Small Business Success Story: International Nut Company
Hugh Memmott has parlayed his passion for relationship building into a thriving international business.
We sat down with International Nut Company LLC owner Hugh Memmott to learn more about his journey to becoming a business owner, how he’s grown his export business and his top tip for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Name: Hugh Memmott
Title: Owner, International Nut Company LLC
Hometown: Colonia Dublan, Chihuahua, Mexico
Current residence: Saratoga Springs, Utah
Education: Associate degree in accounting and computer information from Utah Valley Community College, bachelor’s degree in international relations from Brigham Young University
First job: Working on his father’s farm starting at age 12
Why did you want to start International Nut Company?
Because my dad was an entrepreneur, I always knew deep down that I was going to own my own business — I just didn’t know what it was going to be.
After college, I had several jobs in the ag industry, working as a general manager and in different sales positions for a variety of companies in California and Washington. As I talked to some of my buyers, they were very open in saying: “Why don’t you start a business? We’d buy from you.” That’s how it started.
I just looked in the mirror one day and realized that I didn’t want to be 60 years old and not have at least tried starting a business. I think I would have kicked myself.
We buy from grower-handlers in California and sell overseas to the wholesale trade. Our primary area of focus is almonds, but we have expanded to walnuts, pistachios and cashews, and we’re looking at adding dried fruit. They go hand-in-hand. Our markets include the South Pacific, Pacific, Middle East and Europe. Almost all of our business is overseas.
What was the biggest challenge when you started exporting?
I was a sales guy before, so I had to learn all facets of the business. From not only selling but figuring out how to track it in a system, how to input it. I was responsible for the logistics, making the contracts, getting them signed, selling the product and invoicing for it.
Name one thing that prepared you for running an international small business?
There’s no way that I could have started this business not having the experience in agriculture that I had from all of my many wonderful employers.
What tips do you have for someone who wants to start exporting their product(s)?
Do your homework. Due diligence is a powerful tool. If you think that you’re above that, you best not even go into business.
I travel every year to see my suppliers, and I sometimes meet suppliers with buyers from overseas. Anymore, you need to meet face-to-face. There are different sales strategies. I could just act as a trading company and do business with anybody, but that’s not our model. Our model is to pick and choose who we work with. We look for honesty, integrity and fairness as well as doing business so it’s pleasing to all.
If my buyer is happy and my supplier is happy, then I’m happy. If one of them is not happy, then I’m certainly not happy.
When I started out, I did business with people I knew were honest and had integrity and were fair. That’s how I started. As you expand, you think, how do I find new buyers? There are different industry meetings, seminars and shows and you meet people and you get introduced to people. Most of the business expansion came from a current customer providing a referral.
I think you’ve got to have a hunch for what you’re doing, you’ve got to be passionate about what you’re doing, and sales relationships are what I’m passionate about.
What role did Zions Bank play in your journey?
Where Zions Bank has been a big plus for us is with collection of payment from our clients. All of the documentation from the transactions is funneled through the Zions Bank Global Banking Department.
They present documents to the buyer’s bank, and the buyer ends up paying through their bank to our bank. The customer can pick up the documents at their bank and then pick up the cargo at the port. It’s a good process and I would recommend it.
Looking to follow in Hugh’s footsteps and start exporting your product? The Zions Bank Global Banking team helps clients address the challenges and mitigate the risks of transacting business around the world. We have a robust global correspondent banking network and an experienced staff of global trade bankers and foreign exchange officers to work with you.
Nicola McIntosh is social media manager for Zions Bank.