By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
During his early years with Tennessee Tape and Label, Randy Holmes displayed a propensity for trying new things.
One instance that he recalled in our recent interview was attending an Amway seminar.
“I decided I could sell hot air balloons,” Holmes recalls, and his first target was Rax Roast Beef which had locations in Knoxville. It was also during this time that he left Tennessee Tape and Label and joined some friends in buying an old Checker Cab and launching a pizza delivery business.
“It only lasted six months, and I crawled back to Tennessee Tape,” Holmes said in his characteristically very candid manner.
He recalls a time in the md-1980s when Tennessee Tape and Label’s main supplier – 3M Corporation – asked its supplier to cut pressure sensitive tapes for use in medical devices.
“That opened the door for medical tape conversion work,” Holmes said. As the company’s “clean freak” – he did not like getting ink on his hands, Holmes was the person assigned to handle the project. This opportunity led to him to eventually becoming Operations Manager for TTL Medical, a new subsidiary of Tennessee Tape and Label.
“I learned everything about business from the ground up,” he admits.
At the same time, Holmes also was continuing to pursue other opportunities. “I always had something on the side in addition to a steady job with benefits,” he says. One such undertaking was selling real estate.
“The medical converting market started really taking-off,” Holmes recalled. “There were all kinds of products being developed from wound care to catheter securement.”
By the early 1990s, TTL Medical was getting to be known as an innovator is the medical device community, and Holmes had met an inventor, Bruce Johnson, who had created an adhesive nasal dilator to improve breathing. That would turn out to be the “Golden Goose,” as Holmes described it.
“Bruce had signed an agreement with a company to market the product, and was seeking a company to manufacture it,” Holmes explained. “I’ve always been able to take something and visualize how it could be manufactured.”
He worked with a friend in North Carolina who could “put the nuts and bolts to my idea,” in other words, doing the Computer-aided Design work.
The nasal dilator opportunity “opened a can of worms,” Holmes acknowledges, so he left Tennessee Tape and Label on May 1, 1994 to pursue the new opportunity.
“I went from blue collar to white collar,” he says.
NEXT: Building a successful division of another company, then his own company.