For a lot of aspiring entrepreneurs, purchasing an existing business can seem like the golden ticket to success, especially if that particular company holds a special place in the public’s heart. However, it’s important to remember that nostalgia alone is not enough to sustain or grow a business. In this episode, Gene Marks and Stephanie Stuckey, Chair of Stuckey’s Corporation, share the strategies that she used to revive the iconic brand.

Podcast Key Highlights

  • What Role Does Emotional Connection Play in Reviving a Brand?
    • Small business owners need to have a strong emotional connection to their brand so that they can ignite the same level of fervor in their team, their customers, and their potential vendors.
    • Seeing a business owner who is really passionate about their
      brand, particularly if they run a family-owned business, really resonates with customers.
    • A strong emotional connection to your business is what keeps you going during the difficult times.
  • How Can New Business Owners Convince Investors to Finance Their Business Without Any Prior Experience?
    • If you’re on a limited budget, seek out free resources that will enable you to put together a pitch deck for your meetings with investors.
    • Next, you need to build a team of experts who can help you fill in whatever skill gaps you might have; these working relationships should be mutually beneficial for everyone involved.
    • Lastly, be prepared to use your own assets as collateral; you can’t expect others to put everything on the line for your business if you’re not willing to do this yourself.
  • How Do You Implement Jim Collins’s “Hedgehog” Concept?
    • Your “hedgehog” is the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at, and what you can make money at.
    • Once you discover what works, you let go of all the practices that no longer serve you.
  • How Do You Approach High-Profile Experts for Their Help?
    • Let the aforementioned individual know how much you enjoyed their work, making sure to cite all the specific points that made an impact on you.
    • Once you’ve initiated a conversation with them, politely request 20 minutes of their time for further discussion.
    • If you’re feeling particularly bold and you’ve already built a strong rapport, invite them to become a member of your advisory board. Make sure you’re upfront about your limitations and your expectations.
  • How Do You Recruit and Retain Your Ideal Team Members?
    • Be brutally honest with yourself about your skill set, both in terms of strengths and weaknesses. Then, recruit the necessary talent.
    • It’s vital that each of your team members feels recognized for their contributions, either through a senior position or financial compensation.
  • What Are Stuckey’s Current Goals?
    • At this time, Stuckey’s is attempting to scale their business to meet the higher demand for their products.
    • Their current expansion plan includes selling more equity, getting a USDA loan, and utilizing new market tax credits.



The views and opinions expressed on this podcast are for informational purposes only, and solely those of the podcast participants, contributors, and guests, and do not constitute an endorsement by or necessarily represent the views of The Hartford or its affiliates.

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Gene: Hey everybody, it’s Gene Marks and welcome back to another episode of The Hartford Small Biz Ahead. Thank you so much for joining us. Whether you’re listening or you’re watching. Today, I am here with Stephanie Stuckey. Stephanie is the Chair of Stuckey’s Corporation. Come on guys, you have heard of Stuckey’s, right? I mean, it’s a generational thing I guess. I grew up with Stuckey’s. I’m familiar with the brand. I’ve eaten many, many Stuckey’s products over the years in rest stops, gas stations and food markets around the country.

Gene: And it’s one of these iconic brands and like any company that’s been around for a long time, I think 85 years, something like that, there’s been ups and downs. I want to hear the story. So first of all, Stephanie, thank you so much for joining.

Stephanie: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.

Gene: So first of all, let’s get the whole story. Okay? You are a Stuckey. So you’re the granddaughter of the founder of the company. Am I getting the whole family?

Stephanie: That’s right. I’m the granddaughter, one of them.

Gene: So walk me through, first of all, how did you wind up as chair of the corporation? You can go all the way back to 1937 if you want to to begin this story.

Stephanie: I’ll just go back three years.

Gene: Okay.

Stephanie: I had a career as an attorney and focused on environmental advocacy. I was a state representative for 14 years here in Georgia and I was also head of sustainability for City of Atlanta in addition to working as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Georgia. So I had this whole career lined up for me and I think this is what hopefully will resonate with your audience is that it’s never too late to pivot with your career and if an opportunity arises, sometimes you should really go for it, even if it is a complete 180 degree turn from where you were. And that’s exactly what happened to me. It was November 2019, which all of us will remember soon became a very crazy time for our country and for our businesses with COVID.

Gene: Sure.

