By Paul Gable
Even as a young boy, Donald Smith, owner of Lucky Dog Television Productions,
had an entrepreneurial spirit.
“I was always looking for ways to make money,” said Smith.
Growing up in a rural town in South Carolina, Smith’s early endeavors
concentrated on farming. By the time he was a senior in high school, he had
prepared himself to open his own business.
“I spent several years working part-time in the farm supply business,” said
Smith. “I decided to open my own business when I graduated.”
Smith said telling his father that he did not want to go to college was one of
the toughest moments of his life.
“Initially he didn’t take the news real well,” said Smith. “My father believed
that education was the key to success, my sisters had gone to college and here
I was not wanting to.”
After a discussion with his father and grandfather, however, Smith was on his
way to starting a business. His first venture was a fertilizer business that
made free delivery to local farmers.
“I didn’t have any money to speak of, but the local farmers all knew me and
were willing to give me a chance,” said Smith. “I rented a store and warehouse
and bought a used two-ton flatbed truck. The concept was ‘If you buy from me,
The business was successful, but after four years, he was ready to move on.
“I sold the fertilizer business and got involved with a friend of mine who was
marketing carpet deodorizer,” Smith said.
Through some phone calls and contacts, the carpet deodorizer became a big
seller to the Knoxville, Tennessee World’s Fair.
“We managed to get a 20 minute appointment with the purchaser for the World’s
Fair,” said Smith. “To make a long story short, the appointment lasted over an
hour and we ultimately supplied an enormous amount of deodorizer to the World’s
Interestingly, that success led to television, when Smith received a call from
a cable operator in Myrtle Beach.
“She called me and asked if I would help revamp a couple of programs they had
that weren’t doing so well,” said Smith. “I didn’t know anything more about
television other than that I owned one.”
Smith agreed to help with one show and became hooked.
“I found out I liked the work,” he said. “I stayed on until I decided I wanted
to go into television production on my own.”
One of his first production successes was “Myrtle Beach Video Guide,” a
visitor information program about the area that was available in all hotel
rooms in the Myrtle Beach area.
Smith next started working with 20th Century Fox on the television side and
spent a number of years traveling around the country with various productions.
Nature intervened to change his business model.
“After 15 years of marriage, my wife became pregnant and it was time for me to
get off the road,” he said.
Permanently located in Conway, SC, Smith established Lucky Dog Television
Productions, concentrating on promoting Conway and the Horry County area.
“I wanted to build a weekly program around Conway and “River Talk” was born,”
Now in its 18th year, “River Talk” is a weekly show about interesting people,
places and things happening in Horry County.” It is sponsored by America’s
largest telephone cooperative, HTC.
Lucky Dog has expanded into different areas such as producing commercials,
filming specials and high school sports television production. Each holiday
season, Lucky Dog produces live game internet streaming worldwide for the Beach
Ball Classic, one of the top boys’ high school basketball classics in the
“I guess you could say we do it all now,” said Smith. “It has been an
interesting and exciting career.”
The combination of television production and an innate ability to come up with
ideas and promotions led Smith into the political consulting business over a
“I became familiar with the political side by filming commercials for
candidates a number of years ago,” he said. “I would get some ideas to the
campaigns and they ran with them, so I decided to strike out on my own.”
Smith literally glows with energy when working with a candidate or referendum
“It’s all about ideas and how you present them, but I need a candidate or issue
that I personally believe in before I get involved,” Smith said.
With over 100 campaigns under his belt, Smith believes he recently conducted
one of his most important. He successfully helped the local transit authority
win a referendum question on providing local tax dollars for dedicated funding.
The win was by a nearly 2 to 1 vote margin.
“The authority had some real problems a few years ago,” Smith said. “Despite a
complete change of management, it still had a poor reputation and was in a
difficult situation financially, but it provides a service that, I believe, is
one society needs. It was a win-win situation for everyone.”