Don Corbin Furman University Alumni

Don Corbin '64

Retired Entrepreneur

Have your goal—even if you cannot achieve it right away—and keep working toward it.


Personal/Professional Journey

How did you find your way to where you are today? Share a little about your professional journey.

I was born in 1939 in Tigerville, South Carolina. My first memory of my passion for Mother Nature was at four years old when I found patches of yellow flowers in our pasture. We had a small farm and all helped to supplement our meager farm income.

My mother and grandmother always loved flowers and plants. I learned to root/propagate several species of plants and loved to ask our neighbors for cuttings of my favorites in their yard. Throughout elementary and high school, I worked on the farm. I assisted with the timber business and helped a neighbor on his farm for ten cents an hour.

While in college at North Greenville and Furman, I worked second shift for Refrew Bleachery and Wunda Weve Carpets. Upon graduation from Furman, I stayed in textiles for a total of 26 years. College was interrupted for approximately 1.5 years by a stint in the army during the Cuban and Berlin crises.
Was there a catalyzing experience that shaped your career?

After marriage to my wife, Betty, in 1960, I filled the rest of my time in nature, working on our yard plants, flowers, and grass. Somewhere in my youth I inherited an entrepreneurial spirit. The corporate textile world was good to my family, but I resented the lack of control of my destiny and dreamed of having my own business. Betty and I started doing minor maintenance and landscaping jobs in the evenings and on weekends, and found success in these small efforts.

In 1983, I finally talked Betty into buying a small landscape firm with five or six employees and we left the textile world. The landscape/maintenance business grew, and we made an adequate living. My son, Alan, and his wife,Stacy,moved back to Greenville to join us. The company kept growing and in 1993 we bought a small turf and ornamental supply firm (Griffith T&O). In 1996, Cheryl and Rocky (our daughter and son-in-law) also joined the company.

With tremendous help from the family, our distributor business (seed, fertilizer, chemicals, and golfcourse accessories) really grew. And in 1998,we sold the landscape company to a good, loyal employee.
Going full throttle in a business we all love, we now sell products in the Carolinas, Georgia, a small amount in East Tennessee, and of course at Furman.
Most of all, I am so thankful for our Christian business, always emphasizing integrity. Our family members and other great employees helped us achieve success. Betty has been the best partner and mother one could have. God is good!

Within the field

How would you recommend someone interested in the same career path/vocation pursue a similar path?

As I reflect on my upbringing, being poor ended up being an advantage because I had to work all through school and during the summer. When I graduated, I was ableto transition right into the textile industry as a result. I would liken it now to an internship or my own “Furman Advantage.” I was familiar with the work, demonstrated skill and work ethic, and was able to build a foundation when it came time to graduate. If I had to offer someone advice today, take advantage of the internships opportunities available to you. They allow you to develop understanding for a field, as well as a strong work ethic.
What are some challenges you faced, and were there mentors along the way who helped you grow?

In the early 80s, I really began to connect with the fact that I wanted to own my own business. I had experience in sales, but talking Betty into buying a small landscape business was my best sale to date.

We built a successful business, but maintaining the labor and quality of service was always a challenge. We had a crew of close to 30 people and customer satisfaction was of the utmost importanceto us above all else.

In 1993, we were presented with an opportunity to transition from landscaping into distribution. We bought Griffith T&O from one of the men I had been purchasing fertilizer from when he decided to retire. I leveraged that connection to build upon my business and experience.

Furman University

Any final advice for students or recent grads?

It is extremely hard for a young person to know what they want to do. First,you have to have a passion for it. Try your best to go into something you love. You will know you have a passion for it because it is likely something you would do free. Have your goal—even if you cannot achieve it right away—and keep working toward it.

At some point I realized I could make a living doing what I loved if I followed my passion. I always knew I loved the outdoors, and I try to get out and see the mountains and walk Furman’s campus every day. In fact, afterwalking campus every day since 1977, I have walked roughly 20,800 miles. It was my greatest joy to be able to transform that love into a career.

I would also encourage people to participate in internships and research opportunities, as well as to connect with alumni and community mentors. Try doing something you think you might want to do when you finish school. Take advantage of opportunities to learn what you want to do.
Develop a strong work ethic and pursue what makes you passionate. Have a heart for service and a positive attitude. To be successful, remember you have to have a personality to support your intelligence.

Finally, respect and honor the privileges provided by such a wonderful education from Furman. I always felt my degree gave me an edge. In any business situation, I always felt prepared. All current students and alumni should stand tall on their Furman education.

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