it that you guys took that on. And I do hope that, now that COVID is kind of waning, that you'll see to it to continue that because it was a really great event. Do you remember the first, I know you walked into the space and the vision, the creative juices flowing, and all that stuff, but do you remember the first time that somebody came in and you had an interaction, you were like, "Oh yeah, we're doing what we're supposed to be doing"? Was there a confirmation that came shortly?
Darrel Campbell: I would say with the coworking, because that's what we were really kind of banking everything going coworking, coworking, coworking. But as we started getting people in, we invested in a sign, a small business development sign out front, which was huge for us. And as we started to get people in, we're asking people, "Hey, do you want a co-working spot?" Or what have you. "No, no, no. We need business help." Next person, "Do you want a co-working spot?" "No, no, no. We need business help." And so we start to see that there were way more people asking for assistance to start a business. They know what they want to do. They're good at what they're doing, but they have no idea as far as how to start a LLC, a nonprofit, or what have you, or even need assistance financially, or what have you. So they had not a clue. And they didn't know where to go and get that information from. And so we found that niche. So that was that, aha, moment that we had. It's like, "Hey, let's expand it to include business services."
Lynn Campbell: It's been major. That has been, I mean, so much bigger than what we initially thought. Just keeping up with the schedule for it now is not a easy task. But I love the fact that, and I guess that rewarding moment is when they come in and they sit down with you and people have this great idea or concept. Like Darrel said they don't have a clue about how to get a LLC. Or, "Do I need it? Do I need that? What do I need?"
Marcus Neto: What the first step is.
Lynn Campbell: How about the business plan? COVID unveiled a lot. How many people were operating a business, but not under the estate regulated type of...
Marcus Neto: They didn't have the protections of an LLC or...
Lynn Campbell: Absolutely.
Marcus Neto: ... didn't have the proper formation.
Lynn Campbell: Didn't have a bank account. And so we help people to get these things going, and then you'll see the true growth. "No, you can't qualify for any kind of funding if you don't even have a business bank account. If you don't have your name established, the LLC."
Marcus Neto: Not showing any earnings.
Lynn Campbell: Nothing. Just, "Don't worry, I'm just taking them and putting them in through cash app." "No, no, no, let us help you do things the right way." And so now people are getting help. They were transforming into wanting to do things the right way.
Marcus Neto: I think so oftentimes as business owners, we forget just how much we've had to go through in order to get to where we're at. Even the simple things of business accounts and stuff like that is really... Anyway. Now, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Lynn Campbell: I would say seek assistance from some people who know what they're doing first. Do not jump head first into it without seeking someone who has had some experience in it. Do that first. We see so many people say, "I started a business six months ago now I need help." "Now what did you do?" "I got a EIN number." "Oh gosh. Okay. Hold on. Let's back it up." And now they're in a mess. That is one of the biggest things that I see. What about you?
Darrel Campbell: I would say, also to add to that, will be business planning. And that's probably one of the things that they take for granted the most. I always tell people that you cannot, if you get ready to go on a trip somewhere to Utah, never been there before, you're going to need a map, you're going to need some type of GPS. You're going to need something. You're going to need direction. That's what your business plan is for your business. And so that's what Lynn and I really hit home on as far as business plan. Business plan, I think, no matter how simple they create their business plan, I would definitely suggest they do a real business plan, and get somebody to help them with the business plan. But you got to have some type of business plan and if you're going to start something that could very well...
Marcus Neto: Turn into something.
Darrel Campbell: Yes.
Marcus Neto: I mean, if you're just selling trinkets in the back of your truck or something like that. Well where is it... Are there any books, podcast, people or organizations that have been helpful in moving you forward? I mean maybe not just The Grind, but just in general, your professional and business abilities, anything that you'd like to touch on.
Darrel Campbell: I would say, for me, Think and Grow Rich, was my favorite book. I read it, I mean, constantly throughout, just chapters over and over, and things like that. And so that has been really instrumental with me.
Marcus Neto: How about you Lynn?
Lynn Campbell: For me, it's motivational music. Any type of, I listen to different motivational speakers and music, those, the combination, I think, that for me does it.
Marcus Neto: And I 100% understand because of your background as a singer, you want to hear things. And you know what, actually, I don't think we've ever discussed that on this podcast. And that's that if you are bent on learning a certain way, you need to figure that out. Are you a visual learner? Are you someone who has to sit down and you read it over and over, write it over and over, or hear it over and over. I mean, I'm an auditory person as well, but I also lean towards visual because of the job that I'm in. But there's just something about seeing things or hearing things that makes it click a little bit more than otherwise. So you would do yourself a favor figuring that out because it'll help you move faster.
And you talked about Think and Grow Rich. I would throw this out, because maybe you all have seen this or haven't, but I have almost everybody that I speak to that's a new business owner read, The E Myth. And if you've not read The E Myth, The E Myth is all about people that are really good at something, and then they find themselves owning a business where they're having to be the person that is really good at that thing and all the other stuff. And it talks about removing yourself from that and working on the business instead of in the business. And that is most of the time that's transformational for people when they're just getting started.
Lynn Campbell: I love that.
