SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR
Thriving during downturn and expanding opportunity during an upswing is what separates an average small business owner from an outstanding small business owner. This award is presented to the small business owner whose pursuits exemplify the commitment needed to attain success.
- Coalescence L.L.C
- Co-founder/SVP and COO: Ian Y. Blount
- Co-founder/CEO: Angela N. Cauley
- Type of business: Custom food ingredient manufacturer
- Location: Columbus, Ohio
It was a chance meeting that transformed years of sacrifice and planning into a fresh start for Ian Blount and Angela Cauley. When the couple finally launched their food blending and repackaging business, Coalescence LLC, in 2005, they already sold their home and moved in with Blount’s mother—along with their two children. Raising the $520,000 in startup capital to cover a slew of expenses, including a mixer, and retrofitting their 7,500-square-foot facility to meet food industry regulations was not easy.
But after 18 months of trying to drum up leads, the copreneurs had a chance encounter with a corporate employee at Wendy’s fast food restaurant who connected them with T. Marzetti Co., a company that produces salad dressings, dipping sauces and other condiments.
“When we first drew up our business plan, our goal was to be a vitamin and mineral nutraceutical company,” says Blount, the company’s chief vice president and senior operating officer. “One of our prospective clients, the T. Marzetti Company, asked if we could blend a Ranch Salad Dressing seasoning… although we had not planned on being a seasoning manufacturer, we had to be flexible.”
Blount and Cauley’s agility led the Ohio-based company to unprecedented growth. Coalescence inked lucrative contracts with Kellogg’s, Tyson Foods, Pepsico and a host of other major food and beverage distributors. The company saw revenue grow 12.5% from 2009 to 2010. And with business ramping up, Blount and Cauley moved from their original facility to a state-of-the-art 35,000 square-foot building.
We’ve seen a shift in technology and in the economic sphere over the past few years, how has this made you re-think the way you do business?
Blount: We have teamed with an excellent IT company that keeps our services updated with instruments such as “cloud technology” which enhances informational sharing capabilities within our company.
How important is flexibility when running a business?
Blount: It is critical. You have to able to “change on the dime” to meet the needs of your customers. If their production schedule changes, guess what, so does yours.
What was a turning point for your business? Why?
Cauley: The turning point for Coalescence was when we landed our first major contract with the Kellogg Company. It challenged us to raise the bar with respect to our quality programs, inventory management protocols, operational excellence and cash flow.
What lessons in risk taking can you share with other entrepreneurs?
Cauley: Taking calculated risks are extremely critical for any person contemplating becoming an entrepreneur. We learned from this experience that you should always plan for the unexpected. Make sure that you have an additional 15% to 20% financial cushion. In addition, never count dollars until the contract has been signed, and the purchase order has been received.
Let’s celebrate our 2011 Small Business Award winners by offering your congratulations to these outstanding entrepreneurs in the comment section below. To watch live stream content (sponsored by Pepsi) from Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference + Expo, taking place May 22-25, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia visit www.blackenterprise.com/ec/. Be sure to check back after this year’s event for info on nominating a great business or entrepreneur you may know for the 2012 Black Enterprise Small Business Awards.