Business Opportunity in a Cup of Hot Cocoa

Apr 4, 2019

A few entrepreneurs change the way the world operates (Think Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and Jeff Bezos), while some entrepreneurs simply make life a little better for generations of children and people seeking a slice of pleasure on a cold day.  The United States lost one such individual March 13 when at the age of 101, Charles Sanna passed away. Charles Sanna was the inventor of a combination of powdered milk and cocoa that when mixed with hot water became hot chocolate.  Today that product has evolved into Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa Mix (, an iconic brand owned by Conagra Brands, Inc. and a significant component of the almost $860 million spent annually on cocoa and drinking chocolate.

Charles Sanna is symbolic of the limitless ladder of opportunity that exists in America for anyone who has an idea, the ability to execute on their vision, and the business acumen to create a marketplace for their product or service.  In the 1950’s, Charles was working for his father’s Wisconsin dairy products company.  His father, an Italian immigrant, at the time was selling powdered coffee creamer created by his business to customers, including the United States Army.  Supply of the powdered product exceeded demand.  Charles, a mechanical engineer by education, sought a solution for the problem and working over his kitchen stove created instant hot chocolate using his five children for product quality assessment.  Initially, the powdered hot cocoa was sold to airlines and restaurants, but as product awareness & popularity grew the product made its way to supermarket shelves, and as the expression goes the “rest is history”.

Stories similar to the one of Charles Sanna are commonly heard at IBA when we meet with clients interested in selling their privately held companies & family businesses. The most common reason people hire IBA to sell their successful, profitable businesses is to facilitate retirement.  The second most common is to facilitate growth of their companies due to limitations in capital or executive management ability. The “Peter Principle” is an organizational paradigm that states people rise to their level of incompetence. The principle is commonly applied when assessing management level personnel for promotion in a corporate context.  It is also appropriate when assessing the founders of privately held companies.  The most intelligent entrepreneurs recognize their personal strengths and weaknesses. Many times these strengths do not include delegation, personnel management, and strategic planning for growth from an accounting & finance perspective. IBA frequently assists these business owners with the conversion of their business asset to a cash asset with a value reflective of the potential & achievement of the business model while at the same time frequently providing the privately held company with the capital & resources it needs to achieve its potential in the marketplace.

If you are the owner of a privately held company or family business that feels you have taken your business as far as you can as an entrepreneur, we would welcome the opportunity to learn about your business and provide an overview of the services we provide our clients. 100% of IBA’s fees are payable upon performance at completion of a transaction. IBA does not charge any administrative fees or retainers for providing a professional opinion of the market value of a business for an entrepreneur considering selling their company. We also welcome the opportunity to be a resource for information whether a sale is desired in 2019, 2020, or 2025.  Both IBA & our clients benefit if the maximum possible value for a business is achieved in the marketplace.  Complimentary conversations with IBA intermediaries with relevant industry experience are available over coffee, tea, or even hot chocolate.

IBA, the Pacific Northwest’s premier business brokerage firm since 1975, is available as an information resource to the media, business brokerage, and mergers & acquisitions community on subjects relevant to the purchase & sale of privately held companies and family owned businesses.  IBA is recognized as one of the best business brokerage firms in the nation based on its long track record of successfully negotiating “win-win” business sale transactions in environments of full disclosure employing “best practices”.