Kenton Williams: Business Can’t Be “As Usual” in 2021

Posted by Monica Hoel
Kenton Williams is back home leading the family business: but it’s not business as it always was.

Kenton is the president of Royer Corp. in Madison, Indiana. His family bought the  Royer company for one dollar back in the 1980s, and took the business from the brink of failure to the peak of success. The molded plastics company was initially known for small items like toothpicks, stirrers, and tchotchkes. Kenton’s uncle, Guy Kitchens (’72, deceased) was known as the King of Swizzle Sticks. And while the company still makes a lot of coffee stirrers, they now make them from biodegradable plastic. They’ve also just signed a contract with a car manufacturer to produce car interior parts like dashboards and door handles that are made with new technology that will kill on contact any virus that hits it.

“Every responsible company makes sure they know all the stakeholders. And the community is an important stakeholder.” So Kenton is making sure that Royer is looking for ways to keep his business viable while also pursuing practices that make him an environmentally responsible neighbor. They’re using solar panels, and they’re planning to be carbon neutral by 2022. He emphasizes that we have to find ways for recycling to work and to use less virgin plastic, and he’s also part of that endeavor.

He says part of the challenge is consumer demand. “Some of the products that are made from alternative materials like hemp cost a little more, but if consumers show interest in demanding those products, the market will move in that direction.”

Even though he hasn’t been out of school long, he has already had a slate of interesting career experiences: he worked in the auto industry right out of E&H and he lived in D.C. for awhile working in politics. But all those things were really about learning lessons and making connections that would benefit him when he returned to the family business. That was always the plan. But he smiles and says the best lessons he learned were not from knowing politicians but rather from watching his mother. “My mother is incredible at networking, and she always taught us to be open-minded and listen first. Politicians would be served well by learning that.”

His E&H days are never far behind him. “I probably think about my time at Emory & Henry every day. I learned how to further my critical thinking skills, how to question things, how to be inquisitive, and how to be thoughtful when approaching people with different ideas. I also learned the value of surrounding myself with people who are better than I am. I’ve done that professionally and in my friend circle. You have to do that and be secure in that. It has made all the difference in the world for me.”

His best advice for young people looking to enter the business world? “Read as much as you can on current events. And don’t be nervous about taking a chance. I call it ‘failing upwards.’ If you see an internship that you might not be completely prepared for but it’ll be a great experience – take it. Always be humble, always ask questions, always listen – if you do that, you’ll find success.”

You can enjoy a conversation with Kenton at the WEHC Archives. (Interviews are in alpha order.)

  • Kenton Williams
    Emory & Henry Class of 2014

“Always be humble, always ask questions, always listen. If you do that, you’ll find success.”

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2280-eamph-mass-comm-student-story-logan-greear-breaks"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.webp 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.jpg 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.jpg" alt="Rose Neese Houk (E&H ?81) is pictured here with the film maker on the left, Scott Mactavish, ..." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/433,284,1502,1353/11062_IMG-2602.rev.1648504166.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1069" data-max-h="1069" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2280-eamph-mass-comm-student-story-logan-greear-breaks">E&H Mass Comm Student Story: Logan Greear breaks the news of Rose Houk’s appearance in a documentary</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><em>This is part of a series of stories by members of the 2022 E&H Mass Comm 302 Class. </em><br/><br/>Lauded E&H alumna, Rose Neese Houk, Class of 1981, says she’s incredibly honored to  participate in a documentary about Gina Renee Hall and the historic “No Body Murder Conviction.” <a href="/live/news/2280-eamph-mass-comm-student-story-logan-greear-breaks" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/1131-katelyn-bland-clark-on-using-film-for-social"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,1024,1024/7384_UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_aa.rev.1580228191.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,1024,1024/7384_UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_aa.rev.1580228191.webp 2x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,1024,1024/7384_UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_aa.rev.1580228191.jpg 2x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,1024,1024/7384_UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_aa.rev.1580228191.jpg" alt="Katelyn Clark, E&H Class of 2010." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,1024,1024/7384_UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_aa.rev.1580228191.jpg 2x" data-max-w="1024" data-max-h="1024" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/1131-katelyn-bland-clark-on-using-film-for-social">Katelyn Bland-Clark on Using Film for Social Justice</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Katelyn is a development associate for an organization giving voice to underserved film artists. <a href="/live/news/1131-katelyn-bland-clark-on-using-film-for-social" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>