James S. Tonkin: President & Founder, HealthyBrandBuilders

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How did you get into the industry?

I got into the industry kind of circuitously. I graduated from the University of Oregon in 1973 and immediately went into my father’s business, which was a manufacturing operation as well as a distributorship for 7UP, A&W Root Beer, the Crush line,  Welch’s… We had about 60 different brands in the Bay area and Sacramento and up to the Nevada border. I worked for my dad from ‘73 until ‘82. I went through a massive training program until I became Vice President, General Manager of the business. Once I got there I realized In 1982 that I did not want to produce carbonated soft drinks anymore and continue to be a participant in this horrible lack of nutritious oriented kind of business. And so I had no idea what I was going to do but I left the business and was in Hawaii on vacation trying to figure out what I was going to do with myself. I started eating these Maui style potato chips, which are Russet potatoes with the skin left on. Eventually I called the guy on the back of the bag of potato chips and I ended up going to his house and spent three days with him learning how to manufacture the product….