CEO Series: Curt Waisath
President and CEO, Gold Canyon
How did Gold Canyon get started?
We started Gold Canyon because my wife wanted to stay home with our kids. And I’m a CPA, so I could tell her exactly how much she had to make in order for us to survive financially. That was back in 1995. … We always loved fragrances in our home, but we were always disappointed when you’d go into a store and smell a candle and it’d smell great and you’d bring it home and light it — and no fragrance. Our other pet peeve was when you would light a candle and it would burn right down the middle. So we said, ‘We’re going to create a candle that will throw fragrance through your whole house and will burn even and clean from top to bottom.’ We thought, ‘Hey, that’s easy. It’s just wax and fragrance.’ Well, two years later we finally figured it out. … About that same time we adopted our second child and he was from New Mexico and we went to pick him up. On the way home we were discussing the pros and cons of starting this little candle business and on that trip we decided, ‘Yep, we’re going to do it.’ So I went back to work on Monday and said, ‘Hey, we have a brand new baby boy and I need to give you my two weeks notice.’ I don’t know what we were thinking; a brand new baby and no income. We really, really believed in our product and knew we had something special.
How has the recession affected your business?
We definitely felt it with the recession. I don’t think we felt it as badly as, possibly, the rest of the world. But we felt it. We provide a great opportunity for individuals (demonstrators) to actually make money. In a recessionary time like this, where people are struggling and can use $200 or $500 a month, it makes all the difference to their family. We have that opportunity for them to do that. And so we’re starting to see more and more people join the business and start selling for us.
What are some of the strategies your company has employed to meet the economic challenges brought on by the recession?
Our strategy has changed a little bit during this economy. We really focused on obtaining new customers into our business, for and on behalf of our demonstrators. So we’ve done a lot of marketing out in the world, whether it’s Internet or advertising or different promotions to draw new customers into the business. We believe we have the world’s finest product, but the world is not running to us. And we keep saying, why is the world not running to us? And we believe it’s because they don’t know about us. So our focus during this time has been to really let people know more about Gold Canyon.
With so many people losing their jobs, the number of entrepreneurs in this country has grown. What advice do you have for these new entrepreneurs?
If I had to give advice to an entrepreneur, I would have to say believe in your product. Whatever you’re doing, you have to believe in it wholeheartedly. And then I would suggest them jumping in with both feet. I think so many entrepreneurs say, ‘I’m going to do this on the side and when it takes off I’ll quit my job.’ I just think it’s very difficult for a business to take off without you working it full time. I think that was one of our successes. We jumped in, new baby and no income, but with both feet and we had to make it work and it did.
What signs, if any, do you see that the economy is improving?
We had a great June and a strong July. Some of the figures we look at in our business is the average party size. Our partysize for both June and July was up over the prior year. That’s a big indicator for us. Our average fundraiser size is up over prior year for both those months, as well as our average Internet order. All those are really key indicators that started kicking in for us in June andJuly.
What are the keys to being a successful leader in a startup company?
I think the key to success to leading a small group really is understanding the people that you are working with. We always hear people are your greatest asset — and they truly are. It takes a leader that can understand and can motivate and inspire people to want to come to work. It’s different for us as an entrepreneur that owns the business … we live and breathe it and are empowered by that. A lot of times co-workers don’t have that — it’s a job. And they are inspired by other things, whether it’s money or their outside adventures with their family. So how do you get a co-worker to say, I want to go to work and I want to make Gold Canyon better? That’s what I look for in a leader that can come into a small organization like us and inspire people to want to own their world and make it better.
- Started Gold Canyon with his wife, Karen, in 1997
- Worked as an accountant for seven years at Henry & Horne.
- Holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from the University of Utah and a Masters in taxation from Weber State University
- Board of directors for the National Candle Association and the Direct Sales Association Vice president for the Prayer Child Foundation