Grayson Terry, a senior at Anderson County High School and soon-to-be Roane State middle college graduate, knows what he wants to do with his life.
In fact, he’s already doing it.
Around four years ago, Terry was looking for “some better light output” for his vehicles. He drove a BMW that belonged to his father, Gary Terry, and had already started to redo the headlights. As he continued to tinker on the lights, people started to take notice.
“People started seeing them and said they looked really good,” he said. “So, two years ago, I started doing them for other people.”
That entrepreneurial spirit landed him on the Knoxville News Sentinel’s 20 Under 20 list last year. His business, 865 Retrofits, serves clients all over the world.
“What we do is projector retrofitting,” he explained.
While the concept is simple, the options are endless. He’s excited about a new lens etching service he can offer clients.
“That’s a laser-etched piece of material that goes on to the glass projector lenses on the inside of the headlight,” he said. “In my opinion, that’s the coolest thing we do.”
That is taken care of through THC Concepts, a Chattanooga-based company.
“It’s one of those details that people see and they say, ‘Wow! That’s amazing,’” he said.
While some custom headlight kits are illegal due to their color, he makes sure that all his work is not. The LED halos can change color, but they default to white as soon as the car starts driving.
Terry creates custom headlights for all kinds of different vehicles, but he still prefers a BMW.
“My dad, Gary Terry, has always had a pretty nice BMW in his arsenal of cars,” Terry said. “So growing up, he bought a new one in 2000, and it has 210,000 miles on it. I take care of it, and it still looks brand new. I’ve always washed it and tweaked it and everything, that’s how I got into it. I consider myself a car enthusiast. I really just enjoy driving and going to car shows.”
He now has two older model BMWs. One is a 2003 that he is fixing up for his brother once he’s old enough to drive. Besides running a business and finishing his senior year and associates degree simultaneously, he also works three days a week at Grayson BMW in Knoxville. His associate’s degree is in general business and he plans to attend Universal Technical Institute in Orlando, a rigorous program that he’s already been accepted into.
“It’s an automotive program that’s a year long,” he said. “After that, I’ll go into the BMW-step program.”
That’s a four month program that will certify Terry as an ASE technician for BMW North America.
When Terry first enrolled in the middle college program at Roane State, he wasn’t really sure what he wanted to do. He just knew he didn’t want to have to take his freshman and sophomore classes. He was playing football and baseball at the time, and that pretty much took up his whole life, he said.
It wasn’t his passion, though.
“My dad is the athletic director at the high school,” he said, “so of course he wanted me to play. I liked being around those guys, but I was a terrible baseball player. I couldn’t hit a ball to save my life.”
He played baseball from the time he was in elementary school and doesn’t regret a minute of it, but working on cars is what he loves.
“I found something that I really want to do,” he said. “If you find something you’re good at, and you can work hard at it and can see yourself doing it every day, look more into a technical school.”
Terry said that students who attend UTI usually have a job before they even graduate. There is a need for employees with specialized skills, and Terry is looking forward to entering the workforce.