Stephanie: But I really got a call one day from one of the partners who owned Stuckey’s at the time and said, “The business is for sale, do you want to buy it?” And I had zero background with the company. A very, very quick thumbnail history of what had happened. My grandfather built the company from a roadside pecan stand in the middle Georgia to at its peak, over 360 stores in 40 states and really was synonymous with the road trip. We were the first roadside retail chain, but he sold it. There were decades of outside corporate ownership and the brand was trash. It was six figures in debt and that’s when I was presented with this completely unexpected opportunity to buy the company back.

Gene: So you had no involvement with the company over these years. Was there anybody else from the family involved at that point?

Stephanie: No.

Gene: Were there any Stuckey people working there?

Stephanie: Well, I don’t want to get too bogged down into history because I think it’s more important to talk about how we’re moving the brand forward, but just very high level, after several corporate owners, my father and a group of his business partners got the company back at that point, there was a lot of litigation involved and real estate was being unloaded. It was a hot mess and they had a bunch of corporations that they owned at the time.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: And Stuckey’s was just one of a portfolio and they focused on the brands that were more profitable

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: As you said, with a lot of respect and admiration for that whole team, which obviously included my father, but they had sold their main company and the remaining assets, which included Stuckey’s. Stuckey’s was not profitable. They had all retired and there had been a decade of them being retired.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: With a very skeleton crew and the company just, the last few years really taking a nosedive. It gets like any business that’s been around that long, you’re going to have sort of a messy, complicated history. But very big picture, it was a series of outside corporate owners that led it to where it had been when I bought it.

Gene: How about as a kid, did you have any experience yourself with the business? Did you work there as a kid?

Stephanie: No.

Gene: As a summer job or anything like that?

Stephanie: No.

Gene: Nothing about the business itself, manufacturing food, which is really what you’re doing. I mean the only connection was you shared the name. Is that a correct statement?

Stephanie: Yeah, we’d road trip like every other family in the sixties and the seventies.

Gene: Yep.

Stephanie: And we pulled over at Stuckey’s and certainly it had our family name on there and I knew my grandfather. I was 12 when he passed away.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: So I had this emotional connection to them, but I never had this notion that someday this pecan log roll empire will all be mine. Right? It wasn’t our company anymore. And so I had an emotional connection to it but never thought I would somebody be running it. So in that respect, we are your atypical family business because it fell out of our family.

Gene: Right. Understood.

Stephanie: Yeah. How often do you get the chance to buy your family’s back?

Gene: Bring it back.

Stephanie: It just hardly ever happens.

Gene: Yeah, which I assume is, I mean that’s the story. Right?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: If you’re going to turn a company around and you’re going to brand it or rebrand it as it is, the story of the granddaughter of the owner coming back, same last name and taking over the company and going to bring it back to its former glory, I’m assuming that was the attractiveness not only for you but also for the current owners of the company to sell it to you.

Stephanie: Yeah, a hundred percent. And I think it’s really important to stress that that emotional connection is really important. So whether you have a family business is very rare that someone’s going to have the opportunity that was presented to me just like this. But the fact that you have to have this emotional connection to a brand and then you have to figure out how do you parlay that emotional connection, that internal passion that you feel, externally to customers, to your team, to the vendors you work with. That’s, to me, how we’ve managed to grow the brand. And we have, we’ve gone in 38 months from two million to 14 million in sales and it’s all rooted in get that emotional connection.

Gene: Yep.

Stephanie: It’s sometimes easier if it’s a family brand, it’s your name up there.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: But it doesn’t matter. And by the way, we have a guest, my cat.

Stephanie: Apologies. I’m working from home today.

Gene: Very cool. I have a little dog that jumps into these kinds of videos as well. So no problem at all.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: So Stephanie, also for me as a customer, knowing that I’m buying a product from a family owned business where the family is still involved and again the granddaughter is the chair of the company, that resonates pretty well with me as a customer. I like that. It’s a selling point and we all sort of are romanticized by family owned companies and I think a lot of people support that. I guess my question is for you, and it’s important for our audience as well, how did you convince your investors or backers or your financiers behind this deal? I mean, I can see if I’m your banker, I can see, “Okay, Stephanie, you’re awesome. You have a lot of great skills. You’re the granddaughter of the former owner of the company,” but you yourself said, I mean you’re a lawyer and a politician.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: So I’m like, “Well, before I invested you or give you my money, what do you know about running a manufacturing company with distribution around the country?” How did you convince people to back you given that you came into this with relatively little experience in the area?

