In honor of Black History Month, we wanted to give our customers a closer look into our history. So we decided to spotlight the one and only Walter Nash, Sr., better known as Lefty!
Lefty sat down with his granddaughter, Taylor, and dove into growing up in Georgia, what inspired him on his entrepreneurial journey, and advice he would give anyone looking to start a business.
What was it like growing up in Georgia?
"Hard, I guess I would say. In my area and where I’m from, it was difficult because there were no jobs, there were no factories. So we didn’t have any means of working or bringing in revenue to raise the family. The only thing we could do, my parents did, they worked on the farm. When it came to farming, they didn’t have enough resources to farm... They didn’t have enough land, and they didn’t have the right equipment, so therefore, we were constantly struggling."
Did you help your family with the farm?
"Well, the only thing that the children could do was help pick the cotton or work in the cotton fields, that’s about it. But even doing that, there was no money in that for us. I can’t speak for that whole area of Georgia. I’m just speaking about the way it was for us."
What was it like to pick cotton?
"It was very hard. I didn’t see the future in it."
What made you realize you needed to get out and do something else?
"One summer, my relatives (my fathers' brother) had moved to Washington DC. They paid for me to come up to spend the summer. Being in Washington for two days, I realized that (life in Georgia) wasn't for me. It was like a light went off in your head, you know? It's just two worlds... two different worlds altogether. People here were living so much different than the people back home. There were jobs, which doesn't mean that everybody was making a thousand dollars a week, but people were working. People had jobs to go to."
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
"When I was younger, I had a paper route in Georgia, and on Saturday, I would deliver papers. When I started, I think I had about five or six customers, maybe seven. What I realized was, on my paper route, nobody would control how many customers I would get but myself. If I was willing to go out and hustle and knock on more doors, there was no limit to the papers that I could deliver on Saturday. So that's what I did. That's what led me to believe, 'hey, look, if I can go out there and get something going with the public, provide a good product, give good service, then there is no control, nobody can control my destiny but me.'"
What or who made you want to open up your business?
"My father, to be honest with you. I always used to talk to him about it. One time I wanted to get a pizza franchise, and I used to talk to my dad about it, and he would say, ‘well, man, why don’t you open up a small restaurant and don’t worry about carrying a lot of items. Keep it real small.’ He used to tell me all the time, start a small business yourself, take the time out and focus on doing a good job. That’s why we opened up Lefty’s Barbecue. And, Of course, I must say that another reason was my wife. She always supported me with any ideas I might have to try to make things better for the family."
What were some of the trials you had to overcome?
"The biggest trial so far for Lefty's Spices is realizing what you can do without spending a lot of money to get the other retail companies to carry your product. Many people I talk to at food shows (when we do food shows at Sysco) ask, "How can I get people to carry my product?"
Well, it's not easy. But the most important thing that I would recommend to people is to learn how to pick up the phone and call the company and ask for the buyer... Ask for the buyer that handles your category/ the product that you have, and they might say no. If you're thin-skinned in this business, just because they say no, you got to call them the next year. The items that aren't selling very well, they take those out and bring in new items."
What is the most rewarding part about selling your own product?
"The most rewarding thing for me is getting feedback from the public. We hear positive things, and of course, there are some negative things also, but it's the idea that the majority of the feedback we get is positive. Being able to (because of my wife) put all this together is rewarding because she enjoys the feedback. It's rewarding for me because if we continue to do a good job, work hard, this will be something for my children and my grandchildren. That's what it's all about for me."
What advice would you give someone starting a business?
"The first thing I would tell them is to get a good lawyer!
I would tell anybody who wants to get into a business to make sure you know your numbers. When I say 'know your numbers,' make sure you know how to sell your product and how to price your product. Next, make sure you know what numbers you're looking for in the business. Make sure that you like what you're doing. Because if you like what you're doing, even though you might have some ups and downs, you will still be able to continue to stick with what you're doing. Even though you might not be breaking-even, you're willing to grind it out if you like what you're doing.
So the most important thing is to like what you're doing and be willing to put the hours in. Make sure that if you have family, your family supports you; that means a lot."
We hope this interview will give you an inside look at our history and what it’s like being a proud black entrepreneur.
Happy Black History Month!