A Look Back on Celebrating National Entrepreneur’s Day: The Wesleyan Way

Kentucky Wesleyan is proud to call many entrepreneurs alumni, and we’re excited to celebrate a few of them on National Entrepreneur’s Day 2023! Take a look at the Q&A’s with this year’s features. Let us know who we should feature next year! 

George Tinsley ’69, Franchise Owner

Rather than read George’s feature, we want you to LISTEN! Tune into Alumni Evolution: The Official Podcast of the KWC Alumni Association to listen to George’s episode. 

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Katie (Cecil) Pedigo ’09, Owner of Katie Ann Flowers

Q: What was your major and hometown?
A: I was a business administration major from Owensboro.

Q: Tell us about your business! How did it start? Did you plan to be an entrepreneur early on?
A: Katie Ann Flowers at Cecil Farms is a floral event and design company that all began as a way to enhance the experience for brides at the event venue on my family’s farm, White Chateau. I started growing flowers 5 years ago at Cecil Farms, a family farm known for growing fresh fruits and vegetables for your grocery stores and restaurants, to sell at local farmers markets. As I entered into the wedding and events industry, the flower farm became a way to grow specialty flowers specific to my clients’ events and the two businesses complement each other well.

Jumping into the event floral business was a leap of faith. I had no experience in designing flowers, but the window of opportunity to add to the family business and guest experience was right in front of me, so I invested in an online course from a reputable designer.

Entering into 2020 with this new business, I had my first 5 spring weddings booked. I got to do one of these weddings and had hundreds of dollars’ worth of flowers sitting in my workshop for the following weekend when the world shut down, cancelling all my upcoming events. It was a tough season for new beginnings, but it led to the largest wedding year since the 80’s following that year and I got to be a part of that!

Humble beginnings made me appreciate all the opportunities that have followed. In just 3 years, we have expanded to events across Kentucky and into bordering states, and I have joined the Southern Kentucky Floral Exchange, selling the flowers grown at the farm wholesale to florists across Kentucky and into Nashville, TN.

Q: How did Wesleyan prepare you to become an entrepreneur?
A: Kentucky Wesleyan played such a great role in being a network for my business. As a student, I did not imagine I would be my own boss someday, but those relationships then were so important. I didn’t realize I would be so connected with people from college in the business world 14 years later. The staff at Kentucky Wesleyan have made an effort to support me from the days of being a student to now, including booking Katie Ann Flowers for their events like the President’s Gala and Homecoming, and sharing my business with others they know.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: The best thing I have done is found my community of people who support me and guide me through the learning times and celebrate me in the good times.

“A rising tide lifts all boats.” There is room for everyone in every industry and it is our job to create community, not competition. We will all be more successful if we are supporting each other and being open to guidance from one another.

Bob ’78 & Mary (Turner) McDole ’79, Owners of Mr. Big Guns

Q: What was your major and hometown?
Bob: I was a business administration major from Madison, Ind.
Mary: I was a nursing major from Louisville, Ky.

Q: Tell us about your business! How did it start? Did you plan to be an entrepreneur early on?
Both: The idea started around 2012 when firearms and ammo were exceedingly difficult to obtain. Our son, Matt, began our business from his home after receiving his Federal Firearms License. After two years of selling as a hobby, we began to pursue a brick-and-mortar business. Between 2014 and 2016, we considered the possibility of purchasing an existing store in the Owensboro area or opening a new shop in Alabama; neither opportunity worked out. In late 2016, JC’s Gun & Tackle Shop in Huntsville, Alabama was for sale. After researching and evaluating the competitive landscape in the Huntsville area, we decided to buy the business. We completed the acquisition in May of 2017 and changed the name to Mr. Big Guns, LLC.

Early on we did not consider ourselves entrepreneurs, although members of our family owned and operated retail stores in Madison, Indiana. After realizing Matt had a passion for firearms, we became excited about the opportunity of potentially owning a business and working together.