Stephanie: Yeah, an emotional connection is only going to take you so far. The important thing with that emotional bond is that when times are really hard, that’s what’s going to keep you going. But a hundred percent you’ve got to put together the financial package if you’re going to grow a company and you have to speak the language of business, which is understanding a balance sheet and an income statement and putting together sales projections that are rooted in data. And I lack those skills.

Stephanie: So a couple of takeaways I would have for small businesses that are listening is one, and no disrespect if you happen to be a consultant, but if you are a small business on a limited budget like we were or I was initially, it was basically me, I looked to free resources. I couldn’t afford a consulting firm. So the Small Business Administration has resources, the University of Georgia and every state has a small business development center that is run through their public university system. So I went to the small business development center and they helped me put together a pitch deck and financial projections and make sense of our balance sheets in a way that could tell a story. So that’s where I used my emotional aspect is, “All right, how does the balance sheet reflect that story that we can really grow this company?” So they worked with me, but this is the most important thing I did. So number one, take advantage of some free resources out there. Don’t spend your money on consultants if you don’t have the money for it.

Stephanie: The second thing is build a team and surround yourself with smart people who fill in the gaps. So it took a while, it took me over a year of frankly barely making ends meet and I kept searching for help and a partner and I met the perfect partner. So you have to figure out what is your strong skill and what is your gap and how can you compliment that with someone else in a way that’s going to be mutually beneficial. So I knew my gap was the financial acumen and frankly the company needed to be more profitable. And I knew my skillset was the brand, the emotional connection and the ability to communicate, be the face of a brand. We had a great story. So I paired myself with a wonderful business partner. His name’s Robert Gainer Lamar. He goes by RG, RG Lamar, and he is a third generation pecan farmer. He had the knowledge, he knew how to run a business. He had a small pecan snack company and he was looking to scale by getting into manufacturing. And I said, “Well, I’ve got a brand. You’ve got the financial know-how,” and together we merged our resources.

Stephanie: And I’ll be honest, if you’re a small business and you’re a startup, you got to put skin in the game. Second takeaway was build a team. Third takeaway is you’re going to have to put your own assets in. So my house is collateral, everything I own is collateral. My life is collateral. I had to take out a life insurance policy. But we got a bank loan and we put together the financial reports and we convinced our small town community bank to invest in us with an SBA loan in rural America. And we bought a manufacturing plant and that’s been the secret to our success.

Gene: So let me recap first of all.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: So here you are, you’re jumping into buying this company. First of all, you leaned on a lot of the free resources that are out there, that not a lot of people know about. And you’re right, the Small Business Administration, they not only provide help and counseling directly to businesses, but they have organizations like SBDC, Small Business Development Centers, which under of the SBA’s arm.

Stephanie: Yes.

Gene: And they’re at most universities around the country.

Stephanie: Yes.

Gene: Also, I don’t know, there’s other parts of the SBA like SCORE, for example. There’s a lot of resources.

Stephanie: Yeah, I’m a poster child for the SBA.

Gene: Which I love.

Stephanie: In fact, my local Small Business Development Center did a case study on us. I mean, we cannot say enough good things about them.

Gene: And it’s interesting to hear about your experience with the Small Business Development Center. Sometimes it’s hit or miss. I have some clients that have great experience with them, some not as much. But if you’re paired with the right person and a SBDC connected with the university, like you said the University of Georgia, a lot of times the people that are helping you are, they’re economics majors, they’re grad students, they’re professors, they want to get involved as well. So you really can find some talent in that bunch.

Stephanie: Top-notch.

Stephanie: You get some retirees who are sort of at the end of their career have a wealth of experience, they still want to contribute, they still want to be engaged, which was our experience. And I mean we could not have afforded that level of expertise.

Gene: Got it. I’m jumping over the team part because I’m going to get back to that in a minute, but you also got the finance that you needed. SBA loans, I’m assuming you got a 7(a) loan from the SBA?

Stephanie: Yeah. 7(a) loan.

Gene: Yeah. Which again, for those of you guys that are watching or listening, these are loans at market interest rates, they’re I think 80 or 90% guaranteed by the federal government.

Stephanie: Yes.

Gene: They’re given out through a network of banks. So you worked with a community bank that I’m assuming is an SBA lender.

