Joshua Patinkin, a third-generation family member, has been promoted to senior vice president, capital markets at Golub & Company, an international real estate development and investment firm based in Chicago. He will also serve on the Golub & Company investment committee.

Patinkin joined the company four years ago and has played key roles working with limited partners in raising new funds and sourcing investment opportunities. He led the firm’s expansion into Denver last year.

Tony Capuano has joined Donato’s Pizza as executive director of innovation. Capuano is the son of Jane Grote Abell, executive chairwoman of the Columbus, Ohio-based company, and the grandson of founder Jim Grote.

Capuano will focus on development of the company’s innovation strategy and vision while working to bring cross-functional teams together to test and implement new products.

He spent the past five years as a franchise owner of five Snap Fitness locations in Columbus and served on the franchise advisory council and the technology advisory committee for the 1,800-location worldwide company. He is a cofounder of Prescribe Fit, a tech company that serves the healthcare industry.

Capuano is a 2011 graduate of Mount Vernon Nazarene University with a degree in marketing and management. In 2017, he completed the Leadership Columbus program, which provides education and training for emerging and current leaders in the region.

Donatos and its franchise partners operate 161 restaurants in 10 states. Its products are served in more than 15 sports and entertainment venues. The company, founded in 1963, was acquired by McDonald’s Corporation in 1999. McDonald’s sold the chain back to the Grote family in 2003.

Lucas Fox has been promoted to director of operations at Fox Packaging, based in McAllen, Texas. In his new role, Fox will oversee production activity across all departments.

Fox is the son of company president Keith Fox and the grandson of Kenneth Fox, who founded the company more than 50 years ago.

He joined the company in 2014 as superintendent of maintenance and was promoted to production manager in 2018.

Fox Packaging develops and provides flexible packaging for fresh produce packers and shippers throughout North America and Latin America.


Robert Matthews (Matt) Beall III has been named CEO of Bradenton, Fla.-based retailer Beall’s Inc.

Beall is the great-grandson of Robert Matthews Beall Sr., who founded the company in 1915. As a student at the University of Florida, he worked in the West Bradenton Beall’s Store as a sales associate and then at the Beall’s Outlet distribution center processing merchandise. After graduating in 2001 with a bachelor’s degree in business, he worked for Ross Stores in Manhattan as an assistant buyer. He then earned an MBA from Stetson University.

In 2004, Beall joined the family business as a buyer for Beall’s Outlet. Over the next 15 years, he served as a store manager and worked in nearly every corporate function at Beall’s and Beall’s Outlet. Most recently, he was the president of Beall’s Stores.

Beall succeeds Steve Knopik, who was the first non-family member to lead the company and will continue to serve as its executive chairman. Knopik became CEO in 2006 when Beall’s father, Robert M. (Bob) Beall II, stepped down from that role. Bob Beall remained as chairman of the board until his retirement in 2017.

Beall’s operates more than 550 stores in 17 states under the names Bealls, Bealls Outlet, Burkes Outlet, Home Centric and Bunulu.

Chrissy Taylor has been named CEO of Enterprise Holdings Inc. Taylor, who had been president and chief operating officer, is the daughter of the company’s executive chairman, Andy Taylor, and the granddaughter of founder Jack Taylor.

Chrissy Taylor, who retains the title of president, succeeds non-family executive Pam Nicholson, who had served as CEO since 2013 and retired at the end of 2019.

Enterprise Holdings, along with its affiliate Enterprise Fleet Management, offers car rental, car sharing, truck rental, fleet management, retail car sales and other transportation services. The company, based in St. Louis, owns and operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands through a global network of independent regional subsidiaries.

Taylor began her career in the Enterprise Rent-A-Car management training program, working at several rental locations. She transitioned to Enterprise’s corporate headquarters in 2003 and oversaw regional operations throughout the United States.

In 2006, she moved to London to develop Enterprise’s market in the U.K., Germany and Ireland. After receiving her executive MBA from Washington University in St. Louis in 2010, she joined Enterprise Holdings’ Treasury group and assisted in the financial restructuring of the company’s fleet management business. She became executive vice president and chief operating officer in 2016 and president in 2019.

