High-dollar seminars and books in the business section of Barnes & Noble often say entrepreneurs are made.
Though seven habits may help to win friends and influence people, the Lollis siblings prove entrepreneurship also runs in the blood. %9
Brent Lollis, president of Triad Interactive Marketing Software at 4739 E. 91st St., Ste. 100, is the first of the Lollis crew to strike out on his own. He built Triad from a one-man firm to a full-service marketing and web development company that employs 12 in seven years – before age 33.
Andrea Garner, owner/designer at Circa Interiors at 8122-C S. Lewis Ave., is the oldest of the Lollis crew at 36. She has been in business for herself for five years, and her work has been published alongside other notable Tulsa designers in Designer Showcase, a fundraiser for the Foundation for Tulsa Schools.
Though Corey Lollis, president of Lee’s Records at 6039 S. Sheridan Road, is the youngest at 29, he is perhaps the busiest. Not only does he own his own record store, but he is also the operations manager at his father’s company, Pipeline Equipment Inc. at 8403 S. 89th West Ave.
Now all grown up and managing small businesses in Tulsa, the Lollis siblings are not far from where they came. Each attended Berryhill High School in west Tulsa, and their parents have each owned their own businesses in the community for a combined 45 years.
Though his siblings tease him about acting “over 40,” Brent Lollis has, taken more chances than most.
After earning his degree in music education, Brent worked as a band director in Arizona. Later, Lollis learned by experience about web development and marketing while working for a computer training company.
Brent founded Triad in 2000 from his home office.
“I was just the consultant with the computer training company, helping them figure out how to incorporate the web into their strategy,” Lollis said. “I would farm out the work to freelancers.”
Soon, managing freelancers became cumbersome. Lollis decided he wanted to find an office downtown, complete with a small fleet of employees.
Triad has since outgrown the downtown office, and now Triad also operates out of an office in the SpiritBank Business Resource Center at 1811 S. Baltimore Ave., in addition to the offices at 91st and Yale.
After 11 years as an interior designer in Tulsa, Andrea Garner decided to anchor her business to a brick and mortar storefront. Circa Interiors has been in the Plaza Shopping Center at 81st and Lewis for three years.
“I worked for another designer in town, and she had a storefront. It seemed like a really good way to draw customers,” Garner said.
Though the storefront has given Circa Interiors a home base and a boost to its bottom line, Garner said most of her business still lies in design work.
“It’s a good way to supplement the design work,” Garner said. “This way, if a client comes in and says, ‘We have a party this weekend – could you accessorize my house?’ I can,” Garner said.
Three years ago, multi-venture Corey Lollis purchased and reopened Lee’s Records at 6039 S. Sheridan Road. In its first incarnation, Lee’s Records was located not far from where the Lollis children grew up.
When Lee’s went up for sale in 2003, Corey jumped at the chance to buy a piece of his old stomping grounds. Lee’s Records under Lollis’ management started in a warehouse, with sales flowing in via Ebay and the company website.
“But it got to be so much,” he said. “We bought between 500,000 and 750,000 records,” including some rare collectibles.
He decided to move as many records as possible into the new Lee’s Records storefront, which allows the new management to benefit from the reputation the previous owners worked to establish since 1975.
“From there, we’ve just been running. We have customers now from all over the world,” Lollis said.
Corey also manages operations at Pipeline Equipment, where his father is president. Corey helped to get the business off the ground during his hours after school, and now the company is expanding rapidly, he said.
“We have a machine shop, and now a new industrial coatings division will be moving in,” Lollis said. “That’s going to fall on my plate, as well.”
How to Raise an
Entrepreneur – or Three
Susan Lollis, known to Andrea, Brent and Corey as Mom, has owned Southwest Tulsa Trophy at 4939 S. Union Ave. for 33 years. Jack Lollis, or Dad, has owned Pipeline Equipment Inc. since 1995.
“We grew up knowing that when you run a business, you do what you’ve got to do,” Brent said. “Sometimes, Mom worked on Saturday. We’d go deliver trophies with her. That was just how we grew up.”
