Workhorses Pulling the Business Wagon

David Zimmerman, Tazewell County Board

Winston Churchill was once quoted as saying, “Some people regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Not enough people see it as a healthy horse, pulling a sturdy wagon.” In my view, entrepreneurs are the “healthy horses” willing to take a chance and pull at businesses.

Some of the first things that come to my mind when I think about the attributes of an entrepreneur are ideas, guts and perseverance. Having talked with several such individuals, I would add a healthy dose of fear and the prospect of rewards as driving motivations. The definition of an entrepreneur is a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk, and today I would like to focus on couple of successful entrepreneurs that call Tazewell County home.

The first is a family-run company that many of us have regularly encountered and never knew it. Excalibur Seasonings, based in Pekin’s Riverway Business Park, was started in 1986 by Jerry Hall, who for many years owned and operated Hall’s Market in North Pekin and later, Marquette Heights.

Running a store is hard work and Jerry wore many hats: cutting meat, purchasing product, balancing the books and whatever else needed to be accomplished. He sold the store in 1967 and went to work for a seasoning and spice company, cutting meat on the weekends to help provide for his young family.

In 1986, at the age of 52, Jerry decided to start his own seasoning company. His previous experience and money borrowed from a friend was all he needed to set out on his own. Starting a business can be very difficult and daunting, but through hard work and perseverance, Excalibur Seasonings is now an industry leader in seasonings, rubs and sauces. The ability to innovate and experiment has been instrumental in their growth. In business for 32 years now, Jerry’s entrepreneurial spirit has earned his company’s motto, “Legendary Quality, Royal Flavor.”

The other entrepreneur I would like to highlight is a name familiar to many of us in central Illinois, especially around Thanksgiving. Brent Yordy, with Yordy Farms in Morton, is involved in a variety of entrepreneurial ventures. With farming as the base, he and his sons are involved in raising turkeys, plowing snow, custom hay baling, landscape mulch, mini-storage and trucking. He looks for opportunities that do not overlap with current obligations and that can provide a reasonable payback for the effort involved.

Having his sons work alongside him gives him a different perspective—Brent thinks in horsepower, while his sons think in technology. The combination has been a great success. He continues to look for areas where he can offer something unique (like the free delivery of mulch) and that can be gratifying in the process.

Like Excalibur, Yordy Farms has learned to innovate and be adaptable to keep up with the market and consumer tastes. Raising 10,000 turkeys each season is a valuable example. When Brent started in the turkey business, consumers wanted whole turkeys. Today’s customers like the option of only a turkey breast or legs, and Brent was able to shift his operation to meet their needs. The family is committed to excellence because their name is on the product they sell. Not all of us have that entrepreneurial spirit, but we can all be inspired by those who are willing to step up with an idea, take the risk, and see it through to the end. I am grateful that Tazewell County has people like the Halls and the Yordys creating jobs and strengthening our local economy with their spirit of adventure. Thank you to these families and many others for being the workhorses willing to pull the business wagon. iBi

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