Q: How did Wesleyan prepare you to become an entrepreneur?
Bob: My degree in Business Administration is the foundation of how I started my career right out of college. I started in manufacturing and worked my way into an executive management position early in my career. Eventually I started helping companies turn around distressed businesses. JC’s Gun & Tackle was a turnaround opportunity.

Although the degree prepared me for the professional skills that I needed, the experience at Kentucky Wesleyan of competing, networking, meeting new people and developing relationships all played a role in having the confidence to own my own business.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Both: A few things:
– Before starting, be sure you have the passion and the time to devote to running your own business.
– Whether it be employees or business partners, having the right people with the right skillsets to help run the business is critical. For example, I have a financial background, but Matt McDole understands the firearms industry. Therefore, we have worked together since May of 2017 in turning around the business. Sales have grown 400% since we opened as Mr. Big Guns, LLC.
– It is essential that your spouse engages in the decision, understands the risk, and supports the mission.
– As an entrepreneur and business owner, you not only have the responsibility of making or keeping the business viable for yourself, but you have also taken on the responsibility of the employees that work for you. Making sure they continue to have a place of employment to support their families is an extremely high priority.

Noel Clayton ’81

Q: What was your major and hometown?
A: I was a business administration major from Tell City, Indiana.

Q: Tell us about your business! How did it start? Did you plan to be an entrepreneur early on?
A: I did not expect to become an entrepreneur. After working for a national video distributor for 18 years, I felt like I had the confidence, contacts, experience and financial stability to eventually take a leap of faith and go out on my own.

I met the late Jim Owen and his partner Gus Bailey, and we decided to form a company to distribute some country comedy product. Jim was a very well-known producer and had developed a lot of programming for The Nashville Network (TNN).

We developed a marketing play which including producing a 120-second direct response ad, a retail distribution deal and partnering on a 30-minute infomercial. We all worked hard for a couple of years, but in the end were lucky to break even.

In the meantime, I ran into an old friend from the video rental days, and he wanted to purchase some low-priced closeout product and asked me if I could help. It took us about a year to get going and then we added a sales partner and went on to a very successful run of selling low-priced VHS, DVD and Blu-Ray products to all the major discount retailers including Dollar General, Family Dollar, Big Lots and TJ Maxx.

We also opened a racking company to service convenience stores that at its peak serviced around 6,000 locations nationally.

Q: How did Wesleyan prepare you to become an entrepreneur?
A: I think being a Wesleyan graduate opened a lot of doors for me and my only two bosses were Wesleyan graduates – David Epling ’74 and Terry Woodward ’64. Both took a BIG chance on me.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Three things:

1. Hire a CPA and be prepared to always be the last one to get paid. I had the advantage of having a built in CPA (my wife Brenda) and I was never really on my “own,” as she was an active partner all along the way.
2. I would also recommend getting involved with a local non-profit. It is a great way to meet new people while giving back to your community, and it may help you find your next business opportunity
3. Don’t give up. My first attempt was not successful, but I just kept working hard and eventually got a break.

Harrison Stanley ’24, Owner of HMS Photography (and current KWC student!)

Q: What’s your major and hometown?
A: I’m a business administration major from Las Vegas, Nevada.

Q: Tell us about your business! How did it start?
A: I created HMS Photography mid-2020 just after the pandemic began. Now, 3.5 years later, most of my work consists of sports and portraits, but my goal is to transition into a wildlife center company. Once lockdown started, I searched for a way to stay busy and also enjoy my time. Given lockdowns weren’t as strict in the valley, I began to hike and explore parts of the valley and mountains where most people would not go. I wanted to document my adventures and since photography has always been an interest, I thought why not? Along with nature photography, I also started focusing on street/urban and motorsport photography whenever I had the chance.

Q: How has Wesleyan prepared you to become an entrepreneur?
A: KWC has help me and my business by teach the core values, strategies and basic knowledge needed to successfully maintain and grow a business.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is to take the chance! You never know what could happen if you just try. Even if you fail, try it again. As long as you have the passion and determination, you will eventually succeed.

