Life Is Change

Tab 1

Spring 2013


Moving between four different countries in a six-year time frame — and leaving a secure position at a large company to start not one, but two businesses — might seem overwhelming to many. Not to Joe and Lesley Heron.

 

These South African natives say change is in their DNA. “South Africans are accustomed to change more than any other culture,” Joe says, referencing the country’s history of apartheid and political dissension. “We look at risk and opportunity in a different way. Some dogs bark at sticks in the water; others jump in to get the sticks. We jump in.”

 

The latest life change for the now Minneapolis, MN-based couple: selling their four-year-old hard apple cider business, Crispin, to MillerCoors in February 2012 and partnering with The Private Client Reserve one month later to help them manage their wealth.

 

“One lesson that’s really important for anyone making any kind of change is everything has to start at the beginning. People tend to think in terms of the end goal, but you have to think of the individual steps to achieve that goal as well,” Joe says. “You don’t go from A to Z; you go from A to B.”

Lesley and Joe Heron; photo by David Bowman

 

A Passport to Change

By that measure, “point A” for Joe and Lesley was a nearly 9,000-mile relocation in 1995 from Johannesburg, South Africa, to West Sussex, England, with biopharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb. Two years after the move, Joe joined Novartis Pharmaceuticals, which transferred him to Stockholm, Sweden, three years later.

 

After an 18-month stop in Stockholm, the company tapped Joe in March 2001 to run its North American business from Minneapolis. So for the third time in six years, the couple — along with their children, who were 6 and 8 at the time — packed their bags and headed to a new, unfamiliar land.

Tab 2

Spring 2013


Ready for a Career Change

While Joe and Lesley adjusted quickly to a new life, something else proved amiss. Joe’s travel schedule for his job with Novartis started to weigh heavily on the family, so Lesley suggested they start their own healthy energy drink business.

 

“Having worked in the pharmaceutical business, Joe knew a lot about nutrition. It just seemed like a natural fit,” she says.

 

"People tend to think in terms of the end goal, but you have to think of the individual steps to achieve that goal as well. You don’t go from A to Z; you go from A to B." —Joe Heron

 

Recognizing a lack of healthy energy drinks in the marketplace and a large angel investing community in Minneapolis, the Herons founded Ardea Beverage Co. and launched Airforce Nutrisoda in 2003. The business did so well that the couple sold it to Pepsi America just three years later. And in 2008, armed with capital from the sale of Ardea, they were ready for the next change: founding Crispin.

“We were interested in a space in the market that hadn’t been exploited, and cider was undeveloped in the United States compared to the rest of the world,” Joe says. “Having done something once, you get a degree of confidence that you can do it twice. We understood the basics of getting a company off the ground.”

 

Of course, moving from corporate employment to self-employment brings some adjustments. Namely, the “9-to-5” no longer exists. “Your business is your life,” Joe says.

 

The Herons also learned that starting a business requires three kinds of capital. “Most people understand intellectual capital — the big idea — and financial capital — the money to do it,” Joe says. “But most people don’t think about emotional capital. You need the support of your family and friends.”

 

For the Herons, that emotional capital came in the form of friends buying cases of Crispin ciders when the company first started. Later they would find tremendous joy in walking into a store and seeing a stranger buy their product.

Tab 3

Spring 2013


But the true secret of success when starting a new business is a predisposition to entrepreneurship, the Herons say. “You have to be quite stupid to start a business,” Joe says, laughing. “Who in their right mind would actually think they could start a business that could take on Coca-Cola or Budweiser?”

 

Another Year of Transition

For the Herons, 2012 quickly became another year of life change, starting with selling Crispin to MillerCoors in February. Today, they operate Crispin as an independent entity of MillerCoors’ craft brewing division.

 

Joe sees this latest change as a best-of-both-worlds scenario. “Because we operate with a high degree of autonomy, we’re still given our entrepreneurial legs,” he says. “But we also benefit from the business intellect of a large company. Working with MillerCoors is helping me to think more strategically.”

 

He attributes MillerCoors’ interest in Crispin to the fact that its products fill a niche in the marketplace. “If you’re a large alcoholic beverage company, you don’t need any more vodkas or whiskeys or beers, ”he says. “MillerCoors was looking for products that could enhance its portfolio and realized the value we could bring.”

Just as MillerCoors tapped Crispin for the value it can provide, the Herons in March 2012 tapped The Private Client Reserve in a similar fashion. “We were looking for a partner we could trust to manage our wealth so we don’t have to think about it,” Joe says.

 

David Gutzke, Wealth Management Advisor for The Private Client Reserve, is taking a holistic approach to his partnership with the Herons, working closely with their tax consultant and other partners, for example. “We are trying to add value for the Herons by doing work behind the scenes and only getting their involvement in the bigger, more important decisions,” he says.

 

For Lesley, the partnership with The Private Client Reserve is helping her navigate the family’s latest changes: their now college-age kids heading out on their own. “It’s the small things that mean so much, like with our kids in college and gaining some financial independence, which comes with the possibility of making mistakes,” she says. “The Private Client Reserve is watching over them and helping them, and that’s just been fantastic.”

 

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