The right people. With the right products. At the right time.
Brybelly Holdings Inc., an e-commerce and product development company founded in 2004, had that winning combination right from the start. Like many businesses, it started with a friendly connection and an idea.
Co-founders Jeff Smith and Knute Lentz first met at an accounting firm where they both worked.
“Knute and I had a lot in common. We would get together on the weekends and play cards,” Smith said.
They noticed other people were gathering to play cards at home, too – specifically, poker. The game seemed to be growing more and more popular.
“So Jeff approached me at the time and said, ‘Hey, would you like to go in with me? I found a supplier in China and we could buy poker chips and sell them on eBay,’” Lentz said. “He had done all the research, the economics all looked great. It seemed like a great idea.”
They both seemed to know that was just the beginning.
Soon they developed more brands and categories—sporting goods, children’s sporting goods, toys and education. What had started out as a small firm peddling poker chips was soon growing 20 percent every month for the first year. That’s 20 percent. Every. Month.
“My garage was overflowing with inventory,” Lentz said. “My wife was pretty much ready to kill me.”
That’s when they met Old National Corporate Banking Executive and Senior Vice President Brian Henning. The right person. With the right products. At the right time.
“When I first met Jeff and Knute they had literally just started this business out of their garage – and we discussed what they wanted to do with this company,” Henning says, noting that although they were growing rapidly, they still were rather small for their national bank. “(They) really just weren’t getting a lot of attention.”
Through Old National, Henning gave them their first line of credit, and the company continued to grow. Within a few years, Brybelly was operating three facilities and then, in 2016, decided to build a state-of-the-art 200,000-square-foot distribution center that would allow them to better serve customers.
“This company has gone from 5,000 square feet all the way up to 200,000 square feet, with plans to expand in the coming years to an additional 150,000. And that’s really the type of growth they’ve gone through,” Henning said.
Smith and Lentz see no end in sight for their success.
“We honestly believe our opportunities are endless. They are limited merely by time and money. Old National has come through for us on the money piece, which has allowed us to grow,” Lentz said.
It’s about partnering with clients, Henning notes. Being a trusted advisor and making sure they have the adequate capital they need to successfully and profitably grow their company.
“At the end of the day, it’s really our job as a bank to ensure their net worth improves over time,” he said.
“Brian is great,” Smith said. “He has always enthusiastically wanted to learn about what we do here. I’ve always enjoyed walking him through the business, showing him the changes. You can see in his face how excited he is for us. I feel like he’s been a partner. He’s been part of the team.”
It’s a team Henning is proud to be on.
“What we’ve learned from Jeff and Knute is that they have so much passion for their business, it’s contagious,” Henning said, noting that you can see the founders’ passion has been passed on to those who work at Brybelly. “You can see that with their employees, the culture that they’ve created. It’s really something we all should follow.”
The company now has a fitness room for employees, as well as a lounge and a half-mile walking path.
“We wanted to build something that employees would like to come to every day,” Lentz said.
Fourteen years ago, it started with the right people with the right products at the right time – and that’s how it has continued.
“Looking at how far we’ve come over the last 14 years, it’s been a great journey,” Eric says. “I’ve always felt that we would get here, but now, finally making it, it’s been a realization of a dream.”