Stephanie: Yes.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: I won’t do, a big asterisk to that though.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: Like I mentioned earlier, it’s great, it takes a while. It’s a lot of paperwork.

Gene: Yes.

Stephanie: And it’s personal collateral.

Gene: Yeah.

Stephanie: You have to put personal collateral.

Gene: So you had to put money up yourself and collateral.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: Yeah.

Stephanie: So you got to be prepared to deal with that risk. And if you are super risk averse or your finances are not where you can do that, it’s not the right loan vehicle for you.

Gene: Interesting that you say that because first of all, you’re absolutely right. And some people don’t realize when they start up a business that they’re going out financing that whoever is going to be loaning or investing into your company, they expect to see you put skin in the game. Why would they be risking all of their assets if you’re not going to be doing the same? So that comes as no surprise to me either. And it’s great to hear that you did that. Both of those things, the advice that you got from Small Business Development Center, setting up the loans and all, did you do all of that after you bought the company or before?

Stephanie: I was clueless.

Gene: You were clueless, right.

Stephanie: I was clueless. I had no idea how to pull this company out of the ditch.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: It took me a year to figure out. Have you read Good to Great by Jim Collins?

Gene: Yep.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: Of course.

Stephanie: I mean, I read it like three times and he calls it the hedgehog, figure out what your hedgehog is. And that is the intersection of what you’re passionate about, what you’re good at and what you can make money at. So you figure out what’s the intersection and I had to let go of what was not working. So part of his model is once you figure all that out, then you’ve got to quit doing what isn’t your hedgehog. Right? And so I realized our hedgehog was no longer the roadside retail chain. We couldn’t make money at that. We didn’t have the financial resources for it. There were only 13 of the original 368 stores still standing. We didn’t own or operate any of them. It was a franchise model, which has been converted today to a licensing.

Stephanie: So we weren’t profitable with that model. And so I had to pivot and figure out, all right, with my business partner and with this manufacturing plant, we can make the most delicious pecan snacks in the world. Really, they’re amazing and I’m passionate about that. Pecans are the only snack native to this country. Georgia, where we live and where we’re based, is the number one place in the entire world for pecan production. We provide a third of the nation and the world’s pecan crop and we can make money at it.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: So that’s what we’re doing.

Gene: Okay. I have so many questions for you because it’s a fascinating story.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: So hats off to you for having the self-confidence to recognize what you’re good at and what you’re not great at. And you nailed it in the sense that people want to know about you and the company, your face, your name. It’s a great story to tell. So you’ve got that experience and obviously it seems like you’ve got some background through both your political and your legal experience of branding as well and licensing and understanding that world. But it was important to bring on a business partner, RG.

Stephanie: Yeah. Well, I have a secret weapon. We got a third business partner after RG and I merged a year later. His name is Ted Wright. He wrote a book called Fizz Marketing and has a firm called Fizz Marketing. I was just a huge fan girl of his book. It’s a how-to on word of mouth marketing. And I read his book and I reached out to him and it took about six months of us just having conversations for me to convince him to come over and be part of our team. Now he still runs his company that’s very successful, but he is one of our co-owners. There’s three of us now, and he is the marketing expert and he’s coached me and trained me. And I think I had just some natural ability at that.

Gene: Sure.

Stephanie: But it was raw and needed some education.

Stephanie: He’s helped me a lot with that.

Gene: This actually, in all years I’ve been talking to entrepreneurs and business owners, this is a really, first time I’ve heard this. I’m sorry, what was his name again?

Stephanie: Ted Wright.

Gene: So when you brought Ted in, did you bring him in as, if you feel comfortable talking about this or not, did he get some equity in the company or did you bring him on as an employee or was he just a consultant? What was the relationship?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: And I’ll explain to you in a minute where I’m going with this, but I’m just kind of.

Stephanie: Well, it was gradual.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: Because I would say a corporate partnership is just as important as a real life partnership.

Gene: Yeah. Yes.

Stephanie: And I’ve heard a quote and I don’t remember who said it, but they compared corporate partnerships to marriages and they said only a marriage is easier to get out of.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: So choose very wisely.

Gene: Okay. Well, the reason I bring that up…

Stephanie: And take your time with that. I’m sorry?

