Fort Worth Business Press

Business for Breakfast

Wednesday, May 9

Fort Worth Club

Focus: Entrepreneurship

Moderator: Robert Francis, Editor, Fort Worth Business Press

Panelists:

Reggi Kemp, Kemp & Sons General Services

Justin Anderson, WOATS

George Wood, Greenwood Office Outfitters

Carolyn Phillips, Alchemy Pops

Co-Presenting Sponsors: Pinnacle Bank and JTaylor

Four panelists offered a crash course in being entrepreneurial at the Fort Worth Business Press Business for Breakfast May 9.

Here are some comments and tips – and a few cautions – from that discussion:

How did you get started as an entrepreneur?

Justin Anderson: I started the business … in high school after I broke a bracket off of my braces from eating crunchy granola. Then I came to TCU, did the entrepreneurship program, and grew the business there. … [I]n 2012, I came to a point where I knew I needed to reinvent the products and brands, make it more snackable and more indulgent.

So, I brought on a new partner who came on from Frito-Lay, who, his name is Bill Schneider. And while he was there, he led the acquisitions of Stacey's Pita Chips and Sabra Hummus. So, we partnered up and created the concept for Woats together. Since then, we have grown rapidly on a very small line of credit and a bootstrap budget. And we're in about 3,500 stores now, including Walmart, we're in Kroger Texas, Eatsy's down the street, Central Markets, and also on Army and Air Force bases across the globe.

Reggi Kemp: My parents were so focused on keeping us focused and disciplined in what we did. My father came from a family of entrepreneurs. And he just believed if you have idle time, you'll do something wrong. So he kept us busy, and that created some sense of work ethic in me. And then as I became 12 or 13, they owned seven or eight different stores. And I started working at 8 – child labor. It's just what I knew.

Carolyn Phillips: Right after TCU, I went to grad school and was still working in the nonprofit sphere. I came back to Fort Worth working as a nonprofit fundraiser. By the time I started Alchemy Pops, I liked to joke that I hadn't – as an adult – worked for a for-profit company until I made one up. That is a really funny sideways journey, but I will say overall, coming from nonprofit fundraising, it is a lot easier to sell frozen treats than it is to sell warm fuzzies. It's been a really good, really good turn for me and it’s been very good. Very fun.

What are some of the biggest challenges in owning your own business?

George Wood: I have 56 employees, you have to be the parent, father or guardian. A nice guy boss, everything in between. I have a great team right now that works with me. And they are my support staff, and I could not exist without them. They keep me going because they're just motivated.

Phillips: I mean, you just sign up for challenges if you decide to start a business. There really isn't a day that is necessarily easy. … I think there is always an element of toil to having a business. I think that it doesn't really matter so much specifics of the challenges as that you decided that this is your constant. That it's always changing, that it's always time to get creative, and it's always your responsibility to come up with how to get past it.

If your mind is built for that, that's awesome. If it's not, it's really not awesome. Really figuring out if you're cut out for that is really one of the first challenges, I think, on having a business.

Kemp: I think my biggest challenge today is finding the right employees. But with that, we knew that we needed to diversify and change because our industry is changing. It used to be, I'd be able to own the 10-story building, so they would want the whole building cleaned.

But then you have all these virtual offices, so that need is different. The needs of our industry are changing. We took on an account, and the turnover rate was 68 percent. That told me that either people that were coming out of school were not prepared for the workforce, people have a different level of commitment to working, just so on, just so many different things. In the history of our business, we've never had that big of a turnover for any of our clients.

Anderson: I think one of the biggest challenges since launching the Woats brand has been learning how to say “no” to people. Because we would, over the years, get retailers interested in selling the product and we said “yes” a little too much, and really without the proper support for the brand in all of those accounts. We have to learn where the product does best, and with this capital raise that I'm doing now, that's where we're going to be focusing on growing the brand going forward. And where we've learned that it does best is immediate consumption retail.

What can the area do to better support local entrepreneurs and small businesses?

Wood: Buy local. Support your local businesses if you can. I understand that Amazon is out there, and Staples is out there, and Costco. Every time you spend a dollar in your local community, you rotate it three times inside that community.

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