We hosted our annual CloudCorp luncheon recently. We used to have a dinner but changed to a business lunch format and have enjoyed watching our numbers grow. Our formula is simple. Feed them, give them something to think about, and make sure to end on time.
This year, we invited back Concordia Native, Dave Dreiling. I wanted him to return specifically to tell us how his deal with Hanes Brands happened and to talk about his work with the entrepreneurship program at K-State. Dave created Greek to Me, or GTM, and grew the company over many years. He also has a restaurant/hospitality business. He recently sold GTM to Hanes Brands and has handed the day-to-day management of the company over to someone else. He still works for the company, but now has the latitude to be in the entrepreneurial headspace where he thrives.
Dreiling didn’t sugarcoat his business journey, giving our guests raw insight into his struggles along the way. He talked about a time where cashflow was killing him, and a time when a software change nearly cost him the company. When I looked around the room, the heads nodding verified that our local entrepreneurs have been there. He told us that in the end, Hanes didn’t buy the company for what it was today, but instead bought it for what it will be in the future.
This sale has freed up Dreiling’s time for thinking entrepreneurially and for giving back. He helped start the K-State Entrepreneurs program to give students the opportunity to think differently about their future. As Dreiling explained, entrepreneurship is more of a mindset than a skillset.
Dreiling had some advice for us too. He challenged us to create an environment for entrepreneurship by starting a mentoring program. He encouraged us to create an environment that business owners and their families could thrive in. He also challenged those in the room to make way on boards and commissions for a younger generation.
We have done some of what he suggests, but we have some room to grow. It’s a question I ponder often. How do we get our best and brightest to come back and start their life’s work here? It starts by sending them out with a positive message about our community. We must talk to our junior high and high school students about the grant funding available for them to start a business. We have to create events and traditions that entertain them and eventually make them long to come home. I think we are slowly getting there, but each of us has to be that messenger.