Dec 05, 2022 • 4 min
Rick Ross: What I know to be true about candy, and if you really think about it, you put a table of 10 or 20 people together, everybody loves candy. It makes you smile, it makes you feel good, it brings a little brightness to your day. It makes life wonderful. And when we make people smile every day, it's just great.
[00:01:00] My name is Rick Ross. I'm CEO of Galerie. Galerie is a candy company. We specialize in candy and toys with gifts. I've been in business with Walgreens about 20 years. I'm proud to work with that team and the company. When I was 6 years old, I had a little lemonade stand in front of the house, and I used to sell it every day. And I was always out there pedaling something since I was young. My mom had a store. She opened a store called Gifts and Games, and that's how I got into the candy business. And we were the second distributor for Jelly Belly. We were the creators of the Jelly Bean Wall. So, kids would come in, and they'd look at the menu, and then from that, we got a lot of press.
[00:01:30] If you look at our history, we were very disruptive to get here. I had my second store, which is at the Union Terminal, and next thing I'm on the front cover of the Wall Street Journal. And so my business went from three weeks delivery to 86 weeks delivery, and dropped out of college, and here I am today. I don't talk about it a whole lot, but being gay and in the closet in the '80s, nobody was out. No one would do business with you. Struggling with your sexual identity, and being in business, and trying to live your life was a pretty big motivating factor to say, "OK, if I really want to live my life, I need to stick this out and make it work, so I can't get fired."
[00:02:30] Well, I had a pretty big client that probably asked me, I don't know, 12 or 16 times, and I just kept dodging the question. And finally, I just said, "If it's that important to you, yes." Well, within six months to a year, it cut our business $16 million. What upset me was, you can go against me because of how I am, but you're hurting all my employees that work so hard to take care and service you. My first responsibility is the job security of the people who work for me, not me being out and happy, right? And so, it pushed me back, and I was really frustrated because I'm like, "That's wrong."
[00:03:00] I got asked to be on the board of the NCA by a gentleman named Bill Kelly, and I had to tell him, "I'm not interested if they're not open to me being gay." He said, "Oh, we don't care. We need your help. You're very good at what you do, and we'd like you to be on the board." And I joined the board, and there was a lot of comments made over the first couple of years that I had to take some deep breaths and say, " I'm here to influence change." And just because some people are not nice about things, my opportunity to influence that change is more important than how I feel. Being the first openly gay board member to see where our industry has gone, and the amount of diversity, and how they've changed, has been amazing.
[00:04:00] After all these years of running this business, from 15 to 61, has it been worth it? And I would say, "Of course." I mean, to see people's families have flourished, people of color, people of different minorities, LGBT, to have the opportunity to grow, and to learn, and be successful, I love it. I think that creating an environment where as long as you have integrity, and you work hard, and you have passion, and you follow our values, you can grow and be whoever you want. To be able to help people do that, I think is really rewarding. And also, when the kids and the consumers love your product and write you letters, I mean, it just makes you feel great. So you know what you're doing is positive and not negative. And in this crazy world, to bring a little sunshine to people's day, a little brightness, yeah, it's worth it. And I love it. My name is Rick Ross, and I am CEO of Galerie, and this is my shelf life.