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Keeping business all in the family

Just Born, Inc.

Just Born co-CEO David Shaffer (left) hugs a larger-than-life Peep while co-CEO Ross Born looks on.

Ross Born tried organic chemistry as a pre-cursor to what he thought was going to be a medical career, but like many students he switched his major and graduated with a law degree. But not before he and his cousin, David Shaffer, made an agreement to take over the family business, and after graduation they became co-CEOs of Just Born, Inc., makers of Peeps!, Mike & Ike’s, Hot Tamales, and other fine confections.

Born will be speaking to students at Stetson tonight in the Rinker Auditorium in the Lynn Business Center from 5-7:30 p.m. Born will talk about the benefits of working with a family business, as well as creating your personal brand and credibility. This event is free and open to the public.

As many students in the Family Enterprise program can attest to, the decision to join the family business can be difficult. According to Born while he didn’t put a lot of thought into it, his father had a huge impact on the decision.

“I wanted to be identified with what I could do and achieve,” he said. “I hadn’t been involved in the business over the years but one key factor swayed me. My father enjoyed his work.

“I remember him coming home and relating good things about what he did during the day,” he said. “It becomes an issue when a parent comes home and complains about their day. Why would any child want to go into that line of work? My father enjoyed his work and looked for the best outcome every day. That is probably what swayed me.”

The road to family business success isn’t always smooth and disagreements with family members can make work less than enjoyable. According to Born, he and his cousin, David, who share CEO responsibilities at Just Born have a plan to work things out.

“My cousin and I are of the same make up in terms of values and that, to me, is really essential,” Born said. “We have the same reasons for going to work every day and for making our business successful. And we know that the business is a whole lot more than we are. We have a lot of responsibilities, and there are many stakeholders — our workers, our community, our suppliers. It’s a rather awesome responsibility and we better do our jobs right and we better get along.

“And I can say very proudly that after 35 years we have never had an argument raising our voices. Ever. Doesn’t mean we always agree, but we have a method for disagreement and for working out our differences and I can’t remember any difference we didn’t work out amicably,” he said.

To hear more about Born’s passion for his work and his company, attend tonight’s presentation at 5 p.m. in the Rinker Auditorium.