PPA | Mays Impacts

Kyle Koehler ’09 is an unlikely founder of a food manufacturing company. Yet Wildway –the company he co-founded in 2012–has benefitted from his financial acumen, commitment to health, and desire to live a values-based life that supports the creation of a better world. Koehler’s unconventional but highly successful path led to his selection as Mays Business School’s Professional Program in Account (PPA) 2021 Rising Star Award.

This honor recognizes a recent PPA graduate who is making a substantial impact on society through business acumen, exceptional leadership, or entrepreneurial success. “Kyle represents exactly what the PPA Rising Star Award is intended to recognize: he is a young, successful entrepreneur who co-founded Wildway just three years after graduating from Texas A&M University,” said Dr. Nate Sharp, head of the James Benjamin Department of Accounting in Mays Business School and the Nelson D. Durst Endowed Chair in Accounting. “As a PPA Rising Star, Kyle’s success demonstrates that ‘advancing the world’s prosperity’ often goes hand-in-hand with improving people’s lives. We are incredibly proud of what Kyle has accomplished with Wildway.”

An Adventure in Entrepreneurship

Koehler, who was born and raised an Aggie, took a circuitous route to being an entrepreneur. After graduating from Mays PPA Group 17, the native of LaGrange, Texas lived briefly in Austin before moving to New York City, where he worked for Ernst & Young. However, the big-city lifestyle eventually took its toll. “The corporate life got draining and exhausting, especially in New York City,” he said. “The hours and days were long and living there wasn’t fulfilling in my personal life. I wanted to pursue something that spoke to the values that I had personally and the lifestyle that I wanted to live.”

Kyle and his wife at the time, Kelli, decided to return to Texas, selecting San Antonio as their new home. “The main reason we chose to move back to San Antonio was to be closer to family,” Koehler said. “Family has always taken precedence for us and the importance of family is also built into our company culture. I always tell our people that family comes before your job and to never sacrifice family for work.”

The city also has proven to be a good fit in other ways. The proximity to the Hill Country offers ready accessibility to outdoor activities. Additionally, San Antonio’s business-friendly environment has been instrumental in the Koehlers’ rapid success as food entrepreneurs. “San Antonio is a very business-friendly city with a strong entrepreneurial culture and a great workforce,” Koehler said. “We would not be where we are today if we had to deal with the cost of building a manufacturing business in a more expensive city or state.”

Clean Eating

The idea to create Wildway was sparked by the Koehlers’ decision to clean up their diet. “We took out a lot of added sugars from our diet and started eating really healthy. We felt really good with it,” he said. “We made snack items for ourselves that were gluten-free, didn’t have any sugars, and were made with really clean ingredients. At one point, we wondered whether we could turn this into a business and make something of this.”

After founding the company in 2012, Kyle and Kelli spent the next year testing products and formulations for clean and tasty cereals, granolas, and snacks at the city’s small farmer’s markets. Feedback and sales proved promising. “The first time we attended a farmers market in San Antonio, we made enough granola for the entire weekend,” Koehler said. “When we sold out of everything in a little over an hour, that’s when we thought that we might have something worth building on a larger scale.”

Healthy Growth

Now, the company’s products can be found on the shelves of over 2,000 grocery and health-food stores across the nation. Wildway is sold in a variety of leading national and regional supermarkets, including H-E-B, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, Kroger, and Wegmans.

The business, which currently has 12 employees, differs from many other food manufacturing companies. “We do all of our manufacturing in-house, which is a little different from a lot of food manufacturers that outsource their manufacturing to a firm that specializes in food manufacturing,” Koehler said. “We built our manufacturing plant from the ground up and there’s a lot of learning experiences there.”

This business model works, and the company’s rapid growth has caught the industry’s attention. Wildway was selected from 700 applicants to be among the nine companies to participate in the Chobani Food Incubator. The Aggie-owned small business was also one of 10 chosen for the PepsiCo Incubator. Both incubators mentor entrepreneurs as they grow their business to the next level.

