When Michael Schall, chief executive of Austin (Tex.) snack-food company Guiltless Gourmet Inc., appeared on the cover of frontier last April, he was literally buried in a pile of tortilla chips. It seemed apt. While Guiltless Gourmet's baked tortilla chips had been a hit in the early 1990s, the company was in big trouble. Frito-Lay had introduced a baked chip of its own and was snatching market share. To survive, we opined, Guiltless Gourmet would need "not only a careful plan, but some Texas-sized luck."
So where is Guiltless Gourmet today? Schall shuttered the plant, outsourced production, and began searching for a partner. Enter RAB Holdings Inc., a specialty-food distributor and owner of kosher-food giant B. Manischewitz. In November, RAB bought Guiltless for an undisclosed price and installed Schall as Manischewitz' new CEO. Now he's living in Jersey City, N.J., managing 200 employees, and he has big plans for Guiltless Gourmet and Manischewitz.
Over the past five years, we've profiled hundreds of entrepreneurs. We decided to check back and see how some of them had fared. It's no surprise that a company's fortunes can change overnight. But even we were astonished at some of the twists and turns we discovered. In the pages that follow, you'll meet a mild-mannered manufacturer-turned-business-guru; a well-regarded consultant who, at the age of 57, suddenly decided to start a company of her own; and a stressed-out entrepreneur who abandoned a $7 million company to live on the beach in California.
Revisiting the past proved to be an instructive exercise for us. Part of our job at frontier is to find interesting and innovative small companies, outfits that have the most to teach their fellow business-owners. Many of our entrepreneurs thrived; others no longer exist. But that's the way it goes for small businesses: You never know what's going to happen next. Just ask Schall, who quite unexpectedly finds himself in the matzo business. "It's a fascinating journey," he says. As well as one without a map.