Gene: The reason why I bring that up is because there are a, I’ve never really heard of somebody who’s read a book that they loved and influenced them a lot and were like, “You know what, for God’s sake, I’m going to go out and talk to that author and see if that author wants to get involved.”

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: And it’s a genius move to make because there are so many talented people out there that are writing great books.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: That would be open to working with companies even on an equity, even to becoming an employee, but it doesn’t have to be, you can work on arrangements. So I guess that lesson is really, really important to…

Stephanie: But I would if I can just add a little context to that.

Gene: Sure. Yeah.

Stephanie: Is you don’t just reach out to them obviously and say, “Oh my God, I love your book. I’m a fan girl. Will you be my business partner?” Right? So the initial was, “I love your book,” and you say very specific things to show that you actually read the book and took notes and it made a difference. So I reached out to him and that and said the reasons why I loved his book and said, “Can I have 20 minutes of your time?”

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: Right? Make it easy, do an easy ask. And he said, “You know what? I love Stuckey’s.” So I feel like I started on third base because I had a preexisting brand that some people, and you said in the intro were generational, we can get into that, but that’s been one of our challenges is introducing the brand to new generations. But he knew the brand. He’s older, not old, but of an age that would remember it. And so he said, “You know what? I grew up stopping at Stuckey’s and my grandfather loves Stuckey’s.” And he said, “Come by my office for lunch. We do this thing once a month where we help a company that can’t afford us, but my team likes to give back to the community and I’ll give you a free brainstorming lunch session.” And it was great. That session ended up lasting for two hours. So the initial request is, “Can I just have 20 minutes of your time?”

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: Or even 15 minutes. And then the second request, which took a while because I kept having conversations with him, but then I said, “Will you be on our board?” And so we had this advisory board and I said, “Can you be on our board? We can’t afford to pay you anything, but we would love for you to be on our board.” And he said, “Well, I’m not just going to be on your board because you want free marketing advice.” And I said, “Well, I’ll be honest. I’m asking you to be on the board because I want free marketing advise.”

Stephanie: He said, “Well, I appreciate your candor.” He came back to me and said, “Okay, I will do the board service.” And then shortly after that, we negotiated him being an equity partner.

Gene: It’s a great idea.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: And by the way, you’re mentioning of forming an advisory board is also a great idea and another topic for another time because that’s also…

Stephanie: Yeah, but that’s a way to bring people in who…

Gene: It is.

Stephanie: We were clearly punching above our weight.

Gene: Yeah.

Stephanie: So if you want to try to get some of those people roped in, say, “Well, I’d love for you to be on our advisory board.” And sometimes people are really open to that.

Gene: Yeah, yeah, I agree. I agree. Next question that I have for you, technical. You mentioned that you bought and you brought up this manufacturing plant and you’re making great candy. Again, you’re not a manufacturer, I don’t know what you know about making Stuckey’s candy.

Stephanie: I don’t.

Gene: Right. I don’t know what RG knows about doing that, he sounds like, I know he’s got his own pecans.

Stephanie: He does. Actually, he’s really good at that. He had a manufacturing company.

Gene: In other words, was that the main thing that he brought to your team was the technical side to make this great product, would you say?

Stephanie: Operations and financial know-how.

Gene: Good. Okay. All right.

Stephanie: And really good at execution. You can’t just have a bunch of visionaries on your team. You got to have some doers. And I’m a doer too, but I like the visionary thing as well. So you just got to make sure that, you have to be brutally honest with yourself about what your skill sets are.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: And that doesn’t mean that you abandon things that you’re not good at because maybe reading financial statements isn’t my strongest point, but you can’t be involved with a business at the level I am and not have a basic understanding of how to read financial statements.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: So yes, he is now our chief executive officer. We recently made that move because I wanted to make sure he was being recognized for the contributions he was making. And I’m the chair, which we’re equals in running the company, but I’m the external facing brand ambassador. I do the speeches, I do the marketing, I do a lot of the pitches for the sales, but then we have an amazing sales director who really manages the sales.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: And she’s the secret sauce to all that. Her name’s Arlene Puckette and she’s amazing.

