Coalescence Owners Shares Key Strategies Toward Success In The Food Industry

Tips From the Top of the Food Chain

Cauley and Blount have their business strategy down to a science. (Photo by George C. Anderson)

Angela Cauley and Ian Blount discovered the perfect recipe for success. Mixing three tablespoons of risk, five pinches of research, and three cups of sacrifice, the couple cooked up a harmonious blend that became the main ingredient for their pièce de résistance, the Columbus-based Coalescence LLC, a food blending and repackaging company.

Since launching the business in 2005, they’ve inked lucrative contracts with Kellogg’s and Tyson Foods, propelling 2010 projected revenues to $31.2 million. So how did Blount, who serves as chief operating officer, and Cauley, who functions as president, manage such large scale growth, especially in the capital-intensive food manufacturing industry? Here, the couple dishes on the sacrifices it took to turn their company into a multimillion-dollar enterprise and offers key strategies toward serving up success.

1.    Manage your growth. Every upstart wants to grow and acquire new business, but growing too quickly can make it difficult to keep up with an expanded need for resources and capital leading. Though Coalescence has experienced exponential growth, raking in $21.5 million in revenue last year–a 760% year-over-year growth–it’s been astute in managing its expansion.

“Don’t take on more than what you can handle,” says Cauley.  “Whatever you promise and say you’re going to do, you have to make sure you’re living up to your commitment.” Unfortunately that may mean learning to say “no” to clients or at least scaling down what you can offer. This is especially important when it comes to African American entrepreneurs, say Blount. Leaving a client with a soured impression can taint the chances of a black business inking a deal with that company in the future.

2.    Don’t be afraid to let go. Too often entrepreneurs act more as overprotective parents of their maturing brain child. As your company grows, it’s going to be impossible and, in fact, counterproductive to micromanage every aspect of it. It’s crucial to hire competent, enterprising individuals who can handle the daily nuances of a company, says Blount, who along with Cauley, brought on a great team over the last six to eight months that is being trained to handle all day-to-day functions so they can be more strategic and plan for further down the road.

3.    Choose your team wisely. Most entrepreneurs can attest that access to capital is probably the most challenging aspect to running a business, especially in today’s credit-phobic environment. Coalescence mounted a tough defense by strategically building a strong advisory board, which includes the vice president of a regional bank, an entrepreneur, and the president of a local ethnic food manufacturer. “By having access to people like that, it’s easier to make a phone call [leveraging] a relationship,” says Blount. “That’s really how our banking relationship started–through a relationship one of our advisory board members had.”