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Leroy Hite
November 30, 2022

An Entrepreneurial Spark from Berry Fuels a Thriving Business

These days, a crackling fire offers comfort on chilly nights — a sentiment never taken for granted by Leroy Hite ’08, founder of Cutting Edge Firewood. Sales have ignited in recent years as he has innovated a line of high-end products designed for fireside moments, grilling, smoking and pizza ovens.

Hite started blazing his own trail after going through trial-and-error learning. In his junior year at Berry College, two student entrepreneurs asked him to join their new firewood business, Premier Firewood, as the operations manager. Armed with a strong work ethic, Hite jumped headfirst into the job and the Berry entrepreneurship program.

After graduation, the group continued Premier Firewood but bit off more than they could chew. They had a good product but struggled to make the work equal the payoff, an industry-wide challenge. The team spent hours delivering wood with little profit.

“It was difficult to let go of Premier Firewood when we did. I had an obsession with firewood, and my Berry experience taught me to think like an entrepreneur,” says Hite. “Looking back, Premier Firewood was a glimpse of what would later become my vision for Cutting Edge Firewood. I had this ember of a business that wouldn’t go out in my mind.”

After working for other industries, Hite found his entrepreneurial spark was still alive. He joked with his wife that if his car gave out, he would buy a truck and restart a firewood business, and ultimately, that’s just what happened.

As he began rethinking the industry, Hite remembered a mantra from class with John Grout, David C. Garrett Jr. Professor of Business Administration: “Be efficient and effective. Be both.”

Hite knew that his business would not survive if he could not balance the tension between efficiently delivering firewood and offering high-quality, effective customer service — so he kept innovating: “I tried so many things, spent so much money. The first four or five years of business were learning things the hard way. Mine is a story of refinement. We are always doing things the best way we know how, learning from it, and not giving up.”

In his first year of business, deliveries took two hours, but Hite kept tweaking the process, changing vehicles, for example, to shave off time. His determination became the catalyst for the invention of a firewood rack that is deliverable with a hand truck (he owns the patent). Cutting Edge Firewood deliveries are now safer, a better experience for customers, and take only 15 minutes.

“It’s an incredible story!” expresses Paula Englis, Charles A. Dana Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship. “Although Premier Firewood did not work out as expected, it helped Hite learn about his new business and was a huge boost to the entrepreneurship program. Now, he speaks to Berry students who sit in the same rooms he did, and his honesty is one of the most inspiring parts of his story.”

When talking to graduating students, Hite shares this: “Continually strive for perfection and improvement. Be willing to be uncomfortable and to take risks, and as you push yourself, you become more capable and your goal lines move.”

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