PART 2: Mollenhour Gross “into everything from airplane parts to Red Stag Fulfillment”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the final article in a two-part series sharing the experiences that Knoxville’s Jordan Mollenhour has encountered as an entrepreneur, the lessons that he has learned, and the aspirations for the community that he calls home.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
As noted in part one of this series, Mollenhour Gross is an owner or investor in what the company describes as “exceptional businesses that are a testament to their founders’ character, hard work, and market success.”
“We’re into everything from airplane parts to Red Stag Fulfillment,” Co-Founder Jordan Mollenhour says in describing the latter company, a very rapidly growing nationwide eCommerce business that specializes in the big, heavy stuff that is harder to ship and harder to store. With its current facilities in East Knoxville and Salt Lake City, Red Stag can reach 96 percent of the U.S. population within two days, even as it adds 700,000 square feet of fulfillment space as phase one at its new Sweetwater campus.
Where Mollenhour and partner Dustin Gross landed after the “Great Recession” is a very different sector from the great success they experienced before the 2007-08 financial collapse. “We tested a few business models before settling on online retail,” he explained. “We’re a house of brands that are completely different from our real estate experience.”
Mollenhour Gross lists 10 portfolio companies on its webpage, starting alphabetically with ADPma, the aircraft parts and components provider located in Piney Flats, TN, and ending with StoragePug, founded in mid-2017 to provide the customer-focused eCommerce tools that independent owners and operators of self-storage facilities need to compete with the chains. All but one of its investments are in or near Knoxville.
Other portfolio companies include: (1) Bonvera, a health and wellness company; (2) Byers Printing Company, an 89 year old company that serves the needs of the County and Township Clerks across the State of Illinois; (3) DGS Energy, a nationwide turnkey HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) services provider; (4) Kellyco Metal Detectors, a provider of detectors and accessories for more than 65 years; (5) PTAC Crew, the nation’s only provider of turnkey PTAC (packaged terminal air conditioner) installation services in the lower 48 states; (6) ShipStream that optimizes inventory management and fulfillment needs; and (7) SPT, short for Southeastern Packaging Technologies, a vertically integrated complete solutions provider for industry leading flexible packaging products and flexible filling and packaging solutions.
“Eighty percent of any business is the same, regardless of sector,” Mollenhour says, citing three key items – leadership, communications, and basic blocking and tackling. “The other 20 percent is product specific. It’s about getting the right leadership and other people and having the right KPIs (key performance indicators).”
As an investor in companies in different business sectors, we wondered about due diligence and understanding risks.
“I’m not a lavish risktaker,” Mollenhour told us. “We carefully evaluate opportunities to remove as much risk as possible. They need to be carefully engineered decisions that map to success.”
That said and possibly reflecting back on the “Great Recession,” he noted, “If you fail, lessons you learned from that experience are going to translate into what you do next. If you fail, you’re not starting from zero the next time.”
In recent years, Mollenhour has become more visibly involved in the community. He’s on the Board of Directors of several organizations including the Knoxville Chamber, East Tennessee Historical Society, Knoxville Science Museum, and Trinity Health Foundation of East Tennessee. He was recently appointed to the Tennessee State Board of Education and also serves as a member of the Board of Advisors of the Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Mollenhour is bullish on the region and is actively helping to recruit other business and employers to East Tennessee stating, “I want to see my community thrive, so I’ve dedicated time to becoming an unofficial ambassador for East Tennessee,” he explains.