Through their experience, Jack and Susan showed their kids that while owning a business is demanding of one’s time and courage, big rewards lie on the other side of hard work.
“Whether it was right or wrong, they convinced us we could do what we chose to do, if we were willing to work hard enough to do it,” Brent said.
“There were no misconceptions that things were easy, but we always believed that if we were willing to put in a lot of hours and be willing to take some risks, we could do whatever we wanted to do.”
Watching their parents step into business ownership from very young ages – Susan started her business the week Brent was born – assured the Lollis kids as they embarked on their own ventures.
“We knew we weren’t going to end up in the gutter,” Brent said. “We knew if we fell on our faces, they weren’t going to like us any less.”
“That environment makes it easier to step out and at least try something.”
Though they never opened a lemonade stand together as children, Andrea, Brent and Corey said they did collaborate to grow their businesses.
“I was always the one who wanted to invent or build something,” Brent said. “There are things that I’ve thought of that I still wouldn’t tell you about, because I might invent them someday.”
“I was the nerd in that way, for sure,” he said.
Garner said her brother’s creativity has been a boon to continuing the entrepreneurial family legacy.
“Though he’s the middle child, we followed him a lot,” Garner said. “So when he started his own business, that allowed us to think, ‘You know, we could do that, too.’”
The Lollis siblings say they count on counting on each other.
“Brent does all my marketing,” Garner said.
“And I buy all my records from him,” Brent said, pointing to Corey.
“And I decorated his office,” Garner said of Brent, laughing.
Risking one’s own time and money is often the most difficult aspect of starting a new business, but the Lollis siblings said striking out on their own was less scary because of mutual support.
“When we were putting this store together, we were all here,” Garner said of the Circa Interiors storefront.
“We were there for all of them,” Corey said of the multiple business openings by family members. “That’s just what we do.”
Brent was the first sibling to set up shop, “and I think at first, my family thought I was crazy. But they only offered encouragement.”
“I had a job that had health insurance, and my wife was pregnant. And, I was starting a technology business in the year 2000,” Brent said.
“But I knew that if I was willing to be the sales guy, the janitor, the accountant and everyone else until it got up and running, I could make it work.”
As Brent said, being an entrepreneur is more than a full-time job – it means having a focused mind 24/7.
“For some reason, our brains don’t stop,” Garner said of her and her brothers. “Once we’ve conquered one thing, we want to conquer something else.”
The Next Generation
The Lollis siblings are laying plans for big dreams. The setting for their future ventures? Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I do this because I really enjoy it,” Garner said. “If I was looking for something really lucrative, I would live in New York or L.A.”
“She could make more money if she moved to New York,” Brent added. “And I could move my business to Austin or Seattle – some other tech hub – and make a lot more money. Corey could take his inventory to another major market and make a ton of money.”
“But we’ve each chosen Tulsa,” he said.
“It’s our home,” Garner added.
“We’ll definitely be in Tulsa,” Corey said of his family’s future, “but we’ll be doing bigger and better things. That’s the goal.”
Each sibling wants to grow his or her current venture in Tulsa, but none plans to stick to just one industry. With several paths from which to chose, one thing is sure: Andrea, Brent and Corey will blaze their own trails.
“I want to do some other things,” Garner said. “I think we’ll always be business owners, and the things we do will evolve and grow.”
“But I don’t think I’ll work for someone else,” she said.
“Yeah, we’re not good employees,” Brent added, smiling.
“We’re all a little bossy,” Corey said.
The Lollis family businesses, including Mom’s and Dad’s, support between 75 and 100 families in the Tulsa area, Brent said.
“At Pipeline, we’re at more than 50 employees now,” Corey said. “It’s nice to see that you can support people and give them jobs, help to support their families, and give them a comfortable place to work.”
“We take that contribution very seriously,” Brent said. “It’s one of the rewards of having a business – getting to provide a good living to people who work for us.” ?