Feeding Success

The Mays graduate’s role continues to evolve as the company grows. Originally tasked with handling the accounting as well as a broad range of jobs necessitated in a small business, Koehler now primarily oversees the business’s finances and operations. Kelli, who was recognized by the Association of Former Students in the 2021 “12 Under 12 Young Alumni Spotlight,” focuses on marketing.

Koehler credits much of the company’s success to what he learned at Mays and Texas A&M. “There are a lot of people who go into business without a business background because they are passionate about a product, a particular service or particular thing they can make,” he said. “The business background for me was very important in starting and growing the business. Knowing how to read a financial statement and how to balance a budget when we were first starting out was incredibly helpful. I think a lot of extracurricular activities that I was involved in at the university also helped with my leadership ability and ability to manage people.”

As the company continues to grow, Koehler remains dedicated to bringing positive change to the world through manufacturing clean food. “Kyle epitomizes the Aggie core values, especially excellence, integrity, and selfless service. Wildway, the company Kyle and Kelli have created, provides a high-quality product intended to make people’s lives better and healthier,” said Dr. Mike Shaub, the Deloitte Professional Program Director Professor. “Kyle shows his integrity in being uncompromising about being fully himself, and his focus is on others, whether that is the customer or his employees. He wants a healthy work environment, a healthy community, and a healthy world. He did not go into this venture to get rich, but to make the world a better place by what he saw as a genuine need. What better way to advance the world’s prosperity?”

Categories: Alumni, Former Students, Mays Business, News, PPA, Programs, Texas A&M

Mays Leader Forum - Blake Pounds 11.15.19

Categories: Accounting, Alumni, Energy, Executive Speakers, Former Students, Mays Business, Mays Transformational Leader speakers, News, PPA, Programs, Texas A&M

By Jacob Billings ’19, accounting and MIS

Grant Thornton LLP’s CEO Mike McGuire is looking for three things in today’s professional services leaders – curiosity, career focus, and courage.

McGuire noted the accounting industry is rapidly changing, thanks to digitization. Clients are beginning to expect substantive contributions immediately even from entry-level staff.

McGuire was invited to speak at Mays by Dean Eli Jones as part of the school’s Transformational Leader Speaker Series. He was the focus of a roundtable discussion with students that was led by Professional Program in Accounting Director Mike Shaub. He also met with key leaders at Mays. …Read more

Categories: Accounting, Executive Speakers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, PPA, Texas A&M

The Mays Business School Department of Accounting and Professional Program (PPA) recognized several former students for their outstanding achievements and continued support of the accounting program at Texas A&M University. The recipients were recognized at a dinner in College Station with faculty and peers on April 25.

Accounting Hall of Honor

The Accounting Hall of Honor recognizes annually those who have contributed to the growth and success of the accounting program over an extended period of time. The 2018 honorees are Richard Hanus ’76, Stephen Parker ’88, Robert Penshorn ’89, and Jack Suh ’97. Hanus is a retired EY partner, Parker is an assurance energy partner at PwC, Penshorn is a partner at Deloitte & Touche LLP, and Suh is a partner at Deloitte and the first PPA graduate to be inducted.

Lifetime Achievement Award

Jimmy Smith Headshot

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes a PPA graduate whose collective body of work has resulted in a substantial incremental change in the business community, the accounting profession, and/or the lives of those that practice accounting. The 2018 recipient is Jimmy Smith ’97, COO and CFO of FCD Holdings which operates the FC Dallas soccer team, Toyota Stadium in Frisco, and the National Soccer Hall of Fame. 

Smith’s life reflects his passion for sports, and the opportunities sports provides to the community, and to the growth and development of the individual. He is treasurer and sits on the FC Dallas Foundation Board, which is targeted at helping underserved youth through sports. He lives out his passion of service through sports by coaching his own sons in soccer and basketball. Smith lives in Dallas with his wife and three sons.

Rising Star Award

RT Dukes

The Rising Star Award recognizes a recent PPA graduate who is making a substantial impact on society through business acumen, exceptional leadership, or entrepreneurial success. The 2018 recipient is R.T. Dukes, research director for Wood Mackenzie, a global energy research and consultancy group. 

Dukes is a visible media presence for Wood Mackenzie in places like Bloomberg and Forbes, a daily presence on Twitter, and host of Wood Mackenzie’s Soundcloud podcast, “Crude for Thought.” He contributes to profit as well through his consulting roles and his valuation and due diligence work for the firm. He is an advisor to company boards and executives and a regular speaker at international industry conferences. Dukes lives in Houston with his wife and three children.

 

 

 

Categories: Accounting, Alumni, Departments, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, PPA, Programs, Texas A&M

A group of high school juniors spent the past weekend attending “A Day at Mays” to learn more about their options as not only potential Mays Business School students, but also as prospective Texas A&M University students. Of a select group of students invited, 35 visited campus.

The overriding goal of the “A Day at Mays” program was to increase the number of students from under-represented groups who pursue degrees at Mays Business School. By doing so, Mays hopes to make a major contribution to the larger objective of ensuring a workplace that is not only diversified, but also staffed by highly skilled employees who are prepared to work in a global and multicultural environment.

Photo credit: Corey D. Stone ’13

The activities began on Friday, April 20, and extended through Saturday, April 21. A dinner on Friday provided the high school students to converse with other prospective students, family members, current students, and Mays faculty at the George Hotel in College Station. After dinner, prospective students paired up with current students in Business Student Council (BSC) and Multicultural Association of Business Students (MABS) and participated in a fun evening at Grand Central Station, where prospective students were able to build connections and ask questions about real “college” life at Texas A&M.

The next day, the students were able to take a walking tour of the Texas A&M campus and then moved to the Cocanougher Center to learn from Mays faculty and staff. Undergraduate recruiter Corey Stone shared with the students the application process for entrance into Texas A&M. He offered honest advice on earning college credit in high school and the requirements for the students to work for. “When in doubt, email me,” Stone said.

After Stone’s presentation, a panel of current PPA students shared their knowledge of their different track decisions and experiences on their internships. They described the opportunities given in public accounting and explained why they chose to do the PPA program, followed by a question-and-answer session for both parents and prospective students. Students were then given a brief overview of the PPA program by Casey Kyllonen, followed by brief overviews of the rest of the departments in Mays.

At the end of the day, prospective students attended an Opportunity Fair where students could ask questions about opportunities at Mays. This provided a convenient way for participants to learn one-on-one about their specific interests and options, after a packed weekend of group discussions and panels. 

The program was sponsored by the PPA program at Mays in conjunction with
PricewaterhouseCoopers. The Profession Program at Mays is an integrated program that allows participants to complete a bachelor’s of business administration in accounting and a master’s of science in one of five business disciplines in just five years.

– By Erin Cullers, PPA student

Categories: Accounting, Diversity and Inclusion, Donors Corner, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, PPA, Students, Texas A&M

The Professional Program in Accounting has announced two of its former students as recipients of the Rising Star Award and Outstanding Alumnus/Alumna Award. Phil Graves ’04 and Christy Baumann ’95 will be recognized at a dinner in College Station on May 9.

Rising Star

This year’s Rising Star award goes to Phil Graves ’04, senior director of corporate development for Patagonia and managing director of Tin Shed Ventures. He is in charge of the company’s investments and merger and acquisition activities. Graves also serves as a Senior Advisory Board Member of the University of California Berkeley Haas School of Business’s Center for Responsible Business.

He has been recognized on Global Corporate Venturing’s Powerlist 100, and by Texas A&M’s Association of Former Students’ “12 Under 12 Young Alumni Spotlight.” Graves was previously a senior manager in the Business Valuation practice at Deloitte, and he began his career at PricewaterhouseCoopers. He models selfless service in the community as well through his work with the homeless and as a long-time Big Brother mentor. …Read more

Categories: Accounting, Alumni, Featured Stories, Finance, Mays Business, News, PPA, Programs, Texas A&M