For Charles Harris, age is just a number. And if that number happens to be lower than that of his professional peers, well, that’s an asset.
The high school senior, who attends classes at both Buchanan and the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART), has launched his own public relations firm, Charles Connections, after successfully participating in the Clovis Chamber of Commerce’s Young Entrepreneur’s Academy (YEA) and completing a summer internship with Fresno-based JP Marketing.
Harris said he came by his entrepreneurial spirit naturally. His grandmother, Shirley Harris, owns Jack & Jill’s Educational Center in Fresno. His father, Robert Harris, is an owner and president of Harris & Bowman, a Texas-based construction company.
By the time he completed the YEA program, where he and business partner Emily Laing founded the Clovis Unified dress code-compliant CEAL Clothing, his career goals had solidified. “I knew exactly what I wanted to do,” he said. Last summer he reached out to local marketing firms about summer internship opportunities.
As JP Marketing’s first high school intern, he updated media contacts, worked on social media initiatives and planned events. “I learned how to write a press release, learned how to do creative writing, networking,” he added. While there, he said, he worked on campaigns for FocusVision and Johnny Garlic’s.
Ongoing marketing and public relations internships at Bitwise Industries and Truth Branding Agency — part of his CART curriculum — have given Harris additional opportunities to hone his skills, particularly in the area of social media marketing. His clients have included local companies like Seasoned Trends Studio, Rocket Dog Gourmet Brats & Brew and Literacy Fresno.
These experiences, along with work he did for family members’ businesses, prompted him to launch Charles Connections. The firm specializes in social media marketing.
Harris considers his age an asset in this area of the business.
“Teenagers really know what’s going on through social media and getting the word out about certain subjects,” he said. “Teenagers, in general, know how to work each social media platform ... as opposed to somebody who has the experience but is not really sure how to get the word out to a certain audience, a target audience.”
Balancing school and a burgeoning business can be a struggle, he admitted. He spends his mornings at Buchanan, where he’s heavily involved in the leadership program, before heading to CART or his internships in the afternoon. Although his course load at Buchanan is reduced, he does put in a full day between the two schools.
After school, he works on homework and “client work,” and occasionally attends networking events. He keeps track of multiple projects and deadlines with Asana, a task management app, “to make sure my task is done before the due date so I don’t procrastinate.”
This fall, Harris will begin his freshman year at San Francisco State University, where he’ll major in business administration with a concentration in marketing. True to form, he’s already networking and trying to build a Bay Area clientele.
And to his fellow teens with big ambitions, he has words of encouragement: “Get involved in as many things as you can. Research different programs locally. Start young. I think you’re the best when you’re younger and anything is possible.”