Interview with Andrew and Kathy Abraham

Andrew and Kathy Abraham

Thirty-year-old Andrew Abraham was trained as a physician. In his first year of residency, Andrew started his company, Orgain, which manufactures a certified organic fluid nutritional supplement—an organic “Ensure”. Founded in 2009, Orgain is now profitable, and its revenues exceed $6 million and growing rapidly. The company has no full time employees. Andrew and his wife Kathy live in Orange County, California, with their two young sons.

Andrew and Kathy Abraham on the advantages and disadvantages of leaving a professional career to start a business, and why Andrew hung up his stethoscope to gamble everything on a drink.

Q:  The first year of medical residency is an unlikely time to start a business.

A:  I was working hundred hour weeks, and Kathy was pregnant with our first child.  Kathy used to joke that she slept more in a night than I did in a week.

Q:  What were you thinking?

A:  The idea for this business grew from my own personal story. In 1999, when I was a senior in high school, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma.  I was treated with surgery, chemo, and radiation. I lost a lot of weight, and couldn’t tolerate food.  I completed my senior year from my hospital bed.  My treatment was effective, but at the time I had to sustain myself on these “healthy” drinks that tasted horrible.  I started reading the labels—it was all terrible stuff.  The first ingredient was GMO corn syrup, then artificial Continue reading

Interview with Tom First

Tom First

Tom First co-founded Nantucket Nectars in 1989 and sold to Ocean Spray in 1997. In 2004, he founded another beverage company, OWater, now a Polar brand. He is still chairman of the OWater board, and also helps to run a fund that invests in entrepreneurial businesses in the beverage sector. Tom and his wife Kristan have three children, 12, 9, and 7.

Tom First on doing deals just before his rehearsal dinner; on crying when he first fired someone; and on why he wouldn’t change much in his past. 

Q:  What was it like, building a company and a family at the same time?

A:  It wasn’t really at the same time. I was really young—22—when we started Nantucket Nectars.  I didn’t get married until I was 29, and I was 35 when we sold the company.  During those years I was traveling like a maniac—forgot what city I was in, that kind of thing.

Q:  The company was growing fast at that point.  How did Kristan feel about your work mania?

A:  Kristan was in architecture school.  It was an odd time in our lives.  She was as obsessed with work as I was.  But even so, my preoccupation with work took some getting used to.  She grew up in LA, and we got married out there.  At that time, Nantucket Nectars was not doing well in LA, so I saw our wedding as a great opportunity to go out and meet with distributors.

She saw me for the first time at 4 pm the day the rehearsal dinner.  She said, You’ve got to be kidding me!  At the time, I didn’t get it.  I feel bad about it now.  I thought I was doing the right thing for everybody.  It bothered her, but there was an Continue reading

Interview with Wendi Goldsmith

Wendi Goldsmith

A geologist, Wendi Goldsmith is the founder and CEO of Bioengineering Group in Salem, Massachusetts. Wendi launched her company in 1992, and now has about 70 employees and revenues of $10 million. Its mission is ecosystem restoration and the application of sustainability principles to the operation of large businesses and other entities. Her largest client is the United States Department of Defense. Wendi and her husband have three teen-aged children.

Wendi Goldsmith on the futility of trying to prepare your spouse for the roller-coaster of business; how starting a business can be likened to falling gravely ill; why the spouse should support the entrepreneur’s business as they would a child’s passionate hobby.

Q:  You were young when you founded your business.

A:   I was 26 and married to my college sweetheart.  My starting a business was surprising not only to my friends and family, but to me as well.  My first husband was supportive, but not really comfortable with it.  He felt like I was too much in the driver’s seat. He had less of the excitement of the dream and more the downside, without the rush.  It was tough.  I did everything that entrepreneurs do but probably shouldn’t:  maxed out the credit cards, took a second mortgage on the house.  Sometimes he’d agree to my doing that, then resent it later.  It was understandably out of his comfort zone.

Q:  In retrospect, would you have done anything differently?  Maybe prepared your former husband for what company-founding might entail?

A:  There’s not much I could have changed.  Entrepreneurs jump in and fake it ‘til they make it, even when we start with a detailed plan.  You can’t have a legitimate Continue reading