Gene: You built a great team and that’s been important to do. So I want to make sure we have enough time. I have so many questions for you. But Stephanie, as we’re sitting here right now, we’re in early fall 2023, having this conversation. And as transparent as you’d like to be, I’d love to know what your top two or three issues are on your mind. What’s keeping you awake at night right now with the business? And share with us, and you can consider this to be a public therapy session, what you’re doing to address these issues. I mean, obviously, I’m not going to say you have all the answers and I’m not going to say you figured it all out or whenever.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: But as you’re driving around to work today, you’ve got some headaches on your mind and I’m sure you’re formulating, “Okay, well this is what my plan is going to be to deal with this.” So for other business owners that are out there watching this or listening to this that have similar issues, and I bet you we do.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: I think we’re all curious to hear what those issues are, what you’re thinking about, how you’re addressing them. You want to share some of that?

Stephanie: Yeah, I’m just going to share one, which is our main issue and I think it’s one that most business owners face. Hopefully it’s a good problem to face because it means that you’re successful and that’s scaling.

Gene: Okay. Tell me what you mean by that in Stuckey’s world and what you’re doing about that.

Stephanie: Yeah, we’ve exceeded our ability to produce, our sales have been crazy good and we’ve got to be able to meet the demand.

Gene: What are you going to do?

Stephanie: We are in the process of putting together our expansion plan, actually we are in the process of expanding. And it took a lot of strategizing to figure out how we could do that within our current capacity. And when you scale, you have to figure out, so what’s your access to capital?

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: You can either grow organically, the old-fashioned way and just continue to grow with sales, which takes a long time if you’re looking at manufacturing and we’re talking millions of dollars to expand our production.

Gene: Yep, right.

Stephanie: So that would take a few years?

Gene: And takes away your working capital.

Stephanie: And we’re ready to sell now. Right?

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: We got the accounts lined up, we want to strike while the iron’s hot. So there’s that. You could sell more equity. Right?

Gene: Okay.

Stephanie: And there’s all sorts of options. Do you want private investors? Do you want to do private equity? Do you want to do venture capital? Do you want to have angel investors? Do you want to do a crowdfunding? Trust me, we’ve looked at all those different options and all those have risk of losing control.

Gene: Sure.

Stephanie: Or do you want to take out a loan? Do you want to use some sort of loan vehicle? And then in the loan category, you looking at a bank, a private financial institution or are you looking at some sort of government program?

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: So for us, it’s been a diversified mix of putting together that capital stack. And we are in the process of getting a USDA loan for small businesses and rural communities for manufacturing. So knock on wood that, we’re waiting for the underwriter to get back to us on that. But we also got funding for our equipment with new market tax credits. And I am by no means an expert on that, we had an outside consultant. And in this case we did get a consultant, Pete Byford is his name. He’s absolutely amazing. And it’s so complicated. I highly encourage folks, if you’re looking at a new market tax credit, first of all Google it and really try to understand it. But if…that qualifies, it’s a good way to get access to capital. And we got some real money through that and it financed our equipment.

Gene: If I could just delve into this just very quickly. On the financing side.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: So you got USDA loans. So a lot of business don’t realize that besides the SBA, there are other government and departments that have loan programs.

Stephanie: Oh yeah.

Gene: So on the USDA’s, I’m kind of curious, how’d you find that program?

Stephanie: The internet.

Gene: Fair enough.

Stephanie: I’m telling you, there are so many resources out there that weren’t available to my grandfather in 1937 when he was standing on the side of the road starting Stuckey’s. I cannot tell you how many hours in the evening I’m watching YouTube videos and reading books. I read Reid Matthews, I hope I got his last, no, Reid Hoffman. I’m sorry. Reid Hoffman.

Gene: Reid Hoffman, yeah.

Stephanie: Yeah. Netflix among many, many others.

Stephanie: Yeah. I mean so many businesses that man founded, he wrote a book called, oh gosh, it’s on scaling.

Gene: He wrote a book on scaling. Yeah, right. So you’re on the internet.

Stephanie: That was very, very helpful. Reid Hoffman, I’ll remember it in a minute. It’ll come to me.

Gene: That’s okay. So you’re on the internet, you’re reading.

Stephanie: Read books.

Gene: Obviously reading books. There’s a lot of self-research that you were doing.

Stephanie: A lot of research.

Gene: But you were focusing on the fact that the government does all for this and also the new market tax credits as well. This is also a government funded thing where there is a refundable tax credits you can get for making investments in certain areas. And we won’t go into details on that to get it.

Stephanie: Yeah. Run it through the IRS.

Gene: Yep. So when you think about this, which is fascinating to me as well, Stephanie, is that a lot of the funding that you’ve gotten from your business, you either got guaranteed federal loans through the Small Business Administration as well a free advice.

