Innovative Thinkers

The Smell of Success
When Joe and Judy Roetheli set out to solve the problem involving their beloved dog’s halitosis in 1996, it never crossed their minds that what seemed to be a solution to a very simple problem would catapult them into a wildly successful career in business. 
But after launching and selling their company, the Roethelis have invested in a wide portfolio of other business ventures and, in turn, used their vast success to reach people around the world with their non-profit organization, The Roetheli Lil’ Red Foundation. 
“Ivan had terrible breath,” laughs Judy. “His breath could literally stink you off of the porch even if he were on the ground in front of you.” 
In a quest to cure poor Ivan’s offensive breath, Joe, who had worked managing research in the federal government for nearly two decades, began to search for an answer. 
“I was at the UMKC dental school for an appointment and began visiting with my doctor about the problem with Ivan’s breath,” recalls Joe. “He happened to mention that there were many research reports available highlighting cases where new dental products had been tested on dogs. So after sorting through a 3-inch thick stack of reports, I mixed up some ingredients for Ivan to try. Almost immediately we noticed that his breath was significantly better.” 
So with a lucrative product in hand and virtually no business experience under their collective belt, Joe and Judy (a teacher by trade) began to build their business from the ground up. 
First things first, the Roethelis named their company Greenies® and found a manufacturer that would turn Greenies® into the ever-popular toothbrush-shaped dental chew it is today. 
Next, the Roethelis began peddling their product at veterinary offices, pet stores and through Internet sales. But it wasn’t until 1999 when one of their employees suggested they attend an industry trade show that Greenies® found its niche. 
“It was three and a half years from the time we started Greenies® and when we made any profit,” Joe says. “I had already quit my job, and we had literally financed our company on credit cards just to keep it going. We weren’t really in the position to pay the entry fees for the trade show.” 
But despite the financial hardships facing the company, Joe and Judy found the credit available to attend the show and set a $50,000 sales goal for the duration of the exhibition. 
“We came home with $150,000 worth of orders and really no way to fill them,” Joe recalls. “Our machine just could not keep up. The demand was incredible.” 
After working out the kinks in production, the Roethelis successfully built Greenies® into the 8th largest pet food company in the world, selling the product in more than 60 countries in less than a decade and receiving more than 50 major awards and honors before deciding to sell the company in 2006. 
“We were in the right place at the right time with the right product,” Judy says. “Our success with Greenies® still amazes me.” 
Since selling Greenies®, the Roethelis have remained busy, investing in several businesses both locally and throughout the country. Perhaps most notable on a local level is the launch and ownership of The Spa Tuscano™ at Briarcliff Village in Kansas City, Mo. 
The couple also has ownership in Ace of Hearts™ BBQ, a Kansas City-based company that manufactures the Good-One ™ smoker/grill, and Simple Man Products™, a line of tools that are designed to enable a single individual to complete complex jobs that often require two or more people. 
But perhaps what’s most important to Joe and Judy Roetheli is the work that they do with The Roetheli Lil’ Red Foundation. Most recently, the non-profit organization built a village in the South American country of Guyana. The project, which consisted of more than100 housing units and sanitation blocks, a community center, a school, a water tower, electricity and a community garden area, is a point of pride for the Roethelis. 
“When we can know that we’ve gone beyond ourselves and helped others become self-sufficient, that’s what’s important,” says Judy.
words: Kalsey McCall