This year, Lemi Shine celebrates a quarter of a century of helping homes sparkle. From its roots in Midland, the brand blossomed to become a household name, known first for its dishwashing detergent booster and now for its full product line that includes everything from wipes and appliance cleaners to laundry detergent and cleaning sprays. In 2007, the Eggemeyer family bought the company from a neighbor and managed it through both a tremendous growth spurt and a move to Austin. CEO Curtis Eggemeyer recently met with us to provide an inside look at this family-owned business.
AFM: Tell us about your family.
Eggemeyer: I have a really neat, amazing family. I’m married to my wife, Shannon. We have three children: Ian, Adalynn and Ava. My older brother is no longer with us. He passed from a very rare blood disease when he was 26. My younger sister Lisa lives in Houston. She and my brother-in-law Chris have two girls.
Mom [Donna] and Dad [Jim] raised us on a farm and ranch, out in the sticks of West Texas. We grew cotton and raised Angora goats. There’s always been this entrepreneurial vein within my family, especially for my father. He grew up in a farming family. He ran a ditch and construction business on the side, to have supplemental income to put all those kids through college.
AFM: Whose idea was it to buy Lemi Shine?
Eggemeyer: Definitely my father’s. But before that, I went to work for the business out of college in 2006, doing sales for the previous owner. My parents had just sold the farm and ranch that we grew up on and moved to Midland. Actually, that’s how I met the founder. My parents moved into the house across the street from him.
So they were sitting on a nest egg of proceeds from the sale of that farm and ranch, and very shortly after, the company was on a capital campaign. Mom and Dad said, “Hey, we’d like to get involved in the company.” And so they took an equity position for their investment.
Also during that time, I was getting married, and so we went from family farming and ranching to now having a significant portion in a manufacturing and consumer products company. And Mom and Dad came to work in the business in January of 2007, as well as my wife. The founder had been doing this for 12 years, so six months after that, he said, “I’d like to sell.” We came together as a family and said, “Let’s run it.”
We had this idea of the common good for the common man. There’s two big misconceptions with natural cleaning. One is it doesn’t work as well, and two is it costs more. At the end of the day, what we’re offering consumers is powerful, safe and affordable. And how we’re able to do that is with this “really unique” ingredient called citric acid. It removes hard water, it makes detergents work faster and longer, and it’s a natural disinfectant. Everything is approved by EPA Safer Choice. It’s safe for kids, safe for pets, safe for the environment.
But it was definitely my father who said, “Yeah, let’s do it.”
AFM: Were you already on a business path before you started working for LemiShine?
Eggemeyer: Who would have known? I started as a pre-pharmacy major at Texas Tech. I had a family member who was a pharmacist, and he was a family man, somebody I admired. But Organic Chemistry was not my strong suit, so I went into business. And Tech, at the time, had just started offering a concentration in family business and entrepreneurship. I thought, “Gosh, that’s amazing. I’m going to jump into that.”
AFM: Did your wife know what she was getting into?
Eggemeyer: Me taking a job at Lemi Shine was no indication that we were going to buy this business or that my wife was fixing to come in and be part of a family business. My wife and I have been together a long time. We were high school sweethearts. We went off to college together. She’s just an amazing, gifted person, and she’s a teacher at heart. At Tech, she majored in Human Development and Family Studies. She came into the business in customer service, then went into logistics and then HR.
AFM: What were your parents’ roles?
Eggemeyer: Mom is the family accountant. Growing up, she always worked at a tax/accounting firm. She was our controller, CFO. Dad is very much a hands-on person. He’s the guy that’s going to come and work beside you. He’s not a guy that wants to sit behind a desk. So he led operations.
AFM: How did running the company affect your family?
Eggemeyer: Family business is a unique animal. It is such a challenging thing, but such a beautiful thing. You’re not working for “the man,” you’re working to provide for your family. It gives us a great grounding and perspective as an organization. But family business has its challenges. One thing we’ve done is I’m the only family operator today. We still have a family board. However, in 2009-2010, when my brother passed, my mom exited the business. In 2012, when my son was born, my wife exited the business. Then, in 2014, my dad exited the business to pursue other ventures. But it’s a big deal when you’re family/leadership, and then they start exiting. At the end of the day, the family has always done a great job of balancing that, being very open. “Let’s talk about business or let’s side-table the business for now, and let’s be a family.”
AFM: Tell us about the move from Midland to Austin.
Eggemeyer: We were growing very quickly, and we were doing all our own manufacturing. We were reinvesting every dollar back into the business to keep up with the growth. We would buy a piece of equipment, then that whole line would be at capacity. And we’d add another one, and it’d be at capacity. So we needed to choose a path. Are we gonna be a manufacturer or are we gonna invest and grow the brand?
There were external things happening in Midland, as well. The oil boom was taking off again, and we began to lose a lot of our manufacturing technicians. They were going into the oil fields, and we had a lot of turnover. I think Midland’s on a track today to be a great city, but during that time, it was quite the challenge.
So we decided to move in 2013. I had contacts in San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Austin. And the reason we chose Austin was, it’s just such a great community, especially for entrepreneurs. In Austin, it was doors opening.
AFM: How have you found Austin?
Eggemeyer: We love it. It’s such a diverse city. We live down in Lost Creek, an amazing community. We have our church, Austin Ridge Bible Church. We love the greenbelt. The kids love going swimming in the creeks. They love hamburger joints, and we’ve got some of the best hamburger joints around. The kiddos love Hat Creek, P. Terry’s and Phil’s Icehouse. Movies at Alamo Drafthouse. The Thinkery. All the pools and splash pads. This community has so much to offer, it’s unreal.
Sherida Mock, writer and mother of two successful daughters.