Monday Business Briefing: Beam CEO rebuts talk of troubles; Brown-Forman roundup; get your free hot chicken; and more

Welcome to the May 30 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Much ado about nothing with Beam?

BeamBrush_MainAlthough Beam Technologies, the makers of the app-enabled toothbrush that also works with dental insurers, left Louisville for Ohio a couple years ago, we still consider them one of our own because they have a number of local investors and are part of the Yearling Fund. (Not to mention the fact that the first couple years of Insider’s life, we shared an office with the Beam guys.)

The Yearling Fund is a venture capital fund with a focus on early-stage startups founded or based in the Louisville region. Given Beam’s ongoing connection to Louisville, IL has continued to report on their many successes — and it’s also why we were compelled to follow up on recent rumblings suggesting the company might be struggling.

It’s an assessment Beam CEO and founder Alex Frommeyer strongly denies.

IL heard from a source that the company has little cash inflow and a high burn rate, making Drive Capital reluctant to invest further. Drive invested $5 million in the company, which prompted their move from Kentucky to Columbus, Ohio.

The source indicated the company had “mass layoffs” — they once had employees that numbered in the mid-20s and now that is down to single digits.

Frommeyer says this is “So much ado about nothing, I’m afraid!”

When IL asked about what appeared to be major downsizing at the company, Frommeyer said, “Major downsizing is way too strong here; we are a tiny startup so our headcount will be waxing and waning drastically for years as the business evolves.”

The company does have some recent good news to report. Frommeyer said, “We launched our SmartPremiums plans in California a few weeks ago, which for the first time, allow us to underwrite and price our insurance plans based on how often you brush your teeth. Pretty cool way to save money and protect the chompers.”

Before the SmartPremiums plans fell into place, Frommeyer said, the company had a team dedicated to another line of plans that the company sold in partnership with another dental carrier. When SmartPremiums was approved, they wound down that team.

According to Frommeyer, what they now offer is the “best dental insurance product ever created and something we are immensely proud of.” —Melissa Chipman

Brown-Forman announces stock split, dividend, new directors

The Brown-Forman corporate headquarters on Dixie Highway.

The Brown-Forman corporate headquarters on Dixie Highway.

Brown-Forman Corp. is planning a two-for-one stock split for all shares of Class A and Class B common stock, to be paid in the form of a stock dividend.

In a two-for-one stock split, a company awards each shareholder an additional share. The action also halves the share price. Companies take such an action usually to make its shares more affordable. In the last five years, the price of the company’s Class B shares has more than doubled. Shares traded close to $100 on Friday.

Brown-Forman CEO Paul Varga said the split “reflects the company’s confidence in our ability to sustainably grow our sales, earnings  and cash flow over the long term.”

It marks the company’s seventh split in 35 years.

The split, which has been approved by the board, must also be approved by holders of Class A common stock at the annual shareholders meeting on July 28. The split would occur in early August, with the additional shares to be distributed in mid-August.

The board also has approved a quarterly cash dividend of 34 cents per share, payable July 1 to shareholders of record on June 6.

In other B-F news, the company said its board has elected three fifth-generation descendants of company founder George Garvin Brown to serve as directors.

The company said in a press release that Campbell P. Brown, Marshall B. Farrer, and Laura L. Frazier are bringing “considerable talents and strong values with them.”

They are replacing Martin S. Brown Jr., Sandra A Frazier and James S. Welch Jr. in what the company called a “multi-year evolution of Brown family representation on the board.”

Laura Frazier, daughter of Owsley Brown Frazier, is owner, chair and past-CEO of interior and commercial design company Bittners.

Farrer serves as Brown-Forman’s vice president and managing director of Global Travel Retail, which includes duty free, military, cruise and transportation sales. He has been with the company for 18 years.

