Walking in the Footsteps of a Giant: A Tribute to Mr. William G. Mays

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, Angela Cauley, CEO of Coalescence, was the keynote presenter for the L. Brands Supplier Diversity Symposium at their world headquarters in Columbus, Ohio. Speaking to vendors of this successful U.S. based-company, Angela shared how Mr. Williams G. Mays, the founder of the Mays Chemical Company, epitomized the same value as L. Brands in cherishing diversity, embracing others’ thoughts, experiences, hopes and dreams, as well as running a successful and inclusive business that serves its customers and employees. The following is an excerpt of Angela’s speech.

So who was Bill Mays?  Mr. William G. Mays, was the founder of the Mays Chemical Company, and shared lessons about running a successful business, the value of diversification and serving others.

 

Some have described him as Indiana’s most successful Black businessman.  But the gifts he gave society transcends the borders and business.  He was my boss, my mentor and my friend.  I had the privilege of working for Mr. Mays for seven years.  I remember the first time I met him was during a sales meeting. I was in need of a job so that I could move back to Ohio to join my future husband.  Mays Chemical didn’t need another sales representative, but they hired me due to my technical background and experience in distribution.  Mr. Mays said, “I’m told that we need a Food Scientist and that you are a good investment.”  I set out to prove that day, that Mr. Mays would not be sorry for hiring me working offsite so I worked hard to prove my value.

 

While becoming a stellar performer at Mays Chemical, my husband had crafted a well thought-out business plan, which would eventually become Coalescence.   More so, Mr. Mays became our angel investor in Coalescence.  He saw how my company, a manufacturer of specialty ingredient blends had a synergy with his company.  Even though some felt that there was overlap in our business models, Mr. Mays constantly encouraged me to market my business while I was employed by Mays Chemical.  Little did I know that the nest egg I had stored up from my sales commissions would be invaluable to helping us make payroll and pay some of our bills early on in the business when cash was not flowing.  (I hope other entrepreneurs do not share this same painful story.)

 

I came to Mays Chemical as a Food Scientist; I left as a skilled business leader, with a strong social network in the Food & Personal Care Industries, as the CEO of Coalescence. 

 

Mr. Mays was an avid supporter of entrepreneurs and used his company as an incubator to proliferate minority and women-owned businesses.  He was instrumental in launching over 100 businesses over his lifetime with his talents and/or gifts.  Whenever possible, my former colleagues at Mays Chemical join forces to compete for business opportunities.  And at the very least we serve as sounding boards for one another when addressing critical business decisions.

Go to http://www.coalescencellc.com/seven-lessons-learned-from-the-giant-2/ to see specific lessons Mr. Mays taught Angela.

My husband and I started Coalescence in 2005, a few months after our youngest child was born.  He is the perfect compliment to my creative side because he majored in agricultural economics.  We both had 15 years respectively in the food industry and decided to “Coalesce” our skills to start a business.  Our mission – To feed the world better through superior nutrition.  Our vision – To have a company where people from all walks of life are free to express their talents and work toward a common goal.  We started with 5 individuals and 10 years later we are employing over 40 associates, 80% of which are diverse. It’s like walking into the United Nations, and I strongly believe that our success is due to the diversity of thought each individual brings to work every day.

 

If you spend any time with an entrepreneur you will learn pretty quickly that this path is not for the faint of heart and requires sacrifice.  I can tell you that my husband and I are committed to our business.  Early on we sold our home and moved our family in with my mother-in-law.  We have sacrificed spending time with our children – my son in almost 18 and about to graduate from high school, and our daughter will be entering the 6th grade in the fall.  We travel 40% of the time and have missed out on some milestones.  I don’t even want to talk about the toll stress has on health.  But in spite of all of that we’ve sacrificed, we are ‘All In’.  We gladly work hard, because failure is not an option.

 

We have a lot of experience recognizing that business doesn’t happen overnight, or in some cases years.  But the sooner we start forging the business relationship the clock starts ticking.  We will do all that we can to understand your business needs and see how our skill sets align to add value to your organization.  All that we ask for in return is a chance to compete, and we expect honest and timely feedback.  Our goal is to super-serve our clients, but we recognize that one misstep can have detrimental repercussions, not only for our company, but other minority and woman-owned in the future.  Therefore, we are honest about our abilities and don’t commit to what we can’t deliver.  We know it can be a risk to step out of your comfort zones and work with new suppliers, however I guarantee that working with diverse firms adds a level of competition to the field and elevates everyone’s game.

 

At Coalescence, our team shares a common vision around philanthropy and inclusion. We have had a robust internship program since year one because we believe in developing the human potential.  We have recognized gaps in skill sets of both children and adults coming through our doors, therefore we started the George Washington Carver Food Research Institute to educate students in underrepresented communities in STEM subject matter in order to better prepare them for careers in agricultural.  We have had a science coach in Linden STEM for the past 3 years to support the staff in delivering science content and have seen OGT test scores increase by 27%.  A few of our students are graduating in May, and some will be entering college to study engineering and food science.

 

I am also proud of the work Coalescence is doing around international aid.  You may recall, my husband and I originally started Coalescence with the goal of feeding the world better.  Our Food Scientists and Research Chefs have developed proprietary nutritional blends that go into Ready to Use Therapeutic foods like peanut butter and beverages to address malnutrition. We have metrics showing large gains in restoring health and increasing test scores for children.  When students nutritionally needs are being met they are satiated and able to focus more in school.  We also fortify meal kits containing rice, protein and dehydrated vegetables.  These meal kits are shipped to families suffering from food insecurity in countries all over the world.

 

Beauty LabelSupplier diversity is a business imperative.  But I would also add that, diverse suppliers offer a unique and different lens or perspective on how to address problems and provide innovative solutions. A real example of a strategic partnership is with Hooven-Dayton. This Ohio-based company, who happens to be excellent and diverse, provided the packaging and printing for the Sports Beauty Pomegranate Beverage Coalescence especially formulated for this event.

 

Bill Mays died last December, on his 69th birthday.  He leaves big shoes to fill in his absence.  I plan to continue incorporating his lessons as we strive for success in business.  My goal is to share my time and talents in the hopes of making a difference in someone’s life, just like Mr. Mays made in mine.

Mr William G Mays

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