Taylor serves on the board of her family’s foundation, the Crawford Taylor Foundation, and will continue to serve as a member of Enterprise Holdings’ corporate board.

Brandon McVaugh has been named president of Laboratory Testing Inc. (LTI), an independent materials-testing and metrology laboratory based in Hatfield, Pa. He is the grandson of founder Robert W. McVaugh Sr. and the son of Michael J. McVaugh, who retired from the position of president and continues to serve as the company’s CEO.

Brandon McVaugh worked part-time for LTI  during high school and college. After earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Delaware Valley University, he worked for five years at the Vanguard Group in Valley Forge, Pa., where he held leadership positions in operations. In January 2010, he returned to LTI as the customer service supervisor, a new position at the company.

He managed the mechanical testing department and the machine shop for five years and spent three years as director of operations, overseeing all testing, machining and calibration departments. He also led efforts to acquire Fracture Technology Associates of Bethlehem, Pa., in 2017 and TAC Technical Instrument Corp. of Trenton, N.J., in 2018.

Brothers Luke Jordan and Sam Jordan have joined the executive team at Electro Acoustics Inc., Fort Worth, Texas, and now share in ownership of the company.

Electro Acoustics provides audio, video and theatrical lighting for larger-scale commercial projects, such as performing arts centers, convention centers, churches, sports arenas and educational facilities. The company was founded by their parents, Chris and Sue Jordan, in 1984.

Luke, vice president and co-steward, is now responsible for external activities like achieving revenue targets, keeping up with market trends, community outreach and industry engagement.

Sam, general manager and co-steward, is now responsible for internal activities, such as building the Electro Acoustics team, company culture, finance and overall quality and performance.

Cynthia Lohr, second-generation co-owner of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, San Jose, Calif., has been promoted to chief brand officer, reporting to founder Jerry Lohr.

She began her career at J. Lohr more than 30 years ago, working in both the tasting room and the quality-control lab. She then left to gain business and branding experience in the technology sector, where she worked in marketing and public relations. Her last post before returning to the winery was vice president and account services director at Alexander Ogilvy PR Worldwide.

She was named director of communications at J. Lohr in 2002 and was promoted to vice president of marketing in 2009. In 2016, she became the winery’s trade and brand advocate.


Meghan Juday, a fourth-generation family member, will become chairman of IDEAL Industries on Feb. 1, 2020, following the retirement of Jim James from the post on Jan. 31.

Non-family executive Steve Henn, formerly a group president at Illinois Tool Works, succeeded James as IDEAL Industries’ CEO on Sept. 23, 2019.

James joined IDEAL in 2008 after 16 years at Illinois Tool Works. He announced his retirement plans to the family and board of the 103-year-old company two years ago.

Henn was group president, industrial equipment and plastics at Illinois Tool Works, the largest platform within the $2 billion specialty products segment.

Juday has been a member of IDEAL’s board since 2004 and became non-executive vice chair in May 2018. She formerly served as chair of the IDEAL family council. In that role, she implemented innovative family governance practices.

Leslie C. Voth, president and CEO of Pitcairn, has been named board chairman of the family office. Voth, who becomes the first woman and first non-family member to hold the position, succeeds fourth-generation member Dirk Jungé, who has retired after serving as chairman for 28 years.

Voth joined Pitcairn in 1993 and served in several leadership roles, including chief operating officer, president of the wealth management group and director of marketing and communications, before being named CEO in 2012. Pitcairn credits her with defining and formalizing its culture and client experience.

Jesse Wiley, a seventh-generation member of the Wiley family, has been appointed non-executive chairman of the board of John Wiley & Sons Inc. Wiley has served on the board since 2012.

Wiley succeeds Matthew Kissner, chairman since 2015, who has stepped down from the board to take on the roles of executive vice president and group executive.

Wiley has served as an executive at the company since 2003, working in global business development, corporate M&A, strategy, product development and marketing. Most recently, he served in Wiley’s research division, where he helped build partnerships with academic societies and grow the company’s business in China. He has been a member of the executive, governance and technology committees.