Campbell Brown, president and managing director of the company’s founding bourbon brand, Old Forester, has worked for Brown-Forman for 22 years. Boris Ladwig

New Albany developer building new offices for land surveying company

The building will be home to T.J. Boofter land surveying and engineering company. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

The building will be home to T.J. Boofter’s land surveying and engineering company. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

A small new building is being erected in downtown New Albany.

Anyone who’s driven down Spring Street and has seen the building likely thought “Wait, what? I didn’t think anything could even fit on that lot.”

It turns out the 25-foot wide plot of land between Bank and Pearl streets can and will house a business.

Prominent New Albany developer Matt Chalfant is constructing the new structure that will serve as offices for T.J. Boofter, a land surveyor and civil engineer. Boofter’s business currently has offices at 207 W. Spring St.

Chalfant told Insider Louisville that construction will wrap up around August.

For those who aren’t familiar with Chalfant, he is the same person who renovated the historic building at 148 E. Market St. in New Albany, where restaurateur Ian Hall opened Brooklyn and the Butcher. He also developed apartments above the restaurant. —Caitlin Bowling

Startup Kale & Flax creates new website for One Love Louisville

Photo by Kale & Flax

Photo by Kale & Flax

One Love Louisville is an initiative the Mayor’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods launched in 2015 to address violence and preventable deaths such as homicide, suicide and drug overdoses. Now the initiative has its own website, thanks to startup Kale & Flax.

The experiential data and design firm provided their services as part of Mayor Greg Fischer’s 2016 Give A Day week of service. They provided around 100 hours of manpower to create the microsite, many of them at an overnight hack-a-thon held with high school students from Valley Tech on May 17.

The website features links to suicide prevention programs, mentorship initiatives and the SummerWorks youth employment initiatives.

“We’re really proud to collaborate with the mayor and the OSHN team on the One Love Louisville campaign. As a progressive city, investing our energy into the people who can help curb violence is everyone’s responsibility, because we’re all in this together,” said Tarik Nally, Kale & Flax founder and creative principal. —Melissa Chipman

Joella’s giving away hot chicken for a year to celebrate Middletown store opening

Joella's chicken bites back. | Courtesy of Joella's Hot Chicken

Joella’s chicken bites back. | Courtesy of Joella’s Hot Chicken

Hot chicken fanatics unite.

Joella’s Hot Chicken will give away a free one-year supply of food to the first 100 customers at the restaurant’s new Middletown store, 13401 Shelbyville Road, Suite 101. They will be given out in the form of coupons, valued at more than $60,000, according to a news release, and only to people 18 years or older with identification.

The Middletown Joella’s opens June 1, but anxious customers can arrive as early as 24 hours in advance and will be treated to samples and free apparel. Prizes will be given out between 8 and 8:30 a.m. June 1.

Joella’s offers five levels of hot chicken: Traditional Southern, Spiked Honey, Ella’s Fav, Tweener, Hot and “Fire in da Hole.” Its sides include creamy macaroni and cheese, sweet-vinegar slaw, garlic fries, kale crunch salad and black-eyed pea salad.

In addition to the Middletown location, the company plans to open additional stores in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Washington D.C., Dayton and Columbus. —Caitlin Bowling

BLōFISH launches Kickstarter for new products

The store sells clothes that fit men and women. | Courtesy of

The store sells clothes that fit men and women.

In February, the Louisville-based non-gender-specific clothing company BLōFISH opened a storefront at 714 E. Market St. The clothing line began with hats, T-shirts and sunglasses. Now they’re launching non-gender-specific pants and underwear and running a Kickstarter for pre-sales.

BLōFISH will celebrate the Kickstarter with a party at Play on Friday, June 3.

The night will be kicked of at 8 p.m. by Lindsay Boling, a University of Louisville alum who is now a standup comedian in New York City. Then there will be a fashion show, performances by Play artists, and music by the Zach Longoria Project will follow.

“We are excited to be able to take the national leap from right here in Louisville,” Logan Manford, founder of BLōFISH, said in a news release.

BLōFISH also has a charitable component, as each month they donate 10 percent of sales to a different charity.

