Doss Cunningham ’04 lives life according to his personal mantra: grow and give back. Cunningham, a graduate of the Professional Program in Accounting at Mays Business School, personifies an entrepreneurial spirit and a willingness to take risks in order to succeed.
Formerly on the way to becoming an accountant after graduation, Cunningham shifted directions when he learned more about Woodbolt International, a nutraceutical company based in Bryan. He was immediately drawn to the company but says family and friends were skeptical of his decision to join the startup. “Other people saw the risks,” he recently told a group of Mays Business Honors students. “I saw the opportunities.” After a few years at the company, Cunningham took over as Chief Executive Officer.
Founded in 2003, Woodbolt International supplies nutritional supplements to retailers in over 40 countries, including major clients such as GNC, Vitamin Shoppe and Costco. Woodbolt is growing rapidly: from $1 million in revenue and five employees when Cunningham joined in 2004 to a revenue run rate of $225 million and 130 employees today. Texas Monthly has also recognized the company in its ranking of the top 100 workplaces in Texas. Official rankings come out in April.
Cunningham praised the Bryan/College Station area for its great startup culture. “There is a lot of intellectual capital here,” he said. Cunningham credits Mays Business School in particular for helping build the foundation for his success. “Mays really gave me the tools and the skillset to be successful as an entrepreneur,” he said.
The chief executive described Woodbolt’s core values: fun, excellence, innovation, service, quality and, perhaps most importantly, people. “Our culture is about building effective people, not just effective business professionals,” said Cunningham. “Everything we do is about people.” The company encourages collaboration and fun among its coworkers, and is involved with local charities. Woodbolt also places a high emphasis on building trust with its customers and doing the right thing for product end users.
However, Cunningham especially emphasized the importance of clarifying a sense of personal identity and happiness and using these insights to forge the right career path. “You only get one chance at life,” said Cunningham. “There’s no better time in your life than now to take a risk.”
Sarah Solcher ’15 reflected on the event as a positive learning experience. “I truly enjoyed hearing from Mr. Cunningham because he shared big picture advice encouraging entrepreneurship as well as day-to-day actions that led to his success,” she said. “I was encouraged to evaluate and confirm my life purpose to be effective in my personal and professional lives.”
Cunningham explained to the students that with the right attitude and a unique skillset, anyone could be an entrepreneur. “You don’t have to be an idea guy or an inventor to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “What a lot of people don’t have is a business background. That was something I was able to bring to the company.”
Cunningham offered five key takeaways for the students:
- Don’t be afraid to fail, because you grow through failure.
- Define your purpose and what will make you truly happy.
- Maintain a work-life balance; it is critical to learn how to manage both your personal and professional lives.
- Never stop pursuing education, whether it is through mentors, books, conferences or another outlet.
- Be confident enough to make tough decisions and stand by them.
“Mr. Cunningham encouraged us to find a life mantra and to have confidence in ourselves,” said Joshua Scott ’14.
Cunningham described his own life purpose as using his success and many blessings to give back to others, especially by serving as a mentor. He said his most rewarding opportunity has been hiring and developing people.
“What are you ultimately trying to do in life?” he asked the students. “The answer to this question is your compass.”
About Mays Business School
Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School educates more than 5,000 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its undergraduate and MBA programs, and for faculty research. The mission of Mays Business School is creating knowledge and developing ethical leaders for a global society.