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How it All Started
First Blog-01
Friday, December 19, 2014

The year was 2004 and there I was. I had made it. I was the Technical Director of Delta Foremost Chemical in Memphis TN. It was great. I had several chemists working for me, my boss was easy to get along with, and I liked the people I was working with. Why in the world would I walk away from this?

It’s a long story. I’ll do my best to keep it short and sweet.

I started in the business of formulating industrial detergents with a position of Chemist at Giant Cleaning Systems in Rayne, LA sometime around 1980. (I’m terrible with dates, so just bear with me.) It was a start, but the owner of the company, Harold Thibodeaux, didn’t really need a chemist so much as he needed someone to get his lab started and his production underway. After a little over a year, my job evaporated.

Harrumph! Back to my hometown of Alexandria, LA and a position with Star Chemical. They were really great people, and I learned a tremendous amount, but the business model didn’t make sense to me, and I could see a house of cards beginning to tumble down. With some regrets, I found a position in Memphis TN and moved my small family to the frozen north. (Just a note here. They unfortunately went bankrupt a little over a year later.)

Okay, Memphis is only frozen compared to Louisiana, but it was a big change for me. In Louisiana the weather goes from being hot and humid to being cool and moist. I spent many a Christmas season in my youth wearing T shirts and shorts. When I moved to Memphis, I discovered… Seasons! OMG. Memphis is hot in the summer and humid enough, but when winter comes, all you have to do is walk outside to know that it’s winter. This was a revelation to me, and it remains something I appreciate about Memphis—that slow rotation of weather from month to month. And the fact that Asparagus will grow at this latitude.

I was working for Chapman Chemical on Brookes Road: After four years it was sold to ISK Biosciences and I was let go.

Harrumph 2! Moved on to United Paint and learned A LOT. Every formulation chemist should work at a paint company for at least a year: Rumors began to swirl about selling the company to Thompson Formby. I got skittish and found another job. (Just a note here. United Paint was sold and then closed. I got out just in time.)

Moved over to WM Barr. This is probably the best job I ever had. There were six of us working in R&D. Five of us were really smart. We did exceptional work and had a lot of fun doing it: They started talking about selling the division I worked for. I got skittish and found another job. (Just a note here. The division did not sell. I might be working there still if things had gone differently.)

And came in for a soft landing at Delta Foremost as Technical Director, a good job with low stress and an okay salary. So why did I quit?

As with any life-changing decision, there were a number of factors. One of them was money. Shock! It’s not that I was paid poorly, but I was never paid industry standard for the job I was doing, and I was never paid even half of what I was led to believe I would be making—even after almost ten years on the job. There was the frustration of working in a family owned business. Try as I might, I could never manage to marry into the family, so I never really felt a part of the management team. And there were too many situations where I, as Technical Director, was not allowed to direct the technical aspects of the business. I was told things like, “But this is the way we have always done things,” or “This equipment that you say would increase our profitability costs money,” etc. I eventually gave up, and that was the beginning of the end.

Those who have known me well for most of my life will attest to the fact that I have never hesitated to take a hammer to my life when dissatisfied with the shape of it. I thought long and hard about what to do. I made plans. I studied the situation. I made lists of possible downsides (bankruptcy) and upsides (fame and fortune unlimited). I agonized over what to do for weeks until I was finally ready to take that big step. With great trepidation I took the plunge.

I told my wife what I was planning.

See our next Blog for a look at just how much fun it can be to start a chemical company with nothing but a crystal clear idea and a handful of credit cards.


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