Marcus Neto: What's the most important thing you've learned about running a business?
Lynn Campbell: I think, for me, our partnership is the tops. It's A1.
Marcus Neto: Nothing comes before it.
Lynn Campbell: Nothing. Everything we do, I mean, we're in sync. We must be in sync because we are the core. I always say it like that. We are the core. If the core falters, then everything falls. So the first place, for me, is to make sure that our core is intact. And then, we then connect in a way that everything else kind of lines up. And that goes with anyone who's in a partnership, in a business, I don't care if they're by themselves, or if they're partnering with someone, especially if they're partnering with someone, it's so core. It's so fundamental. It's number one to me.
Marcus Neto: I'm glad you said that. I was going to say that even if, because you guys married and working on the business together, even if you're just in a relationship and you're not working on the business together, making sure that relationship, because there's just something weird when you're not with your significant other, it throws everything out of whack. So how about you? Are you just going to repeat what she said?
Darrel Campbell: Yeah, what she said. No, she is right. She's right. It's funny too because in our relationship, relationships are very tough, very, very tough.
Marcus Neto: I heard.
Darrel Campbell: So she and I, we always feel like we struck gold because in terms of relationship, we're solid. I mean, you don't see one without the other, that type of thing or what have you. And so that translate into the business. We carry that same energy into the business as well.
Lynn Campbell: However, he says he's my boss between 8:00 and 5:00. He bosses, me.
Marcus Neto: Whatever.
Lynn Campbell: He bosses me. But it's okay. It works because there has to be a head. There has to be a balance. And I'm good with him as a leader. I'm married to him. So in that in itself I said, "I allow. I trust you to lead me." And I told him, I said, "I'm a strong woman. So that means for me to trust you in that, that says so much. That means I have so much faith in you." And I do. And so that's part of it. You cannot get beyond that.
Marcus Neto: For sure. It is. It's extremely important. Well this is the hardest question. I mean, I don't even know if you guys are going to have an answer for this but, how do you like to unwind?
Lynn Campbell: Cabo.
Marcus Neto: I hear that.
Lynn Campbell: The beach.
Darrel Campbell: Lots of small getaways. Weekend getaways.
Lynn Campbell: We date a lot.
Marcus Neto: That's your favorite place to travel to, Cabo?
Darrel Campbell: Yeah. By far.
Lynn Campbell: Hands down.
Marcus Neto: I've not been yet, but I have some friends, it's Kylie Everson.
Lynn Campbell: We've got a lot of, in fact, can I say this? We love Cabo. But we're planning, I think, what helps us too to make it through, because our days are tough, our weekends, we work nonstop, pretty much every day, when people are relaxing, we're working. But I think what helps us is we have mental getaways too. We plan our trips together. And I don't care, it's at night we have our personal time, we sit down, and we say, "Okay, let's plan our trip. Let's work on it." And it does something for us to mentally escape.
Marcus Neto: Something to look forward to.
Lynn Campbell: Yes.
Marcus Neto: And there's got to be a reason why you work so hard. And so if traveling is your thing, which for Christy and I, we love to travel as well, if traveling is your thing, then you got to put that carrot in front of your nose. Because otherwise, why am I going to get up at, whatever time, tomorrow morning to be there. Well, tell people where they can find you.
Lynn Campbell: 3223 Springhill Avenue.
Marcus Neto: And that is for The Grind as well as for the insurance business as well?
Darrel Campbell: Yes.
Marcus Neto: Why don't you talk a little bit about the insurance as well, because I don't want to take away from someone's ability to support you if they want to support you and your endeavors. So what do you got there?
Darrel Campbell: Well, the insurance, as I mentioned earlier, I've been in the insurance business for 30 years. This is my 30th year come November. And so I have an independent agency, basically everything as far as business, commercial...
Marcus Neto: Property, casualty.
Darrel Campbell: Property and casualty, life, the whole nine yards. So I worked for MetLife when I started in 1992. But I worked for them and went to management, for about 15 years I stayed with them. And then from there I branched off and opened my own agency. So I guess about what, 12 years, 13 years now. Time flies. But the insurance business is, we have it located inside The Grind. It is one of the core businesses of The Grind.
Marcus Neto: No, that's very good. So if anybody needs insurance for their home, or car, or for general liability for their business or anything, give them a call and support them because they are doing some wonderful things in the community. Well, I want to thank you again for coming on the podcast. To wrap up any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share.
Lynn Campbell: Let everybody know The Grind Awards, November 13th 2022 at the Battle House.
Marcus Neto: Nice.
Lynn Campbell: It's going to be amazing.
Marcus Neto: You guys don't play around when you do these things.
Lynn Campbell: It's going to be awesome.
Marcus Neto: November 13th at the Battle House. And I'm gathering that there's like a Facebook event and all this information about signing up.
Darrel Campbell: Yes.
Lynn Campbell: Yep.
Marcus Neto: And you gave the address. I'm going to assume that there's websites for some of the, you want to give that and...
Darrel Campbell: Visitthegrind.com, www.visitthegrind.com is the website.
Marcus Neto: Very good. Well, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneurs. It's been great talking with
Darrel Campbell: Same here. Same here.