Interview with John Bradberry

John Bradberry

John Bradberry of Charlotte, North Carolina, has a background in psychology and works with both early stage and mature companies on organizational development. His book, 6 Secrets to Startup Success, helps founders and investors evaluate and improve their readiness to launch, and grow, a company.

John Bradberry on falling in love with your business; on why founders need to assess their own physical and emotional health; and why passion is not always a great thing when you’re launching a company.

Q: You speak and write a lot about passion.

A: It’s impossible to understand a business and what makes it successful without understanding that it is a personal and emotional process for the founder. It can be both wrenching and glorious.

Q: How do family and personal relationships factor in to your assessments of an entrepreneur’s “readiness”?

A: I come at the topics you write about from another direction. What’s good for the business aligns with what’s good for the personal side of the entrepreneur’s life. You can’t extricate the two and deal with them separately. When we assess the strengths of a business, one of the “assets” we assess is the founder—how much gas does he have in the tank? Is he physically and emotionally healthy? Enough to stay in the game for the long haul? A lot of businesses blow up because the entrepreneur’s personal life is not working.

Q: How do you go about making this kind of personal assessment?

A: We ask founders to think it through. If they are pre-launch, we tell them to take a good hard look not only at their path to profitability, but also at what sacrifices the business will require of their families. The typical founder drastically underestimates Continue reading

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