Wiley will transition out of his executive role to become chairman. He is the only Wiley family member serving on the board.

Aly Wente, a fifth-generation member of the Wente family, has joined Wente Family Estates as senior brand manager of Wente Vineyards. She is the fifth member of G5 to enter the business, which was founded in 1883 and is based in California’s Livermore Valley, east of San Francisco.

As senior brand manager, she will play a role in developing and executing strategic marketing plans and activities to support long- and short-term goals for the Wente Vineyards brand.

Wente has four years of marketing experience at Constellation Brands, where she most recently managed a portfolio of luxury and super-luxury wines. She previously served as a project coordinator at SunCal, a private land development company.

Wente spent summers during college as an intern for the Wente sales and marketing team.

She serves on the board of the Wente Foundation for Arts Education and will join the board of the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Foundation.

She attained Level 3 Advanced Certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust in 2017.



Kyle Fernley has been named the fifth president of Fernley & Fernley, a 133-year-old association man­agement company based in Philadelphia.

Fernley has also been named president of Premier Meetings by Fernley, which handles site selection and contract negotiation for more than 60 annual meetings and conferences.

Fernley, a fifth-generation family member, joined Fernley & Fernley in 2009 and most recently served as its director of operations. He currently is president of the Mid-Atlantic Society of Association Executives and has held leadership positions with several organizations throughout his career. He earned his bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Colorado, Boulder.

Fernley is the son of Fernley & Fernley’s chairman of the board, Taylor Fernley.

Kassie Nickell has been promoted to sales and marketing manager at Madden Elevator Company, Louisville, Ky.
Nickell, a second-generation family member, joined the company in 2015 as a dispatch coordinator and then held the positions of office manager and project coordinator before assuming her new role.

Colin David Vernon has joined the staff of Vernon Family Funeral Homes. The business, owned by his parents, David and Tammy Vernon, operates three funeral homes in Champaign County, Ohio.

He is currently serving as an apprentice funeral director and embalmer at Vernon Family Funeral Homes.
Vernon was raised in Champaign County and lived in the family funeral home. He received a bachelor of arts degree in political science from Ohio University in 2017 and then an associate degree in mortuary science from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science.

He worked at the funeral home while growing up. Duties he performed included washing cars, mowing lawns and doing building maintenance tasks.

Vernon is a third-generation funeral director, embalmer, and graduate of Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science. His grandfather, Robert Cisco, is the former owner of Baker-Cisco Funeral Home in St. Paris, Ohio, and recently retired from Cisco Funeral Home in Celina and St. Marys, Ohio. Vernon’s uncle, Rob Cisco, is the owner of Cisco Funeral Home.

Scott Fuhrman is now the sole shareholder of Florida Bottling Inc. and sole owner of the Lakewood trademark, the company’s flagship brand. Furhman, the chairman and CEO, represents the third generation of family leadership.
The assets are in a trust for Fuhrman’s children, the fourth-generation owners of Lakewood.
The company, based in Miami, makes organic, premium and biodynamic juices.

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Jeremy Kanter joined his family business, Cincinnati-based Rookwood Properties, soon after graduating from the University of Cincinnati. Lisa Wojcik Kiser worked elsewhere before joining her family firm, Beacon Adhesives, based in Mount Vernon, N.Y.

Kanter is the director of acquisitions and multifamily at Rookwood Properties, a diversified developer and manager of residential and commercial properties. He represents the third generation in the business. Kiser, a fourth-generation family business member, is the director of marketing at Beacon Adhesives, which manufactures specialty adhesives for consumer and industrial markets. Both are in their 30s.

We asked the two NextGens, What were your early years in the family business like?

Jeremy Kanter, Rookwood Properties:

“I went to business school in Rhode Island, and I studied finance. In my sophomore year, I went abroad to Tel Aviv University, and I met a girl who’s now my wife. We got married, and I finished up school in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. We were living at one of our properties.

“My wife went to school to become a nurse, and she got a job doing leasing at our property where we were living. There were times when she had too much schoolwork and needed help, so my dad and uncle let me work for her. And I enjoyed that.

“The economy was very bad in ’07. I was networking and applying for jobs at banks and such, and no one was hiring. And as I got interested in the leasing aspect of the business, I started to think, ‘Well, I might want to get into property management.’ And at first, my family said, ‘You need to get some outside experience first.’ As I said, it was very hard to find work at that time. So they eventually let me do some part-time work for them. One of my first jobs was to paint speed bumps in 90-degree weather in the summer.

“On the weekends I would have conversations with my dad about the business, and he could tell I really enjoyed it. I had a hard time finding other work, and then we had some personnel challenges. He talked to his dad and brother and said, ‘Do you think we can give Jeremy a try?’ As they say, the rest is history.

“I was very nervous doing the office work and managing the property at first. Since I didn’t have a whole lot of work experience prior to that, I probably was unsure of myself and lacked confidence. At the end of the day, it was a good quality to have, because I didn’t think I was better than everyone else just because I was the owner’s child. And I think all my subcontractors, coworkers — even bosses — probably realized that and appreciated that quality in me.”

Lisa Wojcik Kiser, Beacon Adhesives:

“I went to Tulane, and I really liked the concepts and psychology and advertising. I had done a couple internships in New Orleans, and when I came back up to [New York] City, I ended up going to Deutsch Advertising, and I loved it there.

“I was about five years in, and my grandpa was talking at the time about what we’re going to do with the business. He was just trying to get a sense of, is anyone from the next generation going to come in? So I decided to give it a shot.

“Having outside experience really helped me understand how a much larger company functions, how to set up different procedures and protocols. And, you know, I wasn’t treated differently than anyone else. It’s good to help learn what proper procedures are, and really how to communicate well with others and how to work well with others on a level playing field. I think it also helped me bring a level of professionalism to the business that wasn’t here before, and also just build my skillset.

“When I first got here, I was very eager and anxious in trying to change a lot of things at once. When you come from an outside business into your family business, you kind of have to learn the way they function first, and not just ram change down their throats. You have to kind of learn and adapt.”


Copyright 2019 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact


Carrie Freeman Parsons will succeed her father, Donald S. Freeman Jr., as chair of Freeman, effective July 1. Carrie currently serves as the vice chair of Freeman and has been actively involved in the business since 1985. Don Freeman will transition into the role of chairman emeritus on April 1.

Freeman, based in Dallas, provides integrated services for experiential marketing, specializing in event marketing and management. Its offerings include strategy, creative, logistics, digital and event technology.

Carrie grew up in the business and represents the third generation of Freeman leaders. She has held numerous positions in the company, including general manager, president of Freeman Exhibit Company and chief marketing officer. She has been a member of Freeman’s board of directors since 2004.

Dan Lafrance has been named president of Flanagan Foodservice Inc. He is the first non-family member to serve in that role and the third president in the history of the company. Previously the title was held by Dan Flanagan, CEO of Flanagan Foodservice.

Lafrance will provide strategic leadership to the company and will work collaboratively with Dan Flanagan, the board of directors and the Flanagan team on long-range business goals and strategies.

Lafrance has more than 25 years of experience in the consumer packaged goods industry. Most recently, he served as Canadian vice president of sales and foodservice for the Kraft Heinz Company.

Flanagan Foodservice, founded in 1977, is the largest Canadian family-owned foodservice distributor.

Tom Royer is the new CEO of U.S. Retail Flowers Inc., parent of Royer’s Flowers & Gifts and Connells Maple Lee Flowers and Gifts. He previously served as chief operating officer of the company.

Tom, a third-generation member, succeeds his brother Greg Royer, who led the company for 20 years and held the title of president and CEO. Greg will remain with the company as chairman of the board.

Tom joined the family business as a painter in 1980 and later became store manager and distribution manager before being named COO.

Paul Fowle has been named the company’s first non-family president. Fowle previously spent a 29-year career with DVFlora, a wholesale flower provider in New Jersey.

U.S. Retail Flowers, based in Lebanon, Pa., operates 19 stores in Pennsylvania and Ohio and has 400 employees.

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Anne Eiting Klamar and her husband, Rob, were physicians raising two young sons together in April 2000 when the board of Anne’s family company, Midmark Corporation, named her the company’s president.

Anne and Rob were living in Urbana, Ohio, about an hour away from the small town of Versailles, Ohio, where Midmark’s headquarters was then located. He was practicing medicine full-time; she practiced part-time while serving on the board and as part-time medical director of Midmark, a manufacturer and supplier of healthcare products, equipment and diagnostic software.

To facilitate Anne’s new role, the family moved to Versailles, and Rob became the primary parent to their children, Christian and Carl, who then were ages 5 and 3.

In 2016, Anne, a fourth-generation family member, became Midmark’s board chair. Non-family member John Baumann assumed the role of CEO. The company moved its headquarters to Dayton in 2013, though the Versailles campus remains its largest site. Today Midmark employs more than 1,800 teammates worldwide.

Anne and Rob recently took a stroll down memory lane to answer our question: What do you remember about moving to Versailles to fully engage with the family business?

Anne Klamar:

"I was pretty scared, because the company was losing money and was not in a good place. I wasn’t scared about moving back, because frankly, I was sick of the hour-each-way commute.

“There was a part of me that was scared about what was happening at the company, and could I make the company profitable and growing again? That was balanced by the relief of not having the drive and getting to spend more time with our children. I got to be the primary parent when they were little. I really enjoyed that role. Rob was a better primary parent as they grew up. So it worked well.

“Rob’s dad’s a physician, and his two brothers are physicians. I was worried about him emotionally, going from what a Klamar man does to taking a more part-time role, and how is that going to impact him with his family? [But] his dad was so proud of him, that he had the range and ability to step into that part-time role and that he wasn’t driven by ego, but rather by the right thing to do.

“From a family business perspective, there was something special about living in the same town with a lot of our teammates, and seeing them at football games on Friday nights, and seeing them in church and in the grocery store. Obviously, there was a lack of privacy. On the other hand, it felt like we were a family; it felt like we were a team.”

Rob Klamar: 

“I had no idea what we were getting into. I was focused so much on the day to day and us switching roles, my going from a full-time practicing physician to part-time, taking care of the kids and running the household.

“I went from full-time family practice in a small hospital where we took care of our patients in the intensive care unit — I did hospital medicine, I was on call every night — to five mornings, one afternoon. No calls on the weekends, no hospital, but with Anne traveling extensively.

“So I was home a lot with the kids alone. I got to volunteer in schools. On parent appreciation days, I was the only guy. I got to be a Cub Scout leader and Boy Scout leader. I got to help with the track program. So I was the one more active in the community, because I had the time available and Anne was gone so much.

“Anne was very sensitive to the public nature of her job when we moved back initially. She had difficulty going out in public, thinking that people would be judging her. But as she established herself and the company thrived, and they saw we were committed to the community, it became a much, much more comfortable fit. But there was a real adjustment period there.”

Copyright 2019 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact


Robert “Matt” Beall has been named president of Bealls Stores Inc., headquartered in Bradenton, Fla. Beall, great-grandson of founder Robert M. Beall, began his retail career at Ross Stores and joined the family business in 2004 in an entry-level buying position. He has held several leadership roles at Bealls Stores, Bealls Outlet Stores and Bealls Inc., in buying, planning, logistics, finance and store operations.

Most recently, Beall was senior vice president and chief merchandising officer for Bealls Stores. He also had responsibility for marketing, exclusive brands and planning and allocation.

Bealls Inc. operates more than 550 Bealls, Bealls Outlet, Burkes Outlet, Home Centric and Bunulu stores in 16 states.


Charles Cox has joined Holt Oil Company, based in Wilmington, N.C., as environmental compliance specialist. Cox is a fourth-generation member of the Holt family. Previously, he worked at Morgan Stanley.
Holt Oil Co. consists of Holt Real Estate Inc., Holt Transport Inc. and Holt C-Store Inc., which operates gas stations and convenience stores.


Christy Farrell has added the role of project engineer to her business development duties at Progressive Roofing, based in Phoenix. Farrell, a fourth-generation member, joined the company in May 2017.
Progressive Roofing provides commercial, institutional and industrial roofing and waterproofing services.


Charles Davis, a non-family member, has been appointed as CEO of the Jones Family of Companies, a third-generation textile firm based in Humboldt, Tenn. Davis has more than 30 years of experience across a range of family-owned textile companies.

Jones Family of Companies, founded in 1936, has two divisions: Jones Yarn and Jones Nonwovens.

Share your news in Family Matters
Would you like to recognize a family member who has recently joined the family business, board, council or foundation, or a non-family member recently named as chairman, CEO or independent director? Showcase the hiring or promotion of your key people in Family Matters. Send your announcement to — because we believe it matters!

Copyright 2019 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact


In a facility in Enumclaw, Wash.—near Mount Rainier and the Crystal Mountain ski area—a pair of next-generation entrepreneurs are distilling their ideas for a new business venture. Literally.

Brothers-in-law Sam Agnew and Tyler Teeple have spent 2 1/2 years building a craft distillery. Their custom-fabricated equipment is now up and running; whiskey, vodka, gin and flavored white whiskey are currently in production.

Sam, 36, and Tyler, 37, are fourth-generation members of The Agnew Company family enterprise, which invests in natural resources, commercial real estate and other business opportunities. But the family firm is not an investor in Agnew and Teeple's company, Pursuit Distilling Co.

"When you come from wealth," Sam says, "you want to have your own identity. And so it's kind of nice to be independent and have this be our own separate business and entity," apart from the family office.

Tyler is married to Sam's sister Ashley, who is a director of the Agnew Family Foundation. Sam is a director of The Agnew Company and chair of the Agnew family council. The family is no stranger to the alcoholic beverage business; in fact, some of their liquid assets came from the industry.

The third generation—Sam's father, Dan Agnew, along with Dan's brother-in-law, Dick Lytle, and sister, Zan Peat—founded an Oregon beer distributorship, Mt. Hood Beverage, in 1990; Sam joined Mt. Hood in 2005. In 2008, Mt. Hood and Gold River Distributing, an Oregon beer and wine distributor that the Lytle and Agnew families had established in 1977, merged with another family-owned beverage company to form Columbia Distributing, which became the largest beverage distributor on the West Coast. In 2012, the family received a lucrative offer and sold Columbia Distributing.

Spirited enthusiasm

Although Sam had worked in the family's alcoholic beverage distributorship, it was Tyler who had the vision to start a spirits business. "It was an up-and-coming industry that was, for me, really interesting, and was in line with my passion for whiskey," Tyler says. "For me, personally, along the same lines as Sam, I wanted something of my own."

Tyler worked as a pilot for Horizon Airlines and then worked in his family's business—HiStrength Bolt Co., with locations in Lakewood and Kent, Wash.—before starting the process of opening a distillery; he also serves on the Agnew family council. He says he became interested in whiskey during his college years. His interest heightened between 2008, when Washington state passed a law allowing small craft distilleries to sell liquor directly to the public and open tasting rooms, and 2012, when citizens voted to take the state out of the liquor business and allow the private sector to sell and distribute spirits. The new laws opened the door for the emergence of craft distilleries in the state, such as Dry Fly Distillery in Spokane and Batch 206 Distillery in Seattle.

"I remember reading a lot of different stories about these small distilleries popping up after the law change," Tyler says. In 2014—the year the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl—"we decided to dive into it a little bit," Tyler says. He joined with a couple of partners to form a company, White River Distillers, and created a label inspired by the football team's success. The brand, 12 Spirits, played off the reference to Seahawks fans as the "12th man" on the field.

The whiskey scored with local drinkers. "It was kind of crazy; I mean, we sold a lot of product," Tyler says. "It was a lot of fun." White River didn't make its own whiskey; another company manufactured the product for sale under the 12 Spirits brand name.

During this time, Sam was trying out a new skill: leadership development coaching. He had become a Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach and was honing his proficiency with the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment tool. After about a decade working with his family, "I had a desire to branch out on my own and go do something on my own," Sam says. He planned to establish a practice geared toward young adults from family businesses.

Tyler was an early StrengthsFinder guinea pig. "He just got me so fired up about the booze business, as I was working with him, that I just kept asking more questions and digging a little deeper," Sam recalls.

Sam's questions centered on the finance side of the business. He and Tyler realized that the key to making good money in the spirits industry was to manufacture the product. "It was more of a hobby with 12 Spirits," Sam says. The brand name was also experiencing some trademark issues, which provided further motivation to move in a different direction.

In the course of their conversations, Sam and Tyler gravitated toward bigger-picture thinking: They would manufacture their own product under a brand name that would appeal to customers beyond the Pacific Northwest.

That involved rebranding the company as well as the products. White River Distillers, named after a body of water that runs through Enumclaw, is now a holding company. Pursuit Distilling Co., the name of the new venture, is a DBA ("doing business as") name.

Leveraging human capital

Sam and Tyler together own about 75% of the company; they serve as co-CEOs. Sam oversees management, and Tyler is in charge of operations.

Jonathan Thomas, one of Tyler's partners in the original venture, is a co-owner and chief engineer. Thomas owns a welding and fabricating company and contributed his expertise in the construction of Pursuit's distilling equipment. The other partners are Chris Werner, who has a background in financial planning and investment; Andres Gonzales, a pro golfer; and Chris Greene, an investment banker.

Dan Agnew, father of Sam Agnew and Ashley Teeple, says he wanted to invest in his son and son-in-law's venture, but he was constrained by a five-year non-compete covenant signed when the family's alcoholic beverage distribution business was sold in 2012. "I know other family investors, certainly including myself, would have been happy to help them financially," Dan says. Sam and his siblings were not affected by the non-compete covenant because their ownership of Columbia was through a trust.

Sam says that although the family isn't investing in Pursuit, he and Tyler are turning to family members, including his father and his cousin Steve Lytle, for advice; they view Dan and Steve as their advisory board. "I would say they've helped navigate us through some decisions," Sam says.

"Our return as a family is financial capital, human capital and social capital," says Lytle, who had run the family's distribution business and is now an investor and a family business consultant. "Entrepreneurship outside of the family system by family members absolutely enhances their human capital. It also enhances their social capital, not in the philanthropic sense but in a networking sense. They're developing a network of resources that might be beneficial to either individual households or back to the family system, eventually. They're improving their own competency and skill set, from a human capital perspective, and they're—Lord willing, with business success—developing financial independence from the family.

"I have come to believe that in complex multigenerational families, individual independence promotes positive interdependence," Steve says. "It actually affirms our family's ability to own well together when we have our own individual assets and passions and investments. There's a dynamic interplay that enhances the entire system's financial, human and social capital."

"They've called me with a lot of questions along the way," Dan says. "What I've really tried to do is not tell them what I would do—I've tried to set out some thoughts and ideas for some options and really let them make the decisions."

Dan says he developed this approach based on his experience with his own father. "If I asked him for advice, and he gave it to me, there was an expectation that I had to do exactly what he said," Dan says, laughing. "I didn't want to do that with Sam and Tyler. I wanted them to see the alternatives and make the decision themselves—which they've done, and they've done very, very well."

Dan, a retired lawyer, helped the two entrepreneurs work through issues with their landlord; he's also reviewed their contracts and answered their questions on topics such as licensing requirements. "I was able to point them in the right direction in most of those areas—where they [could] go and source the information they needed," the patriarch says. "I'm certainly aware of who the local alcohol beverage distributors in their area are. . .the ones that I believe would give them the best help and support. So I've made some introductions there for them. But they've done all the follow-up on that themselves and made those decisions themselves."

Sam and Tyler asked Steve for help making connections and advice on matters such as budgeting and strategic planning. "That's human capital I've accumulated that I'm now redistributing to Sam—because he's asking," Steve says.

Starting up

For more than two years, the partners have been immersed in start-up tasks such as finding a location, building a commercial-size still, filing paperwork with regulatory authorities, ordering bottles, researching prospective distribution partners and beginning the manufacturing process. The nascent company receives no administrative assistance from the family office, Sam notes.

The partners built the facility with their eyes on the long-term possibilities, Sam says. "We built the infrastructure to produce a lot of product," he says. "We could potentially be one of the largest distilleries in the state of Washington if our still works the way it's supposed to work, because it's a continuous still. We were pretty mindful in [designing] the equipment, because we knew the efficiency was going to be really important."

The start-up phase has been capital-intensive. With products not yet on the market, the company hasn't received any revenue. Sam and Tyler are not drawing paychecks from the business, and they realize they might not be able to do so for three years, Sam says.

"Tyler and I are penny-pinchers," Sam says. "We've been pretty mindful with how we're spending the money. We're trying to be stewards of the resources that were given to us. Those are Great-grandpa Sam's dollars that we're putting to work."

Sam says he and Tyler recognize the potential downside. "We might not make any money, and I think the great thing is that we talk about that," Sam says. Planning ahead and taking steps to keep the burn rate low will help mitigate potential losses, he says. The upside, he notes, is that "we are very motivated to get some money coming into the company."

The brothers-in-law are upbeat about their prospects and enjoying the startup phase; their conversations are laced with quotes from the film Dumb and Dumber.

While Sam and Tyler are working closely together, they are not always in the same place at the same time. Tyler works out of the company's Enumclaw headquarters, along with production manager Rebecca Hovey, the company's first employee. Pursuit is in the process of hiring a new head distiller, who will also work in Enumclaw. Jonathan Thomas, the head engineer, runs his own fabrication shop, located next to the distillery; he spends half his time at Pursuit.

Sam lives in Kansas City, Mo., the hometown of his wife, Jenny. The couple met at the University of Kansas. Jenny is a director of the Agnew Family Foundation.

Sam travels to Washington every two or three weeks, and he and Tyler interact multiple times a day even when they're in separate cities, the partners say. "I never thought I would have a business back in the Northwest, so it's definitely been a challenge," Sam says. "I like to be present—I'm a touchy-feely guy—so it's a little tough to not be there. But what a blessing to be in a position where we can live in Kansas City, close to my wife's family."

Some of the other business partners are also based out of town; one lives in Portland, Ore., and one lives in Jackson, Wyo. All of the partners participate in a weekly phone call.

Sam has put his StrengthsFinder coaching aspirations aside to concentrate on Pursuit and his family council duties. "I do it [provide coaching services] for friends and family for free, but I'm not active" as a professional coach, he says. "This takes up all of my time."

The happiness of Pursuit

Pursuit's signature product, a flavored white whiskey branded as Suspect Whiskey, is set to debut by year's end. A marketing firm is helping Pursuit create a website and launch the brand.

Pursuit's marketing plans include the launch of a private barrel program. Each Pursuit Barrel Club member will select the proof, taste and flavor profile for whiskey to be filled in a 5-gallon barrel reserved for the member. After an aging period of six to 12 months, Pursuit will bottle the whiskey especially for the member, who will receive 24 to 36 custom-labeled bottles. Among the other benefits of membership are a discount on all items from the distillery and a "Pursuit swag kit" including a T-shirt, hat, flask and wooden box.

"They've done some great marketing research," says Dan. "They've run by me all of their different ideas for packaging, branding, naming, and I've always given them my input and advice—which they've followed sometimes, and other times they haven't."

Sam says Tyler's passion and vision were what inspired him to partner with his brother-in-law. "He would just get me super excited about booze, and I wasn't even a big drinker. It was really just the business, and then knowing that we had experience in it, that gave me the confidence to partner with Tyler and the other guys." Sam says. He notes "all the resources we have, with distributors and family members that have actually been in the space and know the space, and have connections."

"I think that's just a neat manifestation of where our family is, in the sense that you have two independent family members who—because our cohesion and our credibility with each other is high enough—choose to co-invest," says Steve Lytle. "That's a pretty cool result, from our perspective."

"Everybody in the family's very supportive and is, I think, really excited" about Tyler and Sam's new venture, Dan says. "It's pretty inspiring to me that they've chosen to do this."

Copyright 2017 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact

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