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Shine On.

Shine On.

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.

—William Hutchinson Murray

The quote above inspired me to launch this company in January of 1991. It was a magnet on my refrigerator that I looked at every day.

In 1991, the U.S. was still in a mild recession but a recession nonetheless. Seems an inauspicious time to start a company. I did it anyway. I was pretty much fresh out of school, and my Mom worried about how I was going to pay my bills, to the point of not-so-casually mentioning great new marketing jobs she had seen advertised in the newspaper. I had just bought a new car and moved into a new apartment. 

I guess I was almost always doing things backwards. I committed myself to what I call self-UNemployment (because it is self-inflicted), and Providence moved. God’s Providence, in my case, because there’s no other way to explain it.

Morris Creative Group LLC (then Renaissance Design Associates) started with $200 and a big pile of naivete from a 23-year-old who didn’t know what he didn’t know but still believed he could create something. Luckily, a fantastic group of people over 30 years have made it what it is today and continue to. Our amazing hometown of Knoxville has made it what it is, too. So, firstly, I want to thank each and every staffer and intern who has ever been a part of our company, and I want to thank every client we’ve ever had the privilege to serve, and I want to thank our hometown. Thank you! More on that later.

I’m feeling nostalgic. On January 1, 2021, it quietly became our firm’s 30th year, with not much fanfare at all. In fact, I kind of forgot. I was sitting in my friends Scott and Kelley Walton’s living room by a fire watching football, nodding off, and nursing a headache from too much wine with dinner the night before. I’m truly scratching my balding gray head about how this happened – the anniversary, not the headache. How in the world are we now in our 30th year, and during a global pandemic, no less?

Chris Whittle and Chuck

It all started with design. Graphic design, NOT graphics design (please don’t call it graphics design). I had just left Whittle Communications (Chris Whittle was an unwitting mentor to me, as well as my bosses Steve Hicks, Ruth Ann Hickey, and Bill Rukeyser) to start freelancing as a designer for Darrell Akins and Charlie Tombras at their new PR shop, Akins & Tombras (all of these folks gave me a shot when I was just starting out, and they mentored me. Thanks!). I did logos for new companies and signs for buildings and flyers and brochures and ads. I ran client meetings. I attended trade shows. I volunteered on non-profit boards and sat on chamber committees. It taught me a lot about business. 

Then I landed a new sports equipment catalog for a little-known brand called Power Systems (which later became a big brand). Bruno Pauletto, then strength and conditioning coach for the University of Tennessee football program, along with his wife Julie, were the owners. I was overwhelmed. It was a big catalog with lots of photos and detailed product descriptions. And so ME became WE. I hired Timm Jenkins, a brilliant designer who landed in Knoxville from Pittsburgh. My first employee. We were now a company. (Thanks, Julie and Bruno! Thanks, Timm!).

And then we got a new client called Cityview Magazine. John and Nancy Lyle were the owners. They knew we were small but believed in us, and so we got to do all the design and photo shoots and press checks. Another milestone of learning. (Thanks John and Nancy!)

More learning and lessons were to follow, of course, along with 3 recessions, a fire at our offices in the L&N Station (1979 video), a divorce, a flood when a water main broke, then a move to Southeastern Glass Building on Jackson Avenue when the L&N Stem Academy wanted our space for a school. I’m told our old space is the arts area, which seems fitting. 🙂

Fast forward many years, and we have grown to become a full-service marketing agency, not just a design firm. And so, here on our 30th year, we find ourselves still standing, gratefully, in the middle of a global pandemic. I thought long and hard over the holiday about what it means to be 30. What have all these years meant? 

For me, the word that kept popping into my mind was “shine.” Shine, as in “shine on,” “be the light,” “shine bright.” Anyone remember the childhood song, “This Little Light of Mine”? 

It occurs to me that that’s what we’ve tried to help our clients do all these years. Shine brighter. Be the light. Be the company that makes a difference in the community it serves. We’ve tried to do that ourselves, too.

So, to all of you, a challenge for 2021: Shine On. Persevere. Be the Light. Let Your Light Shine.

