PART 3: Randy Holmes leaves corporate world, starts WEBTEC

Open Chord(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a four-part series focused on Knoxville businessman and entrepreneur Randy Holmes.)

By Tom Ballard, Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiatives, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.

“I built a five million dollar division quickly, but I did not fit into the corporate world,” local entrepreneur Randy Holmes said about the roughly four-year period when he aggressively pursued the nasal dilator manufacturing opportunity.

He had teamed with a large local medical device company and was earning a good salary while building a strong contract business. However, it just wasn’t what the entrepreneurially-minded Holmes wanted. So, he resigned, and with the encouragement from his wife Trish and his childhood friend and business partner Richard Perry, they started WEBTEC Converting, LLC on May 1, 1998.

The decision was a bold one. Over the next eight months, Holmes says, “I was focused on sales and found other converters to do the work.” He quickly generated $300,000 in contracts.

By the end of the year, Holmes had aligned with the North Carolina machine builder, the “nuts and bolts guy” who helped him develop that manufacturing process for the nasal dilator opportunity.

“We perfected the process,” Holmes said. By spring 1999 WEBTEC was ready to take back the nasal dilator business, and it landed its first purchase order in July for 10,000,000 strips.

“We went from three employees – me, my wife and her father – to 40 employees overnight,” he recalled with a smile.

The new business drove a long and sustained period of growth for WEBTEC. Starting as one of the client’s converters, WEBTEC ultimately became its sole source supplier.

“For 10 years, it was like Monopoly money,” Holmes said. “It was money in, money out.”

WEBTEC manufactured other products and grew to a 200-employee, $35 million company by early 2011. Holmes proudly notes that it was one of the largest adhesive backed manufacturers in the world.

It was during the summer of 2011 that an unexpected opportunity provided a major life change for Holmes.

WEBTEC was invited to bid on a major wound care contract for a United Kingdom (UK) company, and it won the business.

Do you remember Victor Kiam and his famous commercial about Remington Products? “I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company,” Kiam declared.

Well, the same thing happened for Holmes and WEBTEC. After landing the wound care contact that would be the second “Golden Goose,” Scapa, a UK-based competitor, bought WEBTEC in December 2011. Holmes agreed to stay on the Operating Board of Directors for two years, a responsibility that ended less than a year ago.

“When I sold WEBTEC, I had to get into something,” Holmes said. The lifelong musician chose that field. Today, most of his energy is focused on the Open Chord Brewhouse and Stage at 8502 Kingston Pike in Knoxville and artist management.

The renamed venue is something that Holmes has decided to take to a much larger scale than the business he formerly co-owned with a partner.

NEXT: Building a venue that could grow into a franchise.

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