When Gary Leland walked into a store in 1983 to buy his first computer, a salesman asked if he knew DOS. “I’ve never met her,” Leland said, to which the salesman replied that DOS was a computer language and then showed him a new point-and-click model.
“That sounds like what I need,” Leland said. Today, the former door-to-door salesman is a self-taught social media marketing guru who creates free information hubs for North Texas techies. Last year, he was inducted into the Academy of Podcaster’s Hall of Fame.
“I was probably one of the first 100 podcasters on the planet,” he says. Leland co-founded Podcast Dallas, along with Mitch Todd, and has found the medium to be a great way to promote his other businesses, like his softball equipment company, which he supports with popular podcasts and e-books about fast pitch softball.
Leland moved from South Carolina to Arlington nearly 40 years ago. He says he had a car with some gas in it at the time and maybe $10 in his pocket. He landed a job selling storm doors and windows before marrying his wife, Kathy, and opening up a wallpaper store.
While raising their two daughters, Leland volunteered to coach the girls’ softball team, DaBomb. When he had a tough time finding softball equipment, he decided to open his own store, softballjunk.com.
The brick-and-mortar store is located just behind the wallpaper store. Inside, girls and boys can be seen sizing up bats near rows of softballs and batter’s gloves, but Leland says most of the store’s sales are online.
“Half of my business is from softball, which I never expected,” he says, noting that his “aha moment” came when he saw someone wearing a softballjunk.com ball cap shortly after he opened for business. That’s when he got into podcasting.
When Leland found he was having to travel to Dallas to meet other people who shared his interests, he decided to start the Arlington Social Media Marketing Meetup group.
“I kind of got tired of going to Dallas every time for a meetup,” he says. “So, I started trying to get some tech stuff here.”
Leland, 62, brings in people like famed Facebook marketer Dennis Yu, Topo Chico brand master Giovanni Gallucci and Amazon super seller Chris Green to share their tricks of the trade. Several businesses are even offering the group free meeting space, pizza and drinks.
“I have 25 people coming from Dallas [for Yu’s session],” Leland says. “This is the complete opposite of normal.”
Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams was so impressed by Leland that during a recent City Council meeting he proclaimed March 1, 2017, as Gary Leland Day.
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“Thank you for making Arlington your home and for making a difference in so many ways,” Williams said.
Leland makes a difference by sharing his expertise with others at no cost. Because he has been successful, he says, he wants to help other startups do the same.
“I attended the first meetup and learned so much about using WordPress to promote my business on social media,” Travis Littig writes on the group’s meetup page. “Gary Leland has really created something special here.”
Leland’s newest podcast is one he and Kathy do together about the show Fixer Upper, which helps them sell their wallpaper. “Kathy and I watch [Fixer Upper],” he says. “And then we record out thoughts. Two or three thousand people listen to that a week.”