Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Gary Jackson, Owner of The Message Art of Poetry, located in Forest Park, IL, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

My business is the Art of Poetry, and my canvas of choice is the world.

Tell us about yourself

My name is Gary. I am from Chicago, IL., and I grew up in the inner city. At age 10, I had a stroke, and that launched my health and fitness lifestyle. I had four sisters and two brothers, and our parents were married for over 50 years. I have four children, one is deceased, and I graduated college in 1993. I was recruited to work for NEC Electronics as an Electronic Engineering Technician in Sacramento, California. I designed and patented a piece of fitness equipment in 2010.

I was a life fitness coach for over thirty-plus years before being diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis in October 2013. One month before my 50th birthday, I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, and I was in the best shape of my life. As a life fitness coach, I trained four people a day, five days a week. I completed a century bike ride every Monday and ran nine miles in the evenings, five days a week. I struggled, yes I struggled with making the mental and physical adjustments for the myasthenia Gravis complications. I did not know how to stop exercising or the meaning of moderation. Not wired that way, I was accustomed to riding my street bike about three hundred miles a week because let's face it, health and fitness were my life.

Myasthenia Gravis is a muscle weakening disease that weakens the muscles throughout the day. I was forced to retire from working as an Electronic Engineering Technician due to the muscle-weakening in my eyes. The eye muscles were the first muscles affected, and soon after, my entire body. It took five years to become acclimated to the mental and physical restrictions of Myasthenia Gravis. I moved from Chicago to Houston, Texas, in the summer of 2018, and that’s when I discovered writing poetry and oil painting. I drove by a Hobby Lobby one day and bought some canvases and oil paint and started painting to pass the time.

Today I paint or write for about five to six hours on a good day. I wrote my first poetry book in 2021, and my second book will be released in 2023. After meeting others with Myasthenia Gravis, I discovered how blessed I am with my abilities. Most cannot take care of their daily function by themselves. For that reason, I feel so blessed. I awaken every morning happy to see another day, and I do literally mean being able to see. Art and writing are an extension of my joy for life and a gift that I pen or paint to share with the world. How blessed I am.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

The first purchase of a signed copy of my book and painting by a complete stranger.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Trying to please all customers.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Believe in yourself and your product.
  2. Never mix business with friendship.
  3. Surround yourself with like mind people.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Success is the reward of taking a chance, and failure is an opportunity to get it right.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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