KaTom: Family business from garage to powerhouse

Positively Tennessee

KODAK, Tenn. (WATE) – A sprawling restaurant supply company in Kodak started in the family garage not that long ago.

Now, KaTom is a $200 million dollar powerhouse.

We go behind the scenes to talk with the Bible family – the brains behind this booming business.

Shelves of beautifully functional cookware, gadgets and gizmos galore, and fifty shades of colorful KitchenAid mixers.

It’s a foodie’s fantasy at KaTom’s retail shop, and the dream of dynamo Patricia Bible, who took over the business she and her husband Tim were just starting before his untimely death in 2001.

“This was his brainstorm,” Patricia told us, “and we just didn’t–we weren’t ready and then that fateful morning it was like, okay, whatever he started, I’m going to finish.”

The couple’s two children were teens when their father passed away. Helping with the company was just something they did. Today, daughter Paula Chesworth is VP of e-commerce at KaTom. Son, Charley Bible, is vice president of operations.

Charley says, “I got a business degree, business administration, with folks on supply chain, and a finance degree, so I was at my mom’s office and was just sitting there and she was running this 30 million dollar company with the same processes she had as a four million dollar company. There was no HR department, there was no employee handbook, nobody had time to focus on those core fundamentals of a 30 million dollar company at the time.”

Paula recalls, “I helped build the catalog when I was 14 and 15 so when the ecommerce site launched, it was just a colossal mess of issues with transportation and people and my father’s passing and there was this need and I knew I could fill a void.”

“I didn’t really think that they would come back, but in retrospect, I should’ve known it,” Patricia says, “because they grew up in it , they really did assimilate everything about that company into their own lives.”

Today, the team is always searching for the brightest and latest technology for commercial and restaurant kitchens, like the Alto Shaam Vector Oven, in which multiple items can be cooked at the same time.

Charley does a demonstration: “we cook corndogs, we cook biscuits, we cook fish, we cook honeybuns, and you don’t have any cross flavor contamination.”

It’s just one impressive piece of the 25,000 products KaTom proudly sells.
Most are housed in its 90,000 square foot distribution center -10 million dollars worth of inventory about to triple with plans to expand floor and shelf space.

The business model is working but we had to ask: how hard is it to work for your mom?

Paula says, “she expects you to hit your goals, so she’s a tough boss, but she’s made us who we are and she’s made this company what it is, and nobody else could’ve sat in those shoes and taken us from 3 million, 4 million to where we are today with just the sheer determination. So she really, a lot of people say this, but she is someone to be admired.”

Patricia herself will tell you behind KaTom’s booming success are its hardworking employees.
The roster has grown from 18 back in the beginning to 180 today, starting with an idea that continues to grow.

“Tim and I started back in the late ’80s when we, it was just fun and games. We did it in the garage of our home for our friends who all owned Western Sizzlin’ Steakhouses and it morphed into what it is today, which is more than anybody could ask or think. It’s amazing,” Patricia says.

KaTom, by the way, was named for Paula (whose middle name is Katherine) and Charley, who’s middle name is Thomas: KaTom, and Patricia says the “T” is capitalized to express equality between the two children.

A little more advice from Patricia

Patricia has advice for women just starting out, or struggling right now:

“We all have struggles in our life…it’s a simple formula: Put one foot in front of the other and keep going, don’t ever turn around, don’t ever. Go for whatever is in front of you, go for the gold, and surround yourself with really great people. Those great people help take you to that next level. And KaTom isn’t about Patricia Bible, KaTom is about the 180 people that work here and every associate that’s part of this company brings a gift.”

She starts each day before the sun rises with prayer and quiet time.

“What’s in this day? What do you want it to look like, God? And how do we take this to the next level? How do we work more closely together? I spend my first few minutes just saying, “thank you, God.” “My quiet moments start at 4 am.”

MORE ONLINE | To visit KaTom’s website, click here

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