Growing up in Clovis as a Dry Creek Panther and a Alta Sierra Bruin, Charles Harris knew that his path would take him to Buchanan High School, but the experiences he had on that path are what leave him a step above the rest.
As kid, Harris grew up around business. His grandmother owns several day care centers in Clovis and Fresno, and his father owns two construction companies.
“I grew up within the family business so I’ve kind of been in the business realm all my life and that’s where I got my start,” Harris said.
As just a sophomore in high school, Harris was chosen by the Clovis Chamber of Commerce to take part in the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!). Through his experience in YEA!, Harris became the first high school intern at JP Marketing in Fresno, a business he visited during his time with the program.
“After the Entrepreneurs Academy, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew I wanted to do marketing but PR is where it’s at,” Harris said. “I love trying to get the word out about certain things and how it’s a challenge because every client is different so I really like the experience with that.”
As he continued through high school, Harris also became involved with the Center for Advanced Research and Technology (CART). There, he went through the marketing/advertising lab and was one of five students picked to intern at Bitwise Industries in downtown Fresno.
As he journeyed through high school and his various different organizations, one thing became clear for Harris – he wanted to be in public relations. After his positive experiences, both in business and the PR world, Harris decided as a sophomore at Buchanan to start his own PR firm, Charles Connections.
“I started it in 2015 after the Young Entrepreneurs Academy but it wasn’t until after JP [Marketing] that I really started pursuing it,” Harris said. “It was just a side thing back then but now I’m trying to get it out there and gain clients. My goal is to have three clients before I move to San Francisco [for college].”
Now that he has graduated high school, Harris knows he has more time to truly get his business up and running.
“Right now I just want to keep my business going for Charles Connections, that’s just something I really like to do,” Harris said. “I think it’s a really good challenge to see all the different clients and what their specific needs are and stuff like that so I think that’s really what I want to do. The time it takes for all of this – in high school trying to balance everything and the sacrifices I made – it was tough. But I think college is probably going to be a little bit better because I’ll have a lot more time on my hands so I think it’s something that could really strive if I just put all my efforts into it.”
Harris knows that in order for his business to expand and for it to grow, he’s going to need some help. Thanks in large part to his experiences through high school, he has already began to build his team.
“Some of the kids I’ve interned with wanted to join me with some of the things I was working on so I have a graphic designer and a content director,” Harris said. “I’m not really good with the creative side, it’s mostly the management side, so I try to fill in the holes where I have my strengths and weaknesses.”
Some of the businesses already partnered with Charles Connections include Harris & Bowman, Literacy Fresno, and Jack & Jill’s Educational Center.
“I’m ahead of the game honestly, I did have to sacrifice a lot of things in order to be where I am,” Harris said. “It’s worth it of course, but I had to learn how to balance everything and that was kind of tough, but I think it’s going to give me a head start honestly through college and my career.”
Harris graduated from Buchanan High this past week and will attend San Francisco State in the fall where he will major in business administration with a concentration in marketing. Harris has high hopes for his business and is setting the bar high for Charles Connections.
“I really want to have my office here as like the headquarters because I know a lot of the businesses here and I really try to focus on small businesses, family businesses, and nonprofits because some of them don’t think that marketing is a big deal within their demographics or whatever their target market is,” Harris said. “But I’d also love to have one in LA and then San Francisco. I’m just trying to shoot as high as possible.”