Within three years, Coastal Chemical was experiencing a remarkable upward trajectory. The company was able to purchase its first “legitimate” location, a 1,500 square foot office and warehouse, and began to add product lines to its inventory.

Sommer left her full-time job and came to work side-by-side with her now husband to help shoulder the weight. To top it off, the couple had just welcomed their first child.

Today, the couple are parents to three daughters, all under the age of 10.

“I got busy, really fast,” Grant says. “I couldn’t expand anymore because I was doing sales and deliveries. You bottleneck. Eventually, I hired a full-time operator to handle the inside sales, and a full-time driver to handle the deliveries.”

Taking advantage of Wilmington’s booming tourist industry, the company also expanded its services to include restaurant and hospitality clientele, as well as other businesses.

It wasn’t always easy, however. Grant’s age and inexperience could be a tough sell at times. It was an obstacle he says he overcame simply by providing consummate service.

“Let’s be honest: We are selling items that a lot of people can go sell, but we are selling the process and knowledge and that’s what separates us,” Grant says. “It’s our willingness to do whatever it takes to help the customer.” 

By attending jan/san conferences, poring over manufacturers’ manuals, reading trade publications and bending the ears of his parents, Grant absorbed as much as he could in the way of industry and product knowledge, and threw in a dash of charisma here and there for good measure.

“Sales is where I hang my hat,” Grant explains. “I enjoy talking to people, learning about their families. When I was in my 20s it was more of a challenge to gain the trust of larger accounts, but we were able to gain their trust incrementally over the years.”

It also helps that he is “ultra-competitive,” he says.

Growing up one of four children, Grant admits he has always hated to lose — whether it was in a game of checkers with his siblings, a game of ball, or while pursuing an account.

His competitive nature absolutely drives his work ethic, he says.

“I always tell customers, ‘I want you to be my customer for the next 30 years, not the next 30 days,’” says Grant. “I believe we out-service our competitors. You may choose someone for another reason, but it won’t be because we are outworked. ”

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