Greg Hanks is founder of Southernerds, a retail company in Meridian focused on advancing education and promoting “nerd and geek culture.”
Q — What’s the idea and the goals behind Southernerds?
A — The company is my attempt to try and make changes in the perception that some people have of the region. I started the business in hopes that I could promote education and the pursuit of learning in the South. There are so many great people and industries that have originated or are still here in the South, it’s a shame not to know more about them all. I have learned an immense amount of things about the South since I started the company and can’t wait to learn more. Although Southernerds is first and foremost a retail business, I have philanthropic aspirations as well.
Q — What led you to create it?
A — I have always been the type of person who likes learning about a variety of subjects and find it disconcerting when it’s assumed I am less intelligent because I was born in the South. I’m finishing up my master’s degree in public relations right now (and I used to be an electronics technician in the military), so I have a pretty diverse educational background. I guess the bottom line is that I really just want to be a good role model to my children and let them know I think education is important. Southernerds is essentially an extension of my own desires to promote learning and education. I want kids (and adults) to know it’s ok to want to keep learning and to be inquisitive.
Q — You say on your website that knowledge comes in a lot of forms, and there should be no limit to learning. Elaborate on that.
A — Really the premise is that anyone can be a nerd or geek about anything. The whole notion that being a nerd/geek is a bad thing is really counterproductive. If people were really honest with themselves, they would realize that they, and everyone they know, are really passionate about at least one subject. That’s really what being a geek or nerd is; enjoying something so much that you want to learn everything about it. The subject matter isn’t what makes you the geek or the nerd, it’s the passion and desire behind that particular thing you love so much.
A — Like anything, it’s a subject that’s misunderstood by some. For some people, I guess it automatically gives you two strikes to start off with. The thing is, not every geek or nerd looks the same, nor do they all like the same things. I’m also living proof that geeks/nerds can play sports. I’ve played almost every sport throughout my life (and I’m now obsessed with golf) but I also easily consider myself a nerd. That’s not supposed to happen according to the stereotypes. I think the dynamics that have led to the general misconceptions about geeks and nerds in the South are no different than those of any other group: misinformation and the lack of desire to simply find out the truth for yourself. Even though geek and nerd culture is much more mainstream than it used to be, there’s still a weird stigma attached. Being from the South just adds to it in some people’s eyes.
Q — What do you hope is the future for Southernerds?
A — First off, I want people in the South to be proud to be a geek or nerd. It’s a badge of honor for me and I want to share that pride with anyone who wants to join me. In a bigger picture sense, we hope to get successful enough as a company so that we have a positive impact on the educational standards in the South, as well as being able to be offer financial support by way of scholarships and other monetary support to education in the near future.
>>More on Hanks
Must have Mississippi food: “I have eaten a ham and egg biscuit for breakfast from the gas station in town (Nance’s Short Stop) every morning for over two years. I can’t think of anything more Southern than that.”
Favorite movie: ”The Omen, I have two of the three versions of Damien tattooed on my left arm. I still need Damien from Omen II.”
Last book read: Fascinate: Your Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation by Sally Hogshead
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