On the first day of Kenneth “Kenny” Loyd and Paul Mitchell’s venture as business owners, the duo made a seven-figure investment into their paper converting, sales and marketing operation.
“The business is very capital intensive,” the president of South Coast Paper explains. “So when Paul Mitchell and I started the operation, day one we ordered a machine out of Germany that had a serious capital investment. We brought the machine over and we had a contract that would fulfill 70 percent of the machine time.” Well, the company that South Coast Paper had the contract with was sold, but not to the company that Loyd and Mitchell expected it to be purchased by and who they had a verbal agreement with for continued work.
“That company didn’t want to have anything to do with us nor would they sign the contract and we’d already bought the machine. So, given that fact, we had the brand new equipment coming to our operations in Hammond, La., and we had no orders for the machine. We had an operation that was set and ready to go, and the money that we spent put us in the hole.”
Loyd describes the company’s first two years as being on life support, followed by intensive care year three. But, by its fifth year, South Coast Paper was in good health. “And the reason we were able to overcome those obstacles was because of number one, my partner – the managing member of the company Paul Mitchell and number two the team we have assembled, our plant and operations team. Those individuals helped us to overcome those obstacles and to build a company today that is about a $95 million operation.”
For the 17 years since, the company with plants in Atlanta, Maplesville, Ala., and Mexico City, Mexico, and sales staff across the country has enjoyed steady growth – currently employing about 130 people.
As president, Loyd develops and secures relationships with suppliers, customers and other business partners. Mitchell handles operations from the financial, legal and information systems standpoints. Theirs is a balancing act that was an obvious recipe for success for the two early on.
“Each of us had something that helped us to grow,” says Loyd who was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug while pursuing an MBA at Case Western Reserve.
“I saw a need in the paper industry for converting services and at that time, paper was going into more retail outlets and the manufacturing operations were struggling to meet those demands. And so I thought that I’d be able to fulfill those needs by working with companies like the one I was previously with, Champion International, and be able to provide those services so that they could have a retail play that would enhance their sales. The other reason [for going into business] was the opportunity to be able to help control some of the destiny of myself but also of the people who would be a part of our team. That was very important to me; and to be able to grow a business that could have the potential to expand into other opportunities.”
To enrich and network, Loyd and Mitchell are active members of the Georgia Minority Supplier Development and National Minority Supplier Development councils in which they have immersed themselves in opportunities to increase their capacity.
“You have very good people in place who are very well connected throughout not only our region but throughout our country. It’s important that you use the minority supplier development councils so that more people will know about your operation and what your capabilities and skillsets are, and also to share and learn from other companies. When you’re apart of those councils, that’s the education you get and the ability to grow your company.”
In their spare time, both are board members of the South Carolina Community Bank with Mitchell serving as chairman of the board.
“Paul has done tremendous work. Because of him, South Carolina Community Bank was saved … His investments, his time, his efforts and his funds,” he says. “He invested in that bank to make sure that it was a very good bank and a good bank that remained minority owned.”
Loyd, who lives in Marietta, Ga., with his wife, Andrea Cox Loyd and is father to a daughter Tayler and son Jordan, mentors young African-American males and assists them with access to college via athletics.
Mentoring is a common theme that informs Loyd’s thinking about most of what he pursues. Asked what words of wisdom he would offer budding small businesses, he shares, “Make sure that from a capital standpoint, financially, that you are doing something and part of a space that you really have knowledge of. And relationships are critical. Whatever relationships you have today, make sure they’ve been maintained properly. Because years down the road, those people you touched will come back – one way or another directly or indirectly – to help you move forward in whatever your aspirations are.”
He knows of what he speaks.