Q: What are you most excited about as your business continues to grow?
A: The most exciting thing is the locations I get to see and the experiences I obtain along the way. Many people don’t know what some of the world may look like outside of a computer; seeing it with your own eyes is unmatched.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
A: Don’t limit yourself to one idea or passion. In 2021, I invested and created a partnership with another small and growing media company, McLemon Films. Since joining the company, I’ve traveled and met countless people, some friends and clients. As McLemon grows, it allows me to expand my network and grow my personal business as well – and I have a great time doing it!

Danielle Roe ’10, Realtor, Speaker & Coach

Q: What was your major and hometown?
A: I was a communication arts major with a focus in advertising & public relations from Springfield, Ohio.

Q: Tell us about your business! How did it start? Did you plan to be an entrepreneur early on?
A: I’ve always wanted to create my life’s design through entrepreneurship!

I started my business journey just 1 month after graduating from KWC. Playing sports taught me the discipline required to be successful, and I figured I could always go back and get a regular job. I jumped right into direct sales, managing and coaching teams built 100% from my personal database for the first 8 years. My businesses all have involved me being a presentation speaker, which ultimately launched my speaking career giving over 4000 live presentations in 13 years in which many were free.

Through my journey as an entrepreneur, I have been able to meet some extraordinary people who gave me opportunities to enter new platforms in real estate and speaking at schools to inspire young people.

Speaking has always been my core passion. Since graduating, about 85% of my income has been commission-based only. Building a brand and standing on it no matter what.

Q: How did Wesleyan prepare you to become an entrepreneur?
A: KWC’s small class sizes were the biggest advantage I had in becoming an entrepreneur. I was able to be a critical thinker and not another number on campus. I was a vocal leader on campus as a student-athlete and I also served as editor of the campus newspaper. I got involved and didn’t allow anyone to box me in. Wesleyan gave me a blank canvas, and I’ve been painting God’s Will ever since.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: Save money. Entrepreneurship costs money and it has its highs and its lows. Saving one year’s worth of expenses will allow you to master your business when it’s time.

Never let anyone (even if they are close to you) tell you that you are too young to lead and create. Having a degree only adds VALUE to your entrepreneurial experience. It’s not a wasted degree for an entrepreneur. the Wesleyan experience taught me my grit and tenacity overcoming obstacles. Find the gift in the process of becoming.

Terry Woodward ’64, Owner of Wax Works

Q: What was your major and hometown?
A: I was a business administration major from Owensboro, Ky.

Q: Tell us about your business! How did it start? Did you plan to be an entrepreneur early on?
A: My business, Wax Works, was just a small business that turned into a big business.

My father opened a record store in 1949. I joined him 1968 and expanded the retail operation to include wholesale components to accommodate the expanding eight-track tape market. As the retail market began changing, Wax Works developed a music retail chain. The first Disc Jockey store was opened in 1978 and eventually became the fifth largest retail music chain in the nation. In the late 1970s, video movies were being introduced and Wax Works was appointed a national distributor for all the major film studios.

In 2006, Wax Works started a new company, Team Marketing. It is now the largest holder of licenses for college sports video in the nation.

I think entrepreneurs are born, not raised, and entrepreneurism was just part of my makeup.

Q: How did Wesleyan prepare you to become an entrepreneur?
A: KWC taught me how to make a decision, and I’ve carried that knowledge throughout my life. To be successful in business, you have to be able to make (sometimes tough) decisions.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
A: When choosing your vocation, choose something that you have a passion for and enjoy doing. When you are happy in your career, you will be successful.

Set your goals high and exercise patience in reaching your goals. You won’t achieve them overnight. You must plan for the long-term, not the short-term.

Balancing work, family and community will help you be successful. When you achieve success, remember to share that success with those in need.

In my early years, I once turned down a job, when I didn’t have a job, because there was no room for growth. I thought, “I don’t know what I’m going to do, but my boundaries are the Atlantic and Pacific and I’m not going to work in a straitjacket.”


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