In our first article in a series of “Up and Coming” entrepreneurs, allow us to introduce Keith Brinson, also known as “The Teapotter.” Just where that nickname came from will be explained further in this article about an American veteran, whimsical writer and up and coming entrepreneur.
Keith Brinson moved to Georgia in 1987 after 10 ½ years of service with the United States Air Force and receiving a medical retirement at the age of 27. During his time serving his country, Brinson received several awards, recommendations and letters of appreciation… and was even nominated for a “step promotion” for the rank of E6, which means that Brinson had already distinguished himself in all capacities and therefore no promotion test was needed. This was the beginning spark of the entrepreneurial spirit that lives within Mr. Brinson. Although he was very ill and that illness led to his medical discharge from the Air Force, Brinson still had the drive and determination to rise above his challenges.
Unfortunately, even though his illness prevented him from serving his country further, Brinson still had a family – a wife and two young sons – to support. In our interview, Mr Brinson expressed his frustration and disappointment at being relieved of duty, but knew that there was still work to be done. He began to train with his father in the business of painting houses. Soon, however, the entrepreneur in Brinson wanted to branch out on his own.
As Brinson explained in his interview, “I wanted to make decisions, mistakes, set my own hours, talk to customers, make friends along the way and make a difference with each job I did. I succeeded! I didn’t get rich but I made ends meet and then some. In all honesty, I never believed I was the best at what I did. I was only as good as the last customer’s comment to my next potential customer whether it be a friend, relative, business associate or someone standing in line at a grocery check-out. When so many customers were saying Keith Brinson is my painter and my name was preceded by my reputation, it was because of the care and concern I gave to each potential customer. It was the time I took sitting at a kitchen table going over in detail any questions or concerns. It was the genuineness of my wanting to go above and beyond and achieving that want over and over and over again and in turn making too many lifelong friends to even begin mentioning here.”
Those entrepreneurial traits have been carried on throughout Mr Brinson’s life and into his present business venture, Teapotter’s Entrepreneurial Extensions and Helping the Homeless and Needy Teapotter Websites. The company motto is “Great Tastes for Helping Others”. This business actually started in 2008 when Brinson decided to become a restaurateur and opened Teapotter’s Cafe. It was part of his dream and ambition to have a place where artists of all types would come sit, eat, mingle and exchange ideas. Brinson, “The Teapotter,” hung local artists’ paintings on the walls of the cafe, held amateur writing contests and gave back to his fellow Veterans on Veterans Day and Memorial Day by providing free meals to any and all veterans.
Mr. Brinson explains, “The main entree of the meals was the smoked Boston butts I personally smoked and then plucked and de-feathered. Ha! I’m just kidding of course. I did, however, remove most of the fat while pulling the pork before adding my locally loved ultimate secret sauce; then known as Teapotter’s BBQ Sauce. But this isn’t about the sauce. None of this is about what I did or didn’t do. It’s about motive! It’s about drive! It’s about doing what is placed in you to do and doing it whether it takes five years or fifty years.”
Unfortunately, the restaurant business venture was hit hard with the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009. The doors were closed to Teapotter’s Cafe on Christmas Eve of 2009. Was Brinson finished? Was he defeated? Did he give up; throw in the smoker? He shares, “Well, I did throw in the smoker but the sauce lived on and still lives on and will continue to be alive because of a driving force; because of a willingness to pursue one’s belief in something and having faith without seeing.”
Brinson explains how he basically “sat on” the recipe for his now famous “Teapotter’s Top’n Sauce” for about eight years. It was created during a low point in his life, when alcohol was a major part of his days. Although Brinson was perhaps worse off than he had ever been, he feels that the recipe for this sauce was given to him by God, and in that conviction, he wants to use it to help others. Brinson goes on to tell, “To be blunt I kept what was given to me; this time the sauce for eight years! This was after having a messenger sent to me in the form of a lawyer friend from Alabama stopping by in 2000, tasting the sauce and telling me on the spot, ‘Keith you need to market this!’ I remember thinking sarcastically, ‘Yeah right. I’ll make a bundle off of it and my writing at the same time.’ Then I laughed at myself and blew it all off…for eight years. But, this is one of the benefits of being self-employed and an entrepreneur! I get to make the decisions. Right or wrong the consequences are mine; made by me.” But Brinson did eventually take that lawyer’s advice.
As he shared, “In May 2011, the Facebook page Teapotter’s Entrepreneurial Extensions was created not for selfish, get rich reasons but because of my genuine, (there’s that word again) concern and love for others along with my own personal predicament. It was all hand in hand. There I was seven months ago, peddling my sauce and giving part of the proceeds to a local non-profit organization that helps those in immediate need in our community. I had no painting work, was facing homelessness and unsure of where all this was leading me but I knew I was being led so I followed and I am still following. This is one of my passions; helping others in good times and in bad times.”
He goes on to say, “My inner drive again kicked in and I began researching, emailing, calling different agencies; all in vain by the way. However, I have acquired some knowledge of the holes in our “prevention” systems set in place to help those in need. I have learned a lot of good things about these systems. I’ve come to know several people that are key contacts in my life now for information and friendship as well as acquired many, many real friends I would have never known had it not been for my so called misfortune.”
Brinson also shared that he has since co-founded, along with three other talented and gifted people, a local volunteer organization with almost 300 members whose mission is to simply help others in need. They have had two successful, including one that occurred recently that involved full sponsorships; local live radio; live bands; 270 pounds of chicken cooked; a poker run; a mayoral ribbon cutting; a huge, huge yard sale and so much more! But Brinson focused on the heart of the matter, “Yet it’s not all about the trimmings and fixtures. It’s about four people brought together several months back and realizing it wasn’t just a fluke and then letting that inner drive kick in, their faith hold true and their belief in what they are doing becoming a reality to help another person. You gotta love it!”
The Teapotter now has two varieties of sauce as he explains, “Teapotter’s Original” and “Teapotter’s Honey On” for those wanting the same kick with a little natural sweetness. “I am content in where God has me. This doesn’t mean I’m to throw up my hands and sit back and wait. This means I find satisfaction and reward in what I am doing in my life; in the walk I am walking. This satisfaction is achieved by using what has been given to me not for myself but to give to others. It will come back to you”
“I wouldn’t trade my entrepreneurship for a regular job for anything! I love the challenges, the excitement. When things turn sour at times there is always the next step, even if it’s a side step! I love being involved and making things happen. It’s the many small happenings that give the most pleasure. Above it all, it is the wonder of it all! With each tiny step forward and backward there is heart-felt emotions acted upon to achieve what is inside.”
And where did that nickname come from? Another of Brinson’s passions is writing. As he explains it, “I get asked that a lot from those who don’t know me or the name. Just like the gift of writing was given to me; just like the sauce recipe ingredients was given to me, so was the name, ‘Teapotter.’ It comes from my love of iced tea and ‘potter’ comes from my molding thoughts and feelings into words just as a clay potter molds the earth into objects. It’s all just one big mold coming together.”
Angela Kaye Mason is an online researcher, writer, and contributor at entrepreneurweek.com blog network. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Angela on Twitter. Find her on Facebook .
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