Know Your Broker: Ken Weiner

Ken WeinerOne of the ways a broker joins our team is by being a client of ours. We either sell their business, or help them buy one, and they end up loving the process and come knocking some years later. Ken Weiner is one of the former: Valerie Vaughn sold his company, Creative Candles, in 2016.

The company was a Kansas City-based candle manufacturer, started in 1961 by a flower-child artist type and her chemistry-oriented spouse. They specialized in hand-dipped taper candles and featured a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. They had a very good run for a while, but by the time that Ken bought it in 2005 it was in pretty bad shape. They had never updated what had made them successful in the first place. Unfortunately, they were people with a great idea who didn’t build a business that could stand the test of time.

In a sense, it was a fixer-upper, and Ken spent a lot of time rebuilding the brand by working closely with major customers like Bloomingdales, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, and Simon Pearce. His frequent trips to NYC made him an expert on what it took to succeed in the hard world of retail.

But this knowledge of business and its inner workings goes back to his childhood. His father owned an independent pharmacy and seemed to always struggle. Ken was only in grade school but already he had the concept that, “owners weren’t supposed to work so hard.” As he looks back on it now, he thinks his father was really a job person that got talked into a business by a friend. Indeed, Ken’s dad, “was probably someone who should have just worked as a staff pharmacist; he would have been a lot happier,” Ken muses.

This taught Ken early that skill in a particular field, be it in pharmacy, or as he would learn later on, in candle-making, does not qualify you to run a business in that field. You have to know that you don’t know a lot and be willing to learn. As you learn, you have to put together a process and training that goes along with that for your team.

On the other side of the table, with those who would like to buy a business and don’t know where to start, Ken often asks about someone’s personal and professional life. It’s not always possible to buy a business aligned with a passion (e.g. buying a candle business when you’re a big candle fan already) so he often will ask them to look back and review what they were not only talented at but really enjoyed.

When he’s not helping buyers and sellers, Ken lives in Kansas City, where he can enjoy the company of his three grandchildren, who sometimes accompany him up to the family lake home in Miami County. If you want some running tips, don’t hesitate to ask him: he’s run six marathons.

For more information on each of our brokers, view our team profiles.