I’m counting on you. We all are. We need each other.

The 30-year reunion/anniversary celebration this year may be postponed, but when we’re all out of quarantine, I want to party with my family and friends and clients and staff and “MCG alumni” – you know who you are. Nik Radzi, I’ll buy your plane ticket from Kuala Lumpur. I want to THANK all of YOU face-to-face and give you a big hug. Thank you for being a part of our journey. I am grateful to every one of you, and I salute you, too, as many of you have gone on to start your own companies or make contributions at major agencies all over the world.

And one last thing… to the non-profits in the local area, we want to give back this year as a way to celebrate our anniversary. Please stay tuned for more from us when we announce our “Shine On Awards,” which may just become an annual thing.

With sincere gratitude and humility,

Chuck Morris Signature

Chuck Morris

Morris Creative Group “Alumni”

You Know Who You Are (with sincere apologies to any our database missed – PLEASE email us)

Aaron Russell
Adam Atchley
Alec Dumke
Alex Cruz
Alexandria Berg
Alexis J. Breeding
Alyssa Gauci
Andrea Truan
Andrew Hock
Andrew Bowers
Anne O’Brien
Annelise Brueher
Ashil Parag
Ashley Hairston
Austin Church
Ben Maxey
Ben Miller
Brian Schroeder
Bridget Plunkett
Brock Etters
Cary Kelley
CJ Isaac
Caitlin McLawhorn
Carly Nash
Casey Lawrence
Curtis Johnston
Dan Lipe
David Allen
David Jewell
David Cox
Dayna Thacker
Demi Camia
Dena Anshutz
Devin Harris
Elizabeth Hoover
Emily Breeden
George Middlebrooks
Gordon Kutil
Hanna Lustig
Hayden Zelem
Homer Chang
Will Parker
Wilson Long

Ifra Aijaz
Jack Shear
Jacob Schneider
Jacob Tomblinson
Janie Lundin-Ledgerwood
Jaques Palin
Jayden Saunders
Jebreh Harris
Jennifer Jernigan
Jenny Fetzer
Jessica Kelly
Joani Ross
Jonathan Edwards
Jonathan R. Stovall
Joey Hathaway
Joyanna Hirst
Julia Sachs
Juliette Pignol
Kallie Roberts
Katie Truppo
Katie Scott
Kellie Ward
Ken Pelletier
Kevin L Jones
Khloe P Williams
Kiley McCarley
Kirk Rittenberry
Kristalee Gilbert
Kristen Comstock
Kristine Vasgaard
Kyle Dyer
Kyle Henn
Kyoko Eng
Laura Hoffman
Liana Hale
Lindsay Loveday
M. K. (Alexis) Magnotti
Madeline Cremin
Maralynn Rochat
Maria Galkina
Mark Northern
Mary Beth Roberts
Matt K. Patteson
Matt Klimas
William Casey Lawrence
William Nicholas Heim

Matt Montgomery
Melanie Burleson
Melanie Drouhard
Melissa Foster
Melissa Needs
Melody Hwang
Meridith Owens Geiger
Micah Brookshear
Michelle Quinones
Mike Purdy
Milaray L. Mann
Molly Russell
Molly Vermillion
Nicole Maestri
Nizam (Nik) Radzi
Olivia Rothermel
Paige Berry
Paige N. Burchell
Rachel Elise Allen
Rachel Sbuttoni Schafer
Rodney Griffin
Ross Landenberger
Samuel Bendriem
Samuel Ellis
Sarah Marie Ruff
Sarah Wilson
Shannon Marie Drew
Sharon R. Murphree
Sierra Renee Plese
Stacy Stewart
Stephanie Bullock
Steve Parker
Steve Simpson
Sung Kim
Susannah Finley
Tee Sripunvoraskul
Thinh Nguyen 
Tim Parker
Timm Jenkins
Todd Greene
Tracy Kramer
Tyler Watkins
Victoria A Marrone
Vincent Walker
Dr. Wendy Chambers