Ray's Abbreviated Bio:
Born in Fayetteville, TN .. Lincoln Co. Schools .. MTSU (MA & BS) .. HS Teacher/Coach/Administrator .. Runner/Walker .. Entrepreneur .. Started and owned many businesses .. Avid Harmonica Player .. Some banjo .. 400+ recordings .. GA Pilot .... Kentucky Colonel .. Retired .. Writer .. Author .. Poet .. Hobby Songwriter .. Historian .. Storyteller .. Videographer .. Diet & Workout Nut .. Saw Bigfoot .. Hit 400’ HR .. Former Garbageman .. Sings like Alfafa .. Hundreds of YouTube videos .. On-line Books .. Best Move: Marrying Sharon
Sharon and Ray Steelman
During the past thirty years, Sharon and Ray Steelman have started and run six successful businesses. Their most recent accomplishment is Bama Jammer ™ Promotions. Beginning from scratch, with no money, no equipment, and no office, in seven years they transitioned a modest business into a multi-million dollar advertising specialty company. After trial and error, long hours and lots of sweat equity, the pieces finally began to fit.
It is amazing enough to build six successful businesses, but to do so completely debt-free is even more amazing. By applying Biblical principles, frugal business practices and good work ethics, Sharon and Ray have proven that anyone can realize the “American Dream!”
In 1989, the Steelmans filed the legal paperwork with the Alabama Department of Insurance to start OccuDent Dental Plans, Alabama's first statewide Dental Maintenance Organization (DMO). On August 1, 1991, OccuDent began operation in Alabama. The first client was enrolled the next day. The company grew rapidly and, within a year, became the Steelman’s full-time work. OccuDent was always profitable and grew to have over two hundred and fifty dentists and agents on the monthly capitation schedule and payroll. Other than payroll, the company’s overhead was zero. At 10:00 AM on March 30, 1995, OccuDent was purchased from the Steelmans by United Concordia Dental Plans of Camp Hill, Maryland, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pennsylvania Blue Shield.
The Steelmans have co-authored several books, some of which have been marketed by Books-A-Million, Barnes and Noble, Baker and Taylor, WalMart, Hohner, Inc., Amazon.Com, Gaylord Entertainment, Opryland, Smashwords and many tourist attractions and local and regional bookstores. They also have been published in numerous business and trade magazines. In one recent year, Ray was named “Writer of the Year” by Yesterday’s Memories magazine, a nostalgic publication with national circulation. Ray's poetry and stories have been published in "Off Center," a creative literary magazine for the Middle Tennessee State University community. For several years, Ray has been one of the contributing writers for Old Tennessee Valley Magazine, a historic and nostalgic publication.
Sharon is no stranger in business and professional circles, often appearing as a speaker or panelist at national and regional conventions and business meetings. In 2004, she was nominated from a pool of executives from 23,000 companies as "Woman of the Year" in the Advertising Specialty Institute's most prestigious award for women. Sharon and Ray were both nominated in 2004 as "Entrepreneur of the Year" by ASI. By very narrow margins, they came in second place nationally in both of the above awards. Sharon attended the University of Alabama in Huntsville where she majored in International Trade and Foreign Language. Sharon has held many leadership positions in business, church, and women's groups both regionally and nationally.
Ray came to Huntsville, Alabama in 1972 as a teacher and coach at S.R. Butler High School, then the state's largest high school. In 1976, he found himself to be one of the assistant principals at the school, a position he held until he left education in 1985. Ray has always been an educator at heart. For years he was known in harmonica circles as the "Bama Jammer", has amazed audiences with his songwriting skills and by playing the harmonica. The Bama Jammer has taught literally thousands to play the harmonica through his books, audio, and videotapes and harmonica seminars. His books, cassette albums and CD’s have been marketed by Wal-Mart, Books A Million, Barnes and Noble, Baker and Taylor, Amazon.Com, Smashwords, Hohner Harmonica Company, theme parks and on the internet. Ray occasionally teaches harmonica in seminars for schools, businesses and professional groups. He is well known to the viewers of You Tube, Vimeo and Reverbnation with over 300 harmonica and vocal videos that are seen daily around the world. Ray is also a general aviation pilot holding the following certifications: Single engine land, multi-engine land, high performance and complex aircraft, IFR certified (flying in the clouds by instruments only and no outside references). Ray holds a BS and an MA degree in Industrial Management from Middle Tennessee State University. In 1990, Ray was appointed a Kentucky Colonel by Kentucky Governor Wallace Wilkinson for his contributions and outstanding sales records for the Kentucky-based Humana Health Care HMO. In the last few years, Ray has added "storytelling" and "banjo picking" to his repertoire. Storytelling was a spinoff from his being a hobby writer for most of his life. Today, he can be found flying his Piper Cherokee across the southeast and playing his harmonicas at special events and as a street performer, "busking" on street corners everywhere. He has performed as far away as Paris.
Based on sales growth, Bama Jammer Promotions was named the "Fastest Growing Distribution Company in America" in 2003 and again in 2004. In the seventy-three-year history of this award, this is the only time that the same company has received this recognition twice. In 2004, Bama Jammer Promotions was named “Small Business of the Year” (wholesale/retail division) by the Huntsville / Madison County, Alabama Chamber of Commerce. In 2005, Bama Jammer was named a “Torch Finalist (ethics in business)” by the North Alabama Better Business Bureau. In 2006, The South Regions Minority Business Council named Bama Jammer “The 2006 Supplier of the Year” (in the medium size company category) in the Southeast. In 2007, Sharon was selected as one of three finalists for the Huntsville / Madison County Alabama Chamber of Commerce “Entrepreneur of the Year.” In 2008, Bama Jammer was the recipient of the “Torch Award (ethics in business)” by the North Alabama Better Business Bureau.