The event is free, but you need to RSVP with Eventbrite here. —Melissa Chipman

One of Inc. Magazine’s best places to work is right here in Louisville

Inc. Magazine featured Louisville’s Integrity HR on its inaugural 50 Best Places to Work list. Integrity is an HR outsourcing and consulting firm with around 18 employees located in Middletown.

Inc. worked with Quantum Workplace to grade the applicants on the following criteria: “wallet and workplace” (benefits), employee feedback, and performance innovation.

“I am thrilled to see Integrity HR listed to Inc.’s inaugural 50 Best Workplaces,” Amy Newbanks Letke, Integrity HR’s founder and CEO, said in a news release. “We work diligently to create successful workplace cultures for our clients, and it is an honor to be recognized on a national level for our internal efforts. Not only does this recognition mean that we are succeeding in our mission of creating workplace excellence internally, but it also solidifies the idea that we ‘practice what we preach’ to our clients.”

To qualify for the award, a company had to have under 500 employees, have been in business for at least three years, be independent and privately owned, and have made upwards of $2 million in 2015. According to Inc., Integrity made $2-5 million in 2015. —Melissa Chipman

UPS, pilots getting closer in contract talks

A UPS Airbus A300-600RF Freighter on approach to Des Moines International Airport.

A UPS Airbus A300-600RF Freighter on approach to Des Moines International Airport.

United Parcel Service and its pilots have made “significant progress” in contract negotiations but still have lots of work to do before they can reach an agreement, the government’s chief mediator said.

The company, Louisville’s largest employer, and the pilots, represented by the Independent Pilots Association, have clashed in prolonged negotiations over workload, compensation and benefits.

The IPS represents about 2,800 pilots, including about 1,800 based in Louisville. In October, UPS pilots had voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike, but the company had said the vote was symbolic and meant to put pressure on the company during contract negotiations, which date back to 2011. Federal mediators have been helping since 2014.

The National Mediation Board said last week that after two weeks of talks in Washington, D.C, the parties had reached “significant agreements-in-principle on many areas … (but no) tentative collective bargaining agreement.

“Major issues remain unresolved,” said NMB Chairman Nicholas Geale.

The next formal talks have been scheduled for June 27. Upon a request from the MNB, both parties have agreed to refrain from publicly disclosing negotiation details. Boris Ladwig

Job fair featuring big-name companies this week

For all our un- or under- or unhappily employed readers: We have another job fair coming up. This one features more than 50 employers and most of the jobs offer benefits. KentuckianaWorks is hosting the event at the Crown Plaza Hotel, 830 Phillips Lane, on Wednesday, June 1.

Employers include: Computershare, Fanatics, Harland Clarke, Kroger, Murray Guard, Norton Healthcare, PNC Bank, Republic Bank & Trust, Sodexo, Speedway, Teleperformance, Trilogy Healthcare, UPS, Zenith Logistics and many more.

There also will be drawings for door prizes throughout the event.

You can pre-register at FocusCareer. Bring copies of your résumé and prepare to be interviewed on the spot. The event is from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. –Melissa Chipman

UK receives federal grant to tackle childhood obesity

Kentucky logoThe University of Kentucky is one of six universities to receive a combined $3.8 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to conduct research around childhood obesity among 2- to 19-year-olds.

UK received $746,827 and will study the effectiveness of “Smart Shopping,” a program through Cooperative Extension that aims to increase the number of fruits and vegetables adolescents eat. The research will take four years. For more information about the study, click here.

The other universities that received grant funds were the University of New England, the University of Maryland, the University of Minnesota, the University of Montana, and the University of Puerto Rico.

“Data show some signs of progress on childhood obesity, particularly among our youngest children, and the projects these researchers are undertaking will ensure we have evidence-based tools to continue moving the dial,” U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a press release.

The USDA currently is accepting applications for up to $7 million in research projects for next year. —Caitlin Bowling