Thursday, September 17, 2015

Q&A with Cornfields, Inc

1. What is the name of the business?
Cornfields, Inc. (a private label healthy snack manufacturer and producer of the G.H. Cretors and Hi I’m Skinny brands)
Where can we find info about your family business online? What is the city/state?
Waukegan, IL
2. What makes your business a family business? (w/ spouse and/or children, siblings...)
Claire Cretors is the President of the Company and her mom Phyllis is the CEO. Husband J.B. Weiler is Executive V.P. of Sales. Annie Bailey is Claire’s sister and the Midwest Sales Manager, and Annie’s husband Jeff Bailey is the IT Director. The family business’ roots, however, go as far back as Claire’s great-great-grandfather Charles Cretors, who invented the popcorn machine in 1885.
3. How did you come into the business? (transferred, hired by parents? Founder?)
Cornfields, Inc. was founded by Claire’s father, George Henry Cretors in 1991. He was a great-grandson of Charles Cretors, inventor of the popcorn machine. When George Henry passed away in 2004, Phyllis came out of retirement to lead the business and Claire left her job at a DC-based consulting firm to join the Company.  Claire began by learning about all aspects of the business – manufacturing, finance, etc. A few years later, she took over as President and helped spearhead the launch of G.H. Cretors (named after her dad), the Company’s first direct-to-consumer brand.
4. What makes your family business experience unique? How is it different from running a "typical" small business?
Claire Cretors: My entry into the family business was perhaps a bit unconventional. I was not “groomed” for taking over a family business.  In my case, our family was faced with the loss of my father (the Company’s founder) and I didn’t hesitate for a moment to come home and help. I was motived to not only sustain but build upon my father’s legacy. When I arrived, I discovered that the energy within the walls of Cornfields was distinctive and undoubtedly helped drive our growth.
5. What do you love about family business?
Sharing successes! Not only sharing these successes with “real” family but everyone around you that becomes part of the family. It makes celebrations so much more meaningful.
6. What do you hate about family business?
Hate is an awfully strong word. I don’t hate much in life, except maybe tomatoes. Work can be difficult to “shut off”. When most professionals have home and family as a work free zone, we don’t have that luxury.
7. What's a myth about family business you'd like to debunk?
There is a perception that family businesses want to maintain the status quo and continue with the way that things have always been done.  That is not at all the case.  Given the changing competitive landscape, dynamic retail environment, and ever-evolving consumer base, we need to try to anticipate these changes and be flexible, nimble, and open-minded in our approach to continue to grow.
8. What three things have been key to your success?
Amazing products
Strong team
9. Would you advise others to go into family business?
Sure. Every family business is different. I think as a “non-family” member you need to do your due diligence and learn about the culture just like you would a non-family business.
10. What difference has being a family business made in your sales?
We find that our industry is engaged and interested in our family business status. We let customers in to our company and want them to feel like part of the family too.  This undoubtedly drives sales.
11. What difference has your family business made in your community?
We support many local charities, including the Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Super Jake Foundation, just to name a few.  On a lighter note, we also support local “movie in the park nights” as we want to ensure that everyone is enjoying the most delicious popcorn around!
12. Would you advise a couple to start a business together? Why or why not?
Absolutely! I really believe that as a couple you will know if you can or can’t work together.  Before my husband, JB, joined Cornfields we spent months discussing and evaluating the pros and cons. These conversations need to be very honest. It’s no walk in the park, but being able to share in accomplishments and support each other through the tough patches is very rewarding.
13. Do you incorporate your children in your family business? Why or why not? How old are they? What are their roles and responsibilities?
My children have a very important role in our company as Taste Testers. They are 4 and 2 so we get the most honest, unadulterated feedback.  I can assure you that almost everything that we have launched is “kid-approved!”
14. What's a day in the life of a family business (share a rough outline of your family and business daily life)?
Well, it’s not that dissimilar from most working couples who have a family, except that I also get to see my husband, mother, sister, and brother-in-law at the office.  I’m usually woken up by a 4 year old or a 2 year old or both who are already hungry. After a family breakfast, JB and I head out the door (in separate cars), people always find this funny, to take a 15 minute drive to the factory.  Once at the office, it’s much like any other professional environment; meetings with the executive team, tasting new product recipes, reviewing sales numbers. The family members all have their roles and go about the task at hand. On most days, JB and I have lunch together to resolve an issue, celebrate an accomplishment, or just enjoy time as a couple. Despite our demanding roles and the inevitable craziness that ensues as a result, JB and I really try to prioritize time as a family.  We make a point to eat dinner together every night with our children and talk to them about their day or have them taste-taste some new products we’re considering launching.  After dinner, it’s a typical evening bedtime routine with our kids.  Usually after they go to bed, we both end up having to do a bit more work before the day is over.  Overall, I think it’s a benefit to be able to see my family at the office.  You really stay connected with them. 
15. Do you think family business should be a priority for others (lawmakers, service providers, college students...)? Why or why not?
I think small businesses deserve to have a continued focus given we serve a unique niche in the marketplace.

No comments:

Post a Comment