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

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.)

“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/2693-blackwell-chapel-store-is-open-for-business"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/524,98,1478,1052/13118_325031319_524790712974564_878312266014896007_n.rev.1673381188.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/524,98,1478,1052/13118_325031319_524790712974564_878312266014896007_n.rev.1673381188.webp 2x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/524,98,1478,1052/13118_325031319_524790712974564_878312266014896007_n.rev.1673381188.jpg 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/524,98,1478,1052/13118_325031319_524790712974564_878312266014896007_n.rev.1673381188.jpg 2x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/524,98,1478,1052/13118_325031319_524790712974564_878312266014896007_n.rev.1673381188.jpg" alt="Three people behind the counter of a country store." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/524,98,1478,1052/13118_325031319_524790712974564_878312266014896007_n.rev.1673381188.jpg 2x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="954" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2693-blackwell-chapel-store-is-open-for-business">Blackwell Chapel Store is Open for Business!</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><p> Mike Hoback (E&H ’81) is bringing back the heart of the Blackwell Chapel community.</p><a href="/live/news/2693-blackwell-chapel-store-is-open-for-business" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/1642-rob-goldsmith-honored-by-eamph-alumni-association"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,300,375/8583_Rob_Goldsmith.rev.1601414046.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,300,375/8583_Rob_Goldsmith.rev.1601414046.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,300,375/8583_Rob_Goldsmith.rev.1601414046.jpg" alt="Rob Goldsmith, E&H '71, CEO of People Inc." width="345" height="225" data-max-w="300" data-max-h="375" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/1642-rob-goldsmith-honored-by-eamph-alumni-association">Rob Goldsmith Honored by E&H Alumni Association</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Rob Goldsmith, Emory & Henry Class of 1971, has been named the 2021 recipient of the Carl and Ruth Looney Humanitarian Award, awarded annually by the Emory & Henry Alumni Association. (<a href="/alumni/get-involved/alumni-awards/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Read more about E&H Alumni Awards.</a>) <a href="/live/news/1642-rob-goldsmith-honored-by-eamph-alumni-association" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/705-emory-henry-alumna-named-to-the-virginia"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.webp 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.jpg 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.jpg 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.jpg" alt="Judge Teresa Chafin, E&H Class of 1978" width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/243,0,2348,2105/5953_image1_3.rev.1550268647.jpg 3x" data-max-w="2105" data-max-h="2105" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/705-emory-henry-alumna-named-to-the-virginia">Emory & Henry Alumna Named to the Virginia Supreme Court</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> The Honorable Teresa Chafin graduated from Emory & Henry in 1978. <a href="/live/news/705-emory-henry-alumna-named-to-the-virginia" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/519-dogs-best-friend"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 3x"/> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG" alt="One of the adoptable dogs found at BARK." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,2400,3200/4527_IMG-9834.rev.1536347287.JPG 3x" data-max-w="2400" data-max-h="3200" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/519-dogs-best-friend">Dog’s Best Friend</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> David “Skip” Harless shows up day after day to make sure the dogs of BARK feel loved. <a href="/live/news/519-dogs-best-friend" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2310-dr-will-bodfish-is-making-connections-at-the-eamph"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/88,48,600,560/11140_bodfish.rev.1650660222.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/88,48,600,560/11140_bodfish.rev.1650660222.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/88,48,600,560/11140_bodfish.rev.1650660222.jpg" alt="Dr. Will Bodfish E&H Class of 2013 E&H Physical Therapy School Class of 2015" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="512" data-max-h="512" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2310-dr-will-bodfish-is-making-connections-at-the-eamph">Dr. Will Bodfish is making connections at the E&H School of Health Sciences</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><p> Dr. Will Bodfish is on a mission…to find you.</p><a href="/live/news/2310-dr-will-bodfish-is-making-connections-at-the-eamph" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/75-kurtz-appointed-to-atlanta-area-agency-on-aging"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,232,216/741_kurtz.rev.1507059839.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,232,216/741_kurtz.rev.1507059839.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,232,216/741_kurtz.rev.1507059839.jpg" alt="Becky Kurtz E&H '84" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="232" data-max-h="216" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/75-kurtz-appointed-to-atlanta-area-agency-on-aging">Kurtz Appointed to Atlanta Area Agency on Aging</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Becky Kurtz is heading back to Atlanta after serving as a chief U.S. administrator. <a href="/live/news/75-kurtz-appointed-to-atlanta-area-agency-on-aging" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>