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It did not take long for Angela Cauley and Ian Blount to concoct an alluring formula for success for Coalescence L.L.C. (www.coalescencellc.com; 614-861-3639), their Columbus, Ohio-based food blending and repackaging company. Coalescence custom blends spices and ingredients that end up in salad dressings served at Wendy’s fast food chain restaurants and in Morningstar Farms’ vegetarian food products.
Blount, who serves as the company’s senior vice president and chief operating officer and his wife (company president), Cauley, founded Coalescence in 2005. With 42 employees, the company raked in $21.5 million in revenue last year; an 760% jump from 2008 when they grossed $2.5 million. As Coalescence expands its network and customer base, the copreneurs project revenues to reach $31 million in 2010—because of the company’s incremental growth and recently inked contracts with Tyson Foods and Kellogg’s.
With Blount’s penchant for number crunching and Cauley’s expertise in food science, the couple applied their professional acumen toward entrepreneurship. But starting a business isn’t easy; they spent two years refining their business plan, passing it along to professionals with expertise in financing, venture capitalism, and the food industry. “If you’re doing a good, thorough business plan, you’re having other people look at it,” says Blount, 40. “Once it was completed we started receiving positive responses from potential investors.”
Putting their business plan to the test, 37-year-old Cauley and Blount got to work raising the $520,000 startup capital needed. “The largest barrier you face is cost,” says Blount “Our first mixer cost more than my first house, and my first house was $42,000.” The couple also had to retrofit their first 7,500-square-foot facility, insure the building’s infrastructure, meet food industry regulations, and apply for certification. After taking out a second mortgage on their home, they eventually sold the house and moved in with Blount’s mother for a year, with their two children in tow. They also liquidated stocks and bonds, before they sought out financing. “When we went to the table to ask other investors to pony up, the first thing they wanted to make sure was that we had skin in the game and that we sacrificed as well,” says Blount.
It took 18 months for Coalescence to receive its first contract. Cauley and Blount met a Wendy’s employee who connected them with T. Marzetti Co., which produces salad dressings, dipping sauces, and other condiments. Though it was not the area Coalescence had planned to become involved in, Cauley says she could not turn down the opportunity. “From then on we said, ‘our blenders can blend nutritionals just as well as they can blend seasonings, so we got into the seasoning business,’” says Cauley. “You need to be flexible when opportunities come your way.”
While continuing to build their brand, one of Cauley and Blount’s missions is steady growth. The company has since moved into a 35,000-square-foot facility, and plans to diversify their recipe by adding sauces, glazes, and marinades to their offerings.
This article originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.