Stephanie: Yes.

Gene: And now you’re also getting loans from the USDA, public government agency. You’re getting tax credits that are issued from the IRS. These are refundable credits that are being used to plow back into the business. So the takeaway there is if you’re looking for financing for your business, particularly if you’re looking to scale your business, there’s a lot of available capital right from the government itself before you have to go to a traditional bank. And before I let you go, I have to also ask you, you mentioned that you are evaluating potentially banking, getting a loan there. We won’t talk about equity choices you have. What do you perceive the credit market to be like now? I mean, the prime rate as we’re talking right now is expensive.

Stephanie: Yeah. It’s hard.

Gene: Expensive.

Stephanie: It’s hard.

Gene: So is that a non-starter for you or is it just one where you’re going to have to tread very carefully if you go for financing from?

Stephanie: Tread carefully.

Gene: Right.

Stephanie: And sometimes you get locked in at these rates, so you really do have to tread carefully. And that’s where you look at these other options. Like we are a hundred percent trying to drive more sales. And so let me give a shameless plug, if you are listening and you need a corporate gift program, please consider Stuckey’s because you can help us with our growth. So we are looking at heavily driving sales.

Gene: Good.

Stephanie: And then we might, we have a couple of team members who are very involved with the company already. So if we do any more equity investors, it would be very strategic. It’s people we have relationships with who are in it for the long haul. So I’d also advise if you are looking to go the equity route, be very thoughtful in what your intentions are. Do you want someone who’s going to pull out in four to six years and look for a very specific ROI? In which case, maybe private equity is the route for you because there is money in private equity now and offices, family offices, are looking to invest. Or do you want someone who’s a long-term partner who is going to bring other skillsets to the table? So then you might look more like at the angel investor route, is what I refer to him as.

Gene: Fair enough. Stephanie Stuckey is the Chair of Stuckey’s Corporation. Stephanie, first of all, you mentioned earlier that Stuckey’s has a great brand recognition among an older generation. I’m 58, so I remember Stuckey’s.

Stephanie: Yeah, we’re almost the same age. I’m right behind you, I got a birthday in a couple of months, I’ll be there.

Gene: Got to penetrate that younger market.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: And I think that that’s something that’s really doable and that’s a whole other conversation we can have at another time. How do you market to millennials and Gen Zs? Get to get this…

Stephanie: Whole other conversation, yeah.

Gene: And it would be a fun conversation.

Stephanie: There is a lot of data out there on it too.

Gene: There is and there are a lot of options to do if you spend your money the right way. But we’re out of time. You’ve been awesome. So thank you so much for joining us. This is a great conversation. Hang on while I’ll do my exit and then…

Stephanie: Oh, can I just say real quickly how people can reach me?

Gene: Yes.

Stephanie: Please get our website, Follow me on LinkedIn. I cannot follow back. Unfortunately, I’ve maxed out. But message me on LinkedIn, I do get messages, or you can message me via our website or find me on all the other socials at @stuckeysstop.

Gene: And Stephanie, do you have a favorite Stuckey’s product to recommend?

Stephanie: Our pecan snacks. They are absolutely addictive. So we do a kettle glaze, sea salt, honey roasted and maple. You can find them at retailers all over the country, which is how we’re really elevating the brand. So pull over at Travel Centers of America or Wawa, if you’re in Florida, Pilot, select Pilot locations, Murphy USA, MAPCO, and you’ll find our snacks. And I just love taking road trips and snacking on the kettle glazed. That’s my favorite.

Gene: Not only are we about the same age, but we have the same tastes and likes. So thank you.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Gene: Stuckey’s candy and the pecan snacks are just fantastic. Again, thanks so much, Stephanie.

Stephanie: Thank you.

Gene: Everyone, you’ve been watching and were listening to The Hartford’s Small Biz Ahead podcast. And if you need any advice or help or tips in running your business, please visit us at or My name is Gene Marks. Thanks for being here. We’ll be back to you next week with another episode with another great guest like Stephanie. Take care. We’ll see you soon.

Gene: Thanks so much for joining us on this week’s episode of The Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. Here, please give us a shout-out on your favorite podcast platform. You know, your ratings, reviews and your comments really help us formulate our topics and help us grow this podcast. So thank you so much. It’s been great spending time with you. We’ll see you again soon.