After being on the Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies in 1993, Inc. did a follow-up story including Richard Rose:
Sure, these CEOs still substitute imagination, know-how, and effort for capital. Sometimes.
Once a bootstrapper, always a bootstrapper? Not quite. If you’re going to move beyond the start-up phase, there are habits that have to be undone and skills that have to be honed to jibe with your company’s growth and maturity; it doesn’t happen in a single day, but gradually you may find that your business no longer benefits from certain policies and procedures you insisted upon when it was a struggling start-up. For example…
Taking on new roles can be disconcerting. Richard Rose of Sharon’s Finest, maker of TofuRella (“tastes, melts and stretches just like regular cheese”), would rather he didn’t have to spend quite as much time explaining himself and his business to bankers. Rose calls himself a “counterculture businessperson” and “the longest-haired M.B.A. in Santa Rosa”; last summer he toured as guest guitarist for a band called the Pink Flamingos. He says it’s a bit weird getting used to the idea that because the local bank gave him a $160,000 line of credit, “it’s no longer just me doing what I feel.” Still, he’s been able to maintain control of his persona and his style.
“I cut off my hair and wore suits and stuff for a couple years,” he says. “I thought I needed to do that to make it in the business world. And it didn’t work. So I went back to plan B and that was to be myself. And it’s working just fine.”
Pull quote: Richard Rose did what was necessary to earn the confidence of the business world. Now that his company, Sharon’s Finest, is a success, he’s able to relax.
Page 76/77 table, Start-ups From Scratch, Eight Companies Launched With Almost No Down:
Company name: Sharon’s Finest. Santa Rosa, Calif.; founded in 1987; develops and markets health foods such as tofu-based cheeses.
Current stats: $3 million in sales, 5% profit.
Founding capital: $400.
Initial salary: Nothing for the first year.
Shameless ploy: Stuffed suggestion boxes. Whenever the Roses found a natural food store that didn’t carry their products, they’d slip one or more notes into the suggestion box, clamoring for TofuRella. Friends were encouraged to do the same.
Pressing start-up need: business savvy.
Creative solution: Be someone’s project. Picked by the Service Core of Retired Executives (SCORE) to take part in its Adopt-an-Emerging-Business program. Received a year’s worth of (almost) free guidance from local experts in marketing, finance, and management.
Image of Richard Rose with a halo, and bubble: “Who, me, do something wrong?”
Inc. magazine. Sept 1994, p 68-70, 76-77, by Leslie Brokaw, David Whitford. Copyright Inc. magazine 1994, all rights reserved.