To Top

Conversations with J.R. Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to J.R. Smith.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?

My story started in North County of St. Louis. I am the son of a U.S. Navy Veteran father and awesome mother. I had a wonderful childhood with great friends growing up in Bellefontaine Neighbors. I also have a wonderful sister as well. I went to Grace Chapel for grade school and had a fantastic four years at Lutheran North, where I played football with some great young men and even won some state championships.

In the fall, my dad and I would always go deer hunting. I was also in the scouts and earned my Eagle Scout in 1990. I always felt more at home out in the woods on a camping trip, hunting, and horseback riding. I guess you could say I was the country boy that grew up in the city. However, in the ’80s and early ’90s, cowboy boots and Stetson hats were not the fashion of the day in North County St. Louis, but country always ran through my blood. My nickname in high school was “Tackleberry” from the movie police academy because I was always talking about going hunting and all the fun guns we shot while I was on the trip.

After High School, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in life like a lot of teenagers. So, I took a few years off and went into the workforce. After those few years, I decided it was time to go to college and I enrolled in Southeast Missouri State University in 1994. There I studied business as well as a new program that they had just started for sports therapy. I met some amazing people in Cape Girardeau and I am still friends with a lot of them to this day.

However, in 1996 things changed. I was in a sales position and making pretty decent money. So, I transferred my position back to St. Louis and worked in the Cell Phone industry. I worked for that company till 1999, when I picked up and moved to Florida.

It is at that point where I decided that I wanted to work for myself more than other people and became self-employed and I still am to this day.

Not to long after I moved to Florida, I found the love of my life and in June of 2000, we got married. We have an amazing 17-year-old daughter as well.

Fast forward to October of 2017 and I got the calling of a lifetime. One of the many things that my father taught me was to always keep a notepad or legal pad by the bed in case you get an idea in the middle of the night. Well, I had plenty of legal pads with ideas that never really went anywhere until this one.

I woke up at about 3 am and scribbled the word RANCH. I almost couldn’t even read my own handwriting; it was so bad. Within the next couple of weeks, my wife Pam and I had ideas flowing like water one day on the way to Bass Pro Shops and by December of 2017, we had formed our 501c3 called PJJR Ranch Corp. We are known as The Veterans Ranch. We work with Veterans, First Responders, and their families through equine therapy and also raise funds for children who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.

Our servicemen and women and our children are our most precious commodities. Our Veterans and First Responders serve us all and do not always get the help or appreciation that they deserve. We are here to help them lay down any heavy coats of burden that they may be carrying and walk off as new and improved versions of themselves. I am so happy that the good Lord asked us to help these amazing people.

I am proud of where I came from and where I am today. Things are only getting bigger and better. Remember that regardless of what anyone tells you, NEVER let go of your dreams. NEVER let anyone tell you that you CAN’T do it or IT WILL NEVER WORK. Use that as fuel to keep pressing forward. Les Brown says, “If ya get knocked down, make sure to fall on your back because if you can look up, you can get up.”

Life has thrown me it’s share of punches along the way. Life is not peaches, rainbows, and fluffy bunnies. Take it from a guy who never quit. ALWAYS go after your dreams and never stop. I will leave you with a quote from my dad, “We are going to the top of the mountain. You may find us dead on the side because we are not coming back down. WE WILL MAKE IT TO THE TOP!”

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?

Well, I have been self-employed for over 20 years. You are going to have some up years and down years. The crunch of 2008 really hit one of our businesses hard. My family and I were living on a shoestring. We saw a potential crunch coming but didn’t think that it would affect our business. Times were hard for a couple of years. Lots of people were looking for jobs and you would think that a self-employed guy with lots of business experience would be snatched up in a heartbeat, but that wasn’t the case. I was worth more than people wanted to pay.

That being said, I did what I had to do. I worked for landscaping companies cutting grass, sold RV’s and whatever it took to make ends meet. Like I said, I got knocked down, but I could look up, so I got up. I have NEVER been afraid of hard work or to get my hands dirty.

Through a lot of perseverance, my faith, and a lot of prayers, we got through it.

Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?

I have been in sales and marketing my whole life. I love to network and speak with people. Especially, people that have more experience than me, That is how we learn. If you are the smartest guy in the room, then it is time to find a new room.

Now, I am one of the co-founders of PJJR Ranch Corp DBA The Veterans Ranch.

We work with Veterans and First Responders through equine therapy and we raise funds for children who have lost loved ones in the line of duty.

Horses are God’s majestic animals. A horse can feel a gnat land on it’s back. So, what do you think it knows about you? It knows everything about you when you are two feet away. Myself and my entire family have a giving heart and spirit. It is important to us that we give back and serve the ones that served us all.

One of our many missions is to help get the Veteran suicide rate down from the 24+ a day number and also help keep families together. Divorce rate in the military is high and if you are special forces it is almost 100%. We do all of this through these amazing animals.

I am so proud to have grown up in an area, and went to schools, and had amazing parents that taught me these things. To care about others, and to find ways to always give back to our Veteran community. They say that when you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. I have found that mission.

What sets me apart is my never-quit attitude. My dad taught me that, we learned it playing football and that is one of the many reasons that we won so many state championships……WE NEVER QUIT. You will now find me everyday wearing a Stetson hat, silver belt buckle, and cowboy boots. I don’t care what people say or if people look at me funny and snicker or ask if I’m from Texas. I stand tall and proud of who I am and who I have become.

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?

My parents have always been fantastic cheerleaders for anything that I have done. Dad was always the one with the wisdom and knowledge that he would pass on.

I had an amazing coaching staff all four years of football at Lutheran North. They took boys and made us into upstanding young men. They taught us that the name of the front of the jersey was more important than a name on the back. They taught us teamwork, respect for each other and the ones that came before us. A lot of us are still friends to this day. Even though we don’t all live in the same city we find ways to stay in touch. We are brothers for life.

My wife of now 21 years, ALWAYS has my back. She is always there to support me in good times and in bad. She is an amazing woman.

Contact Info:

Suggest a Story: VoyageSTL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in Uncategorized