Blazing a Trail: Q&A with Chris

Empowered Ventures’ CEO and Founder Chris Fredericks isn’t afraid to try something new. In fact, much like his love for backpacking and traveling, he thrives on what’s to come—especially when it relates to Empowered Ventures. Get to know the person leading the charge at Empowered Ventures and why Starbucks is always his second choice.

Q: You’re the CEO of Empowered Ventures—what does that mean to you?
A: It’s an amazing privilege and responsibility to be leading an employee-owned enterprise—and it’s extremely gratifying for me professionally. I get to be part of a group of people working together for all to benefit from ownership in their place of work. Empowered Ventures is an opportunity for us to expand the number of employee-owners in the world while investing our current employee owners’ resources. It’s a true win-win situation.

Q: Where did the idea come from to found Empowered Ventures?
A: The idea came to me as I thought about investment and acquisition possibilities for TVF. With the employee ownership driven success TVF has had, I started thinking about replicating that success in other industries, and how that could be a great succession option for business owners. One of the biggest, most respected and successful companies in the world is a diversified holding company, Berkshire Hathaway. Funny enough, it started as a textile manufacturer and Warren Buffett decided to use it as a platform to invest in other industries. I thought if a diversified holding company is good enough for Warren Buffett, perhaps it could be great for TVF, too.

Q: You’re taking people’s life’s work and creating a lasting home for it—why you? What makes you uniquely qualified to be the trusted landing for their teams?
A: In 2010, I led the ESOP buyout of TVF and I stepped into the president role as TVF’s founding owner sold the business and retired. Part of what made him comfortable with me is he felt I cared about TVF as much as he did—I truly cared about his legacy and wanted TVF to thrive for decades to come. Dick would be very proud of what TVF has become. I take my growing role as a steward of legacies very seriously. I also grew up in a family construction company and saw firsthand how important a business can be to the employees. My dad and his siblings have built a successful, 40+ years old company that has created jobs and provided retirement accounts and healthcare to a loyal group of construction workers. I saw how proud my dad was of being a business owner and employer and I’m sure that has rubbed off on me.

Q: Empowered Ventures has a focus on providing business owners a succession plan that leaves their life’s work in good hands (the employees!). Why is this approach important to you? How does this separate you from the crowd?
A: Decades old, successful, privately-owned businesses are unique and they should be treated as such. They tend to have an important role in the local community and the employees tend to be loyal and proud. It’s exciting to me that the employees of companies we buy get to become owners of their business. For many of them it will be a great reward for many years of service—and potentially life changing since it will enable them to build a nest-egg for retirement.

Q: What are you most excited about with regards to the future of Empowered Ventures?
A: I get really excited when I imagine Empowered Ventures in 10 years. I see a large family of operating companies; hundreds of new employee owners; a talented, passionate staff at Empowered Ventures continuing to seek new opportunities and providing support to our operating companies; and an incredibly bright future.

Q: What’s something about Empowered Ventures we may not know?
A: Empowered Ventures publicly launched right in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and Vice President Spencer Springer joined shortly after. Spencer has done an incredible job putting deal-origination processes in place at Empowered Ventures. He also takes our work incredibly seriously, putting his heart and soul into it. I’m extremely fortunate Spencer chose to join and help build Empowered Ventures.

Q: Best advice you could offer a business owner who is considering partnering with Empowered Ventures?
A: Talk to people who have sold their business and learn what they would have done differently. Selling is a big decision and having a good idea what your motivations and desired non-financial outcomes are will be so important to getting a result that truly fits your situation and that you’ll be happy about long term.

Q: When you aren’t in the office helping businesses thrive, what are you up to?
A: My wife Amanda and I love taking walks with our dog, Chi, a Pyredoodle. I also enjoy cooking, traveling, and listening to podcasts.

Q: Starbucks or Dunkin? What’s your go-to caffeination?
A: I love to visit local coffee shops everywhere I visit. It’s a great way to quickly feel connected to a community plus I enjoy a well crafted cup of coffee. If I can’t find a local spot, then Starbucks or Dunkin are great too. My favorite spot right now is Indie Coffee Roasters in Carmel, Indiana.

Q: Your special talent—not work related?
A: Backpacking and thru-hiking. I’m not an expert but I love doing 3-5 day hikes in beautiful places. I want to learn how to read a topographical map so I can navigate off trail in the backcountry.

Q: Best vacation ever—and why?
A: So hard to pick just one! The last few years Amanda and I have gone to Oregon and Washington. We love the mountains and temperate forests—and the spirit of adventure that draws many people to that region. A trip we haven’t done but would love to is a tour of Europe, especially the Swiss Alps.

Q: High school nickname?
A: Freddy, same as my Dad and my brothers.

Q: Last question for today. What’s your life’s work?
A: Growing as a person, having a positive impact on those around me—my family, friends, and coworkers, and enjoying my life. Empowered Ventures is a bonus in that good life.

Curious about ESOPs or establishing your own legacy? Consider partnering with Empowered Ventures. Chris (and his team) can help. Drop him a note or give the team a call.

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