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Last Update: Sunday July 25, 2021

Key Idea: Attract Others With Your Vision

With a startup, sometimes the idea of being part of something new is all the founder has to offer.

Key Question:


Debra admit that in the beginning she was only able to pay $7 an hour and she offered a lot of flex-time.  And, two of the employees invested in the company which means they are minority owners.

How would owning a part of the company affect your own work performance?

A: The biggest change you might feel is that you are willing to work very hard for very little now in hopes of a bigger payoff. An employee tends to think from paycheck to paycheck while an owner thinks more long range.

Why do you think a person like Jim would move from San Francisco to Boulder to be part of EcoNatural? And, why would Ed Thomas invest?

A: For personal satisfaction. He took early retirement to spend his time helping a company like EcoNatural by not only working for less than he could if he just took a job, but by putting cash in when it was needed.

Ed Thomas had made some money in real estate and like Debra wanted to build a business around a product that has repeat business and high demand. Also, he got tired of real estate's dramatic swings. The economy and interest rates worn him down. He would never have come to EcoNatural as an employee because he had always worked for himself in real estate. But, because his goals and Debra's were in sync, everyone wins.

Think about it

Would your employees use the words enthusiastic or passionate to describe you?
When you want to launch a new product or service do you think it will be important that you personally be passionate about it?

Clip from: St. Claire's Mints & Organic Sweets (EcoNatural Solutions)

Boulder, Colorado: Debra St.Claire started her business, EcoNatural Solutions in 1993 to begin manufacturing  a totally organic breath mint and a healthy candy for children and adults.  She is an herbalist, naturalist, and vegetarian. When she learned that there was beef gelatin in her favorite peppermints, she was so disappointed, she said, "I'll make my own!"

Today St.Claire's Organic Sweets are on thousands of store shelves around the world.

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St. Claire's Organics started as EcoNatural Solutions, Inc.

St. Claire's Organic Sweets, a global business

6235 Lookout Road
Boulder, CO 80301

Visit our web site:

Office: 303-527-1554

Business Classification:
food processing

Year Founded: 1993

Attract Others With Your Vision

HATTIE: (Voiceover) The first product, truly Organic Peppermints, began selling in March, 1994. Today there are nine flavors, annual sales of $2 million, 12 employees and 57 sales reps.

(Voiceover) In the beginning, all the manufacturing was done by outside contractors. Now the tablets are made in-house, while the rolls are outsourced. Deborah formulates all the products and discusses a new flavor with Rick Werner, vice-president of operations.

DEBRA: All right, you asked me about new product development, so taste this.

HATTIE: OK, so this is brand...

DEBRA: And, Rick, taste this.

HATTIE: ...this is brand-new?

DEBRA: This is brand-new. Taste it. What do you think?

HATTIE: Mm. I think it's wonderful.

DEBRA: What do you think?

RICK WERNER (Vice-President of Operations): Could be stronger.

DEBRA: Could be stronger?

HATTIE: Now stronger? How d...

RICK: Tangier.

DEBRA: Nah, it needs more tang, needs more tang.

HATTIE: Now how do you make it more tangy?

DEBRA: Ahh! Now, Hattie, that's for me to know and you never to find out.

HATTIE: You mean that's a secret?

DEBRA: That's a secret.

HATTIE: Oh, my gosh.

DEBRA: That's the part of product development that you don't share with your competitors or your customers or everything.

HATTIE: I heard that you're a vice president.

RICK: That is correct. I am the only vice president.

HATTIE: All right. What do you do day to day? What's your responsibilities?

RICK: Day-to-day I have several responsibilities. My primary responsibility right now is sales and marketing, but I also continue to do the controller function, which is what I was originally hired to do, and I still oversee operations, that is, production and manufacturing.

HATTIE: OK. When you came in as a controller, and then people started saying--Jim or Debra said--`Hey, you can do more, you can do more,' how do you--how did you react to that?

RICK: `Give me more, give me more.'

HATTIE: You want more?

RICK: Oh, yeah. Great.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Jim Williams invested early on, and today is the CFO.

JIM WILLIAMS (CFO): So I was already a stockholder, I was already on the board of directors, and I, you know, volunteered or whatever to come to Boulder and help her as an officer and any capacity that I could.

HATTIE: Never a dull moment, huh?

JIM: Oh, in a small business, it's never a dull moment, and that's a--that's important. That's--and people must enjoy that kind of environment if they want to be successful in small business.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Ed Thomas is director of manufacturing and an investor.

What's holding you all back...

ED THOMAS (Director of Manufacturing): What's holding...

HATTIE: ...from growing.

ED: Well, capital like most small companies. Like I said, we take every penny we have and dump it back into the company, which always leaves us short on cash, but, you know, you've gotta grow the company when there's a chance to, so...

HATTIE: So everybody here understands that, right?

ED: Yeah, I think so.

HATTIE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And the--we're all betting on the comp.

ED: Oh, yeah, we're all betting, especially people who own shares.


(Voiceover) Dan Olsen, director of sales and marketing, explained how easy global business has become.

DAN OLSEN (Director of Sales and Marketing): It's not a problem at all. It's a piece of cake.

HATTIE: So the world is getting smaller.

DAN: The world's getting smaller, and it's getting cheaper. It doesn't cost much at all.

CHRIS JACOBS (General Manager): I've been with the company since the beginning, when we were in a little garage up in the mountains with a...

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Chris Jacobs is the general manager.

Are they breath mints or are they candies?

CHRIS: Well, primarily I would say we're an organic candy company. The breath mints are a piece of it, and a lot of people think of us as breath mints, but we have a variety of flavors and...

HATTIE: What is exciting to you about the future?

CHRIS: I want to see this company in a lot of international markets. We've done a little bit here and there, but I'm really excited about seeing it really booming in that direction. And I want it--I want St. Claire's to be a household name.

HATTIE: Can you teach somebody in 30 seconds or less--or two minutes or less how to have the right energy to attract the right people?

DEBRA: Believe in what you're doing, and that's going to attract the right people because they're--they realize that you're focused on a goal and you're going to get there.

HATTIE: OK, but you didn't have a bunch of money to offer.

DEBRA: No, I didn't. No, I didn't. And so their wages were not the best in the world, but I gave them flexibility, and if they needed to have a day off--I gave them everything that I could in exchange for them working at a lower wage, which wasn't bad. I started everybody out $7.00 an hour, even five years ago, and they quickly went to $12.00. I mean, it's not something where I'm gonna keep them in poverty. I always made sure that my people were paid to the best of my ability and that if I couldn't give them insurance and other kinds of health coverage in the early years, at least I gave them flex-time, and if they had a need, it was understood and honored.

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