Las Vegas entrepreneur pursues expansion after leaving corporate world

Machine whirs and a coffee bean smell punctuates the manufacturing space inside Stella Brands’ suite in an industrial building in the southwestern valley.

Every hour, Stella’s machines fill thousands of sealed single-serve containers with coffee beans, containers that only five years earlier would put Stella in the cross hairs of K-Cup maker Keurig’s legal team if not for Keurig’s patent expiring.

About five workers run Stella’s operation, which sells to food distributors, coffee roasters and casinos. But owner Brent Patterson has grander plans. He envisions his containers in Strip resorts as part of the in-room coffee service. He wants a separate subsidiary for a label printing machine that he said gives Stella a competitive advantage.

He said he soon will need more machines to meet demand, not to mention a need for another leased suite and the doubling of his employee count. Patterson, 40, is finally in business for himself after about 17 years of full-time work that has taken him from fast food to tourism software and now manufacturing.

The fuel for his career jumping has been raising enough capital to bring an invention of his to commercial reality. This invention that he patented 10 years ago: a specialized plastic bottle cap to help with mixing powders, gels and formula.

“Sometimes the stars align,” he said. “Now more than ever, I’m ready to bring it to market.”

Waffle House lessons

Patterson got his first patent for the mixing cap in 2006, about four years into a supervisor training program with diner chain Waffle House.

He had cooked and cleaned toilets and climbed the corporate ladder. He started overseeing one restaurant in the Atlanta area before Waffle House promoted him to manager of three and then nine restaurants.

He graduated from Auburn University in 2000 and decided to get his hands dirty. But around the time he got his patent, he was a year away from what he called the golden handcuffs. He would make so much money, leaving Waffle House would make no sense.

To leave at Patterson’s level is a rarity for the program, Waffle House senior recruiting director Iris Jackson said. If a participant left, it usually happened during the first year because he or she couldn’t adjust to the demands of running a Waffle House.

Patterson thrived at Waffle House, Jackson said. She remembered working with him to overcome challenges and hearing good