by Jerry Rashid • firstname.lastname@example.org
Spicy Pimento Cheese. Mustard BBQ Sauce. Carolina Reaper. Sea Salt. State Fair Fried Pickle. Bloody Mary. Red Wine Vinegar & Sea Salt.
Those names represent the seven mouthwatering flavors of Lowcountry Kettle Potato Chips – South Carolina’s first and only potato chip company. The venture is the brainchild of Clayton Wynne ’09 and his business partner Andrew Trumbull, who own and operate the business that is tucked away in a small warehouse on Dorchester Road in North Charleston.
The two of them previously worked together at a restaurant on Sullivan’s Island – Wynne, the bartender, and Trumbull, the front-of-house manager. One day during a management meeting, the discussion revolved around finding other types of grab-and-go items that the restaurant could offer in its café/gelato shop downstairs.
“Someone suggested potato chips, and, after brief research, we couldn’t find any chips in Charleston or even in South Carolina,” said Wynne. “That’s how the idea came to be, and Andrew asked me if I would be interested in exploring this idea since I had prior small business experience.”
Wynne earned a bachelor’s degree in management from Coastal Carolina University while Trumbull is a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. They combined their individual talents to form the perfect partnership and launched the potato chip business in 2016.
“My degree from CCU has been an integral part of my career, particularly in regards to starting Lowcountry Kettle,” said Wynne, who is a native of Alexandria, Va. “From creating a business plan to executing an effective marketing/sales strategy, my education from CCU has given me the knowledge and tools to be an effective entrepreneur.”
From creating a business plan to executing an effective marketing/sales strategy, my education from CCU has given me the knowledge and tools to be an effective entrepreneur." - Clayton Wynne ’09
When searching for a college to attend, Wynne applied to a few places in Virginia. But, a visit to his cousin who was attending CCU changed everything. “Compared to most schools in Virginia, the campus was very different. I hadn’t had much exposure to South Carolina before I enrolled at CCU, but the campus, academics, and location lured me in.”
As for his favorite class at CCU, Wynne stated, “Probably not as a surprise, but it was an entrepreneurial 400 level course that I worked on with a group of three other students. It was essentially writing a five-year business plan, with all the data backing up why our business would be viable. I would say that course was the most engaging because it required every aspect of business, from accounting, marketing, cost analysis, market analysis, etc. … which made it a great simulation for starting a business – without the risk.”
Taking the risk to launch his own business is now beginning to pay off. During the company’s first three years, Wynne said sales were fairly insignificant since they were essentially trying to create a recognizable brand in the Palmetto state. More recently, sales have skyrocketed. As a result, the business has turned to co-packing – it has partnered with another company to produce and package the Lowcountry Kettle brand of chips. With that move, Wynne and Trumbull, who are the company’s only two employees, are no longer putting in 100-hour workweeks, which was the norm when they first started. Wynne said that what used to take them three months to produce is now accomplished in 12 hours by the co-packer.
He said: “We were able to shift our focus from manufacturing only to focusing on running and growing our business. Since then, we have grown over 1,000%.”
Lowcountry Kettle Potato Chips uses potatoes that are sourced directly from non-GMO farms across the East Coast, and the spice blends are made with premium, all-natural ingredients. The bold flavors, Wynne says, are indicative of the lowcountry.
The kettle chips are available in 47 Whole Foods locations throughout seven Southeastern states. In the Charleston market, they can be found in Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter. The crunchy snack food is also available at Fresh Market in South Carolina, 60-plus Enmarket convenience stores in South Carolina and Georgia, 80-plus Parker’s convenience stores, and various local shops and breweries throughout South Carolina, Georgia, and North Carolina. On the CCU campus, the chips are offered at the P.O.D. Market locations. Visit lowcountrykettle.com to make an online purchase.