Site Visit: Advocacy takes a Bite out of Snack Company’s Regulatory Concerns
By Jason Doré, Assistant Chief Counsel for External Affairs/Director of the Office of Information
At the young age of 10, future entrepreneur Trina Davidian started her working life as a babysitter and delivering newspapers. By the time she was 16, Davidian worked five jobs in addition to attending high school. While studying marketing in college, Davidian worked her way up to become a middle manager at a local 7-11 convenience store. Following a change of ownership, Davidian was laid off, but her time working at 7-11 helped her birth the idea for her own business. In 1989, she started King Henry’s, a growing, family-owned snack manufacturing company that now operates out of a 50,000-square-foot building in Valencia, Calif.
On its recent regulatory reform trip to California, the Advocacy team spent the afternoon with the queen of King Henry’s, Davidian, touring its facility and learning about all the obstacles and challenges Davidian overcame and continues to face as she built a successful company as the only female CEO in the snack industry. She also discussed the uniquely difficult regulatory environment presented in the state of California.
The changes in technology since the founding of the company have helped this certified, woman-owned business greatly increase its capacity. At the start of the business, Davidian and her family would spend two and half days manually scooping and bagging nuts to fill one pallet. Now, her team, with the help of automation, is able to complete 60 bags of candy or nuts per minute.
With this ability to produce lots of inventory, Davidian has built a truly nationwide customer base. While Advocacy’s team was on the floor, the shipping department had orders out for eight states— from as far away as Florida to Washington state. King Henry’s also does some business in Mexico, Canada and the Bahamas.
The availability of local nuts in California offers a big advantage to the company. However, California’s regulatory environment is a challenge for this small business. We discussed a few of these challenges at length. During peak season, King Henry employs as many as 75 workers. While they have the ability and demand to expand further, the regulatory compliance cost is a huge concern and hindrance for adding additional employees, according to Davidian. The seemingly ever-increasing California minimum wage also increases the costs of workers compensation insurance. Another unique requirement for California small businesses is the mandating of environmental inspections for commercial building loans, even a refinance, which adds nearly $5000 to the cost of any loan.
Davidian shared a truly inspiring story of hard work, faith and perseverance to overcome personal and business setbacks. She has instilled her work ethic in her son and daughter, who have followed in Mom’s footsteps and are also employed at King Henry. Advocacy is grateful for the opportunity to learn about the snack industry and the unique challenges they face in California.
Advocacy was in Modesto, Sacramento and Santa Clarita, Calif. for Regional Regulatory Reform Roundtable meetings April 30-May 3.
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Jason Doré is the Assistant Chief Counsel for External Affairs/Director of the Office of Information. Doré can be reached at Jason.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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