Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Leroy Hite, Founder and CEO of Cutting Edge Firewood, located in Atlanta, GA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Cutting Edge Firewood is the world’s first luxury firewood and cooking wood company. We have three main product lines- Firewood, Wood for Wood Fired Pizza Ovens, and Smoking Wood for grills and smokers. I had the epiphany that gathering around a fire is like watching a beautiful sunset: universal and primal. It doesn’t matter if you are a 3-year-old girl from Georgia or an 85-year-old man from Nepal; everyone loves to sit by the warm flames of a fire.
We ship our products to the continental US.
Tell us about yourself
I was fired from my last job. It was one of the best things that has ever happened to me. When I was a junior at Berry College - Campbell School of Business, I started a different firewood company, caught the entrepreneur bug, and saw a glimpse of what would later become my vision for Cutting Edge Firewood. I was hooked on the idea but too scared to pursue it at the time.
After graduating, I worked at Chick-fil-A for a year and considered becoming an Owner Operator. I then worked with Enterprise Rent-A-Car for three years before moving to a respectable corporate job in downtown Atlanta.
Even while working for others, I had this weird obsession with firewood. My wife and I joked that when my old 93 GEO Prizm with 266,000 miles (I came from humble, some would say poor, means) broke down, I'd buy a truck and start the firewood business on the side. Two months into the new job, the Prizm broke down one Friday, and it was going to cost $5K to fix a car worth $300. On Saturday, I prayerfully considered if I should go ahead with the purchase of a truck, and by the end of the day, I decided to take a small "leap of faith" and start the firewood company on the side. I went to work on Monday, and they fired me on the spot. I still don't know why.
My leap of faith quickly turned into a full-time job, and absolutely no one (other than my wife) thought I should do this. Everyone thought I was crazy for the next four years, but my amazing wife supported me and my crazy idea. I got a personal loan, maxed out 8-9 credit cards, and bought a truck, trailer, and a piece of equipment to get started. I needed that push to be fired in order to force me to take a chance and start the world’s first ultra-premium firewood and cooking wood company.
I am motivated by great customer experiences, building a great team, and seeing Cutting Edge Firewood achieve its full potential.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
This is a hard question, but I consider the customer experience my biggest accomplishment. A consultant we’ve worked with once remarked that our customers don’t leave us reviews; they write us love letters. We’ve had everyone from celebrities, including Terry Bradshaw, to the chairman of a $100 billion company, write us letters, emails, and reviews telling us how awesome our service is, how great our products are and how they had an unmatched experience.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
Being an entrepreneur is like having kids. It is hard. It completely changes your life. You lose a whole lot of sleep. Sometimes you find yourself in the fetal position. But it is incredibly rewarding. As the business grows and matures, it doesn’t necessarily get easier. The challenges change, and you have to be nimble, adapt and grow through the stretches.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- You have to be honest with yourself and decide if you have what it takes. It takes a lot of grit. If you leave the door open to quitting, you will. You have to burn the proverbial boats so that there is no retreat. (In ancient times, supposedly, some generals burned the boats after their armies crossed rivers, so that retreat wasn’t an option.)
- Seek a mentor or study entrepreneurship in business books. I recommend: Good to Great by Jim Collins, Traction by Gino Wickman (once you’ve hired 4-5 employees), and Predictable Success by Les McKeown.
- You need something that drives you: a higher power, a higher calling. Money is a terrible motivator. If it motivates you, you won’t be willing to risk it.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Everything we want or need in life is on the other side of difficulty, hardships, or at least being uncomfortable. A healthy marriage? You have to make a lot of sacrifices. You want a six-pack? That takes a lot of exercise and dieting. Being a successful entrepreneur is no different. It can be difficult and scary, but it is worth it and has made me into who I am.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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