When talking about Green Bay area business success stories, it's likely that Terry Lemerond will come up in conversation.
Lemerond, owner of the Terry Naturally retail stores and brand of products, will be one of the featured speakers on a Green Bay SCORE Zoom event, "Business Legends of Green Bay," scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday.
He will join Rick Chernick, CEO of Camera Corner, and Scott King, past president of Bank One, in giving participants an opportunity to ask questions and get business tips. To register, go to the events section at www.greenbay.score.org.
Lemerond has had such a varied career that it is difficult to summarize it. Active in the natural health industry for over 45 years, he has developed over 400 formulations and says he has changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. He is a retailer and a wholesaler; he has built and sold one successful company and then started another. His Terry Naturally brand includes eight products that rank in the top 20 nationwide in sales and is sold in more than 4,000 retail locations.
It is a journey that began with a path that wasn't easy, Lemerond says. He says he spent his teenage years addicted to sugar and extremely overweight. He had blood sugar problems and depression.
"I was angry, obnoxious and belligerent," Lemerond said. "In high school, I was voted as the most likely to go to prison, because I would rather fight than talk."
That changed through the mentorship of what he calls "three angels in my life." The first was a priest who counseled him about what his future would hold unless he changed; the second was a Marine Corps captain who introduced him to his first health food store and took him under his wing even though he was a lowly private; the third was the owner of Bay Natural Foods in Green Bay.
"When I came home after serving in the military, Green Bay had its first health foods store," Lemerond said. "I was working full time at another job, but I worked for her for free because she couldn't afford to pay me. When the time came for her to move on, she offered to sell me the store."
He told her he didn't have the money to buy it, and she offered it to him on consignment. For the next 15 years, Lemerond stayed in that store, and because he was unhappy with the quality of some of the products, began to develop his own.
That led to opening Enzymatic Therapy and the manufacture of a line of nutritional supplements. As growth exploded, Lemerond said he made a regretful decision.
"The company had grown very large, and people told me I was in over my head," he said. "I'm an entrepreneur, not a business person, and I followed their advice and sold in 2000. Just days after selling, I regretted it; that business was my life. I don't golf or sit on the beach; my work is my hobby."
Because he had signed a seven-year non-compete agreement, he was prohibited from manufacturing products but was allowed to operate a health products store. That led to Terry Naturally (there are now two stores) and a rebuilding of what he had lost.
He continued to do product research and learn as much as he could in order to produce the best and highest quality products. He planned for the future; a future that would begin after the seven years passed. It turned out to be quite a comeback.
The attention to formulation resulted in the development of products like Curamin, the No. 1 natural pain reliever in the United States. He has 60 sales reps that cover the country and about 100 employees. He contracts with top manufacturers to ensure the quality of the products, and his business continues to grow despite that he has never written a business plan.
"I am an entrepreneur, not a business person," he said. "I go by how I feel and my faith in God. I take things to the edge and take risks. If my gut tells me to do it, I just do it. I don't ask 10 people what to do, because they don't know either."
But he does hire people who excel in specific areas of operations while he does what he's best at. Even after 50 years, work days start at 5:30 a.m., and he works diligently to direct the philosophy of the company, spend time on product research and development, and prepare for his weekly radio show that started in the 1970s. On a daily basis, he reviews his goals, because he says you'll never know if you've reached a destination if you don't know where you want to go.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.