What's in a name? Maybe a business.
Ask Bob Witmeyer and Terry Doherty, who chose the moniker, Robert George Sales Inc. - a combination of their two middle names - to identify their new Rochester business in 1993.
They also were cementing a more than three-decade-long friendship that began when they met as E. Philip Saunders College of Business students at RIT. Witmeyer ('71), who grew up in the 19th ward and attended West High School, was majoring in business. Doherty ('70), an Irondequoit native who graduated from East Ridge High School, decided on a co-op program in the School of Retailing.
Both remember RIT's downtown campus as being "dynamic, a hub of activity where students would make things happen. The city streets were our campus."
"My father, Stanley, was director of RIT's School of Art and Design for 32 years," Witmeyer says, "So as a toddler, I was taking my first steps at the old Bevier building where he taught. It was nice spending one year at the downtown campus before moving to Henrietta."
Doherty gave college tours on the new campus. "At that time, the quarter mile didn't have trees and there was minimal landscaping," he notes. "All I could remember was the wind and how cold it could be. But going to RIT was worth it; there were very few schools in the country with a retail co-op program."
After graduation, Witmeyer worked as an admissions counselor at RIT, while Doherty went to work for the paper company, Kimberly Clark. Their lives continued to crisscross and both alumni ended up working in various sales and marketing positions for Mobil Chemical.
"Our generation is the first generation suffering from downsizing," Witmeyer says about his decision to leave the corporate life, "and Terry and I had been discussing for years how we wanted to work for ourselves."
Robert George Sales, Inc. realizes that servicing the customer is key. Their approach is business focused with a select number of key product lines that allows them to develop a strong understanding of the product and its market. The manufacturing rep firm provides services to companies that outsource their sales and marketing requirements. Robert George Sales sells paper, plastics and packaging products to the food service, supermarket, janitorial and industrial markets. The business covers New York, western Pennsylvania, northeast Ohio and northern West Virginia.
It took a lot of hard work and personal sacrifice to succeed as entrepreneurs. "We'll be celebrating 14 years in September since we opened Robert George Sales and we've held our own in an industry where many have failed," Witmeyer says. "We had to work long hours every day of the week, and sometimes, still do. And it was risky because we had to put everything on the line to get started, but we had confidence in ourselves that we could do it."
Doherty believes their confidence started years ago as students at RIT. " Bob and I learned something very valuable from our business teachers-educators like William Gasser and Eugene Fram-who encouraged our personal growth and brought relevance to what we were learning," Doherty explains. "Although we probably didn't realize it at the time, they gave us invaluable tools for a lifetime of success."