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        COB alum, entrepreneur shares story with students

        February 27, 2013 By Joe McAdory

        All News


        “Love the adversity of problems. Problems will come across your desk every day. A problem is an opportunity in disguise.”

        That’s one of the lessons 2009 Auburn College of Business alumnus Clay McInnis told Professor Dave Ketchen’s Growth Strategies for Emerging Companies class Wednesday morning.

        McInnis, who earned a degree in Entrepreneurship and Family Business (ENFB), was named by BusinessWeek in 2011 as one of the Top 25 Young Entrepreneurs in America and has been a featured guest on CNN, interviewing with Anderson Cooper.

        “The ENFB program is very proud of Clay,” noted Ketchen. “He’s found the sweet spot of entrepreneurship – making a difference in his community while making a profit.”

        At 24, the Montgomery native developed a company, Southern Eco, LLC, that produces biodiesel fuel, another, Cold As Ice, LLC, that sells packaged ice for $1.75 for a 20-pound bag, via a chain of automated dispensers, and is co-investor in a large commercial rental property (12 Jefferson) in downtown Montgomery, and was instrumental in working with lawmakers in the passage of the recent Alabama brewing laws.

        Aside from his real estate and ice-packaging business aspirations, McInnis very well may be more recognized for his work with biodiesel fuel. McInnis purchased a refrigerator-sized device that produces several thousands of gallons of biodiesel fuel each year and now is contracted with a number of local businesses, the City of Oneonta and the School for the Deaf and Blind in Talladega. Back when McInnis was an Auburn student, he developed the business plan for this operation in an independent study course supervised by Ketchen.

        “We’re using a waste product and turning it into fuel,” he said. “We have a lot of natural gas in the ground that can drive the price of energy down – but there is still a niche market for small-scale biodiesel products.”

        Wednesday, he offered students advice.

        “Learning in business is about getting out there and finding out what the market can take and what it can’t take,” McInnis told students. “Find success through what you enjoy doing and the money will follow. But realize what your limitations are.”

        “You must outline what your mission is and what your guiding light is … and never cut corners.”