Veteran entrepreneur hopes to share lessons he learned with others

April 25, 2018

This piece is presented by Zeal Center for Entrepreneurship.

Kurt Loudenback had built a successful career helping lead other companies but decided to run his own 15 years ago.

He and his wife, Valerie, founded Grand Prairie Foods Inc. in 2003 and have grown the 15-person organization into a 150-person team. The company provides food products to a range of clients, including major hotel chains, convenience stores and private-label customers.

Loudenback recently became the newest member of the Zeal board of directors and said he looks forward to working more closely with the entrepreneurial community.

What motivated you to join the Zeal board of directors?

As an entrepreneur myself, I am passionate about helping others, so they can “pay less tuition” than I did! I have a soft spot for people who have a vision of developing an enterprise from their personal ideas. It is the epitome of the American Dream and a major driver of our economic growth. We need more of this kind of effort in Sioux Falls, and I am enthused about helping to foster that spirit.

After spending much of your career working for others, what motivated you to buy your own business?

Like many other small-business owners, I was motivated by being accountable to myself. I spent 18-plus years with a Fortune 100 company and experienced six ownership changes in those 18 years. I became weary of spending too much time and money strategizing about what we planned to do instead of doing it. I decided that if I was going to fail, I was going to do so because of my own fallibility, not because of someone else’s lack of leadership and reluctance to take risks.

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What’s the biggest thing you wish you had known as a new business owner?

Plan for success — break even — to take twice as long as expected and require twice as much capital. Build those assumptions into your business plan and pro forma, and plan accordingly.  If you are fortunate enough to not need the extra time or money, then congratulations. Experiencing the opposite is no fun.

Even though you’re 15 years into your entrepreneurial journey, do you still find helpful resources at Zeal?

I personally and others at our company have become heavily involved in utilizing SDM&T (South Dakota Manufacturing & Technology Solutions) services. To see more on those services, click here.

How do you see yourself personally becoming more involved at Zeal?

I would love to someday advise and mentor young entrepreneurs about the perils of starting and scaling a business. Being prepared is key, understanding your strengths and weaknesses is very important, so you can build a team that complements your own skills. Too many entrepreneurs think they can do it all. I feel I can coach people through some of those difficult issues.

Veteran entrepreneur hopes to share lessons he learned with others

Kurt Loudenback had built a successful career helping lead other companies but decided to run his own 15 years ago. The lessons he learned can help other entrepreneurs as he joins the board at Zeal.

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