Reflecting on being thankful this holiday season, I obviously think about owning Rhino Foods. What started out as a way to make some money on the side, while being the assistant coach of the UVM hockey team, has turned into a 37-year journey. My wife, Anne, and I opened Chessy’s Frozen Custard at the Champlain Mill in Winooski, Vermont, because I loved eating frozen custard and Anne had been waitressing for several years (sounded like a good idea at the time). I am grateful for making it through all the hard times in the early years, and for the never-ending challenging times that present themselves in any business.
I am most thankful for past and present Rhino employees. I find it amazing that we have numerous people that have worked for ten, twenty, and even thirty years at our company. Our Employee Principle states, “we establish relationships with our employees and their families founded on a climate of mutual trust and respect within an environment of listening and personal expression.” I believe striving to achieve this Principle has allowed Rhino employees to stay motivated, engaged, and personally committed to a culture in which we think of ourselves as a family. Our 2018 building expansion and renovation project, which was just completed this summer, is a tribute to our vision to have a facility we are proud of, meets the highest standards for food safety, and supports our culture.
We wouldn’t be a successful company without the long-term relationships we’ve built with our customers and suppliers. Our culture values honesty and clear communication of good and bad news; this has served Rhino well and strengthened relationships within our supply chain. I’m thankful for the many customers who have been with us for over twenty years. I’m grateful that customers see value in our way of doing business and the quality of our products resulting in growth for Rhino and for our customers.
I’m also thankful that we became a Certified B Corporation in 2013. This has allowed us to be included in a worldwide movement where business is a force for good. My passion – to impact the manner in which business is done – became our company’s Purpose in 1990. Our company had about 40 employees at that time; we now have over 190. Most of our innovative ideas and solutions have not come from me, but from others at Rhino dedicated to our Purpose.This year we were honored to receive the Hal Taussig Be the Change Award. This recognition is very meaningful to me and our company. Most recently, I have become even more focused on supporting the notion of an inclusive economy. The more I learn and open my eyes to the privilege I personally have experienced in my life, the more important it is for me to see Rhino make improvements in our diversity and inclusion efforts.
Finally, I am grateful that I have had the opportunity to start and lead a privately-held business. I have been fortunate to have:
- Very supportive parents who always encouraged me in everything I tried.
- My wife, Anne, who has been working with me to build Rhino, raise our sons, and create a great home and family.
- My son, Ned, who in addition to his business, has created all of Rhino’s amazing videos, and is a part-time employee of the Rhino Foods Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission to spread innovative workplace practices that champion employee financial stability and make good business sense.
- My son, Rooney, now on the leadership team at Rhino as the Program Manager for our EU Operations, Co-pack Sales and B Corp Certification.
I wouldn’t have predicted that starting a custard stand with my wife, when we had no kids and did all the work ourselves, would turn into Rhino Foods, working side by side with my sons, and employing over 190 people from many parts of the world. I am thankful for all of it, as well as for all the employees, customers, and suppliers that have made it possible.