Southwestern family of companies

Southwestern is a diversified, international, employee-owned family of companies.

Southwestern Family of Companies
FounderRev. J. R. Graves
United States
Key people
Dustin Hillis, CEO
Henry Bedford, Chairman of the Board
SubsidiariesSouthwestern Advantage


In 1855, Southwestern Publishing House was established in Nashville, Tennessee. The company's name was chosen because, at that time, Nashville was in the southwestern part of the United States. Founded by the Baptist minister James Robinson Graves, Southwestern originally published The Tennessee Baptist, a Southern Baptist newspaper, and religious booklets which were sold by mail for 20¢ and 30¢ each.

Prior to the Civil War, most Bibles were printed in the North, rather than the Confederacy. Graves acquired stereotype plates from the North and began printing Bibles for sale in August 1861. He also produced and sold educational books.[1] After the 1864 Battle of Nashville resulted in a Union victory, Graves relocated to Memphis, as he felt vulnerable because of articles he had published against the North . The company resumed publishing in 1867.[1]

In 1868, Graves discontinued the company’s mail order business, and began training young men as independent dealers to sell Bibles and educational books door-to-door as a way to earn money for college. Graves retired in 1871.[1]

In 1879 the company relocated to Nashville under the new ownership of Jacob Florida. In 1899, P. B. Jones, acquired majority ownership and became President and General Manager. In 1921, J. B. Henderson, a sixteen-year veteran who started in the summer sales program, became the sole owner. During the 1920s, the firm grew to one of the largest person-to-person sales companies in America.

By 1947, Southwestern had lost nearly all of its independent dealers as a result of World War II. It was rebuilt ,and experienced tremendous growth as the United States rebounded from the Great Depression. The number of independent reps grew to over 1,500.

In 1959 Oldham, a 24-year veteran who started in the summer sales program, became the majority shareholder of Southwestern; his ownership role that would last until 1968 and his presidential role that would last until 1972. J. Fred Landers was also made 49% owner at this time and continued his career with Southwestern until his death in 1987. The Southwestern Family of Companies headquarters is named after Fred for his deep contributions to the culture of the company. Dedicated by Spencer Hays in 1989.[2]

In 1968, Times-Mirror Company acquired ownership of Southwestern.

In 1972, Spencer Hays,[3] a fourteen-year veteran who started in the summer sales program, became president.

In 1975, Times-Mirror formed a fund-raising company called Nashville Educational Marketing Services under Southwestern, later to be renamed Great American Opportunities. Jerry Heffel became the company's president in 1980. In 1982, executives ofthefirm purchased Southwestern and sister-company Great American Opportunities by leveraged buyout from Times-Mirror, forming Southwestern/Great American, Inc. Hays was named executive chairman of the board and Ralph Mosley was named chairman and CEO.

Southwestern earned position 4,832 on the Inc. 5000 list in 2012 of the fastest growing private companies in the United States.[4]


After the leveraged buyout in 1982 from Times-Mirror that formed Southwestern/Great American, Inc., the family of companies continued to expand. Their services now include consulting, fundraising, financial services, real estate, and executive search.[5]

Southwestern Advantage

Since 1868, Southwestern Advantage has operated a direct marketing sales program that recruits and trains college and university students as independent contractors. The company recruits a few thousand American and a few hundred European university students to sell educational books, software, apps, and subscription websites during the summer.[6]

Other enterprises

Great American Opportunities, Inc. is a school fundraising company where students can participate in magazine fundraisers and the like. In 2012, the firm acquired the assets of QSP, making it the largest school fundraising company in North America.[7]

Southwestern Publishing Group was acquired as Favorite Recipes Press in 1982 from Fuller and Dees as a custom book publisher focused on cookbooks to be sold for fundraising purposes Since that time, over 1,500 titles have been published. In 2011, it was renamed Southwestern Publishing Group[8]

Thinking Ahead, an executive search company recruits and places candidates from small businesses to Fortune 100 companies, was established in 1982 as Southwestern Business Resources (SBR), with operating offices in Nashville, TN and Wilmington, NC, In 2012, it was renamed to ThinkingAhead Executive Search.

SBR Consulting, Established in 2002 by Lars Tewes is a firm specializing in long term sales strategy and implementation of sales programs with operating offices in the United States, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, and Singapore.

Southwestern Investment Group, (a Raymond James Financial affiliate) was founded in 2002 . The company operates as a full-service investment and financial services firm. It is the largest independent branch in the Raymond James network. The firm passed $1 billion in managed assets in its first ten years, and passed the $2 billion mark three years later.[9]

Tasty Selections, established in 2002, is a manufacturer of frozen bakery products servicing grocery retailing, food services, and fundraising industries.

Wildtree, is a direct-sales company selling organic herbs, spices, culinary blends, infused oils, sauces, and shakes through a party plan model . , Southwestern acquired majority ownership in 2004, . The company is headquartered in Lincoln, Rhode Island.

Global Educational Concepts, Inc. (GEC) is a designated sponsor of the U.S. Department of State’s J-1 Summer Work Travel and Internship programs. The firm is headquartered in Nashville, TN. The firm is a member of the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange and the World Youth Student and Educational (WYSE) Travel Confederation.[10][11]

Southwestern Consulting . offers sales training, coaching programs, and seminars. The company operates in the United States, United Kingdom, Estonia, and Lithuania.

Southwestern Real Estate, a residential real estate brokerage company was founded in 2007. The firm is licensed in Illinois, Texas, and Tennessee with operating offices in each state.

ThirdHome, a private club for luxury second home owners headquartered in Brentwood, TN became a partner company in 2009. Members can use other club members’ homes all over the world without the expense of renting.

Southwestern Travel, established in 2016, is a full-service travel agency headquartered in Nashville, TN.

Southwestern Tax Services, established in 2017, is a full-service tax company headquartered in Nashville, TN serving small–medium size businesses, business owners, and independent representatives.

Family Heritage Life Insurance Company of America was started as a supplemental insurance company in 1989. Southwestern sold the assets to Torchmark Corporation in October 2012.[12]


  1. E. Michael Fleenor, "The Southwestern Company Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture, 2009. Retrieved: 12 February 2013.
  2. E. Thomas Wood (2009-02-27). "Dortch Oldham dies at 89". Retrieved 2013-04-22.
  3. William P. Barrett, 12.01.97. "An American original". Retrieved 2013-04-22.
  4. "Southwestern/Great American - Nashville, TN". Retrieved 2013-04-22.
  5. Fones, Mardy. "A Great American success story". Nashville Business Journal.
  6. "The Southwestern Company". The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Archived from the original on 2016-03-03.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  7. "Nashville's Southwestern acquires QSP assets". Nashville Business Journal.
  8. "FRP changes name to Southwestern Publishing Group". Nashville Post.
  9. "Franklin financial planner ratchets up growth, hits $2B milestone". Nashville Business Journal.
  10. "Member Organizations". Alliance Exchange.
  11. "Find Members". WYSETC.
  12. "Torchmark to Acquire Family Heritage Life Insurance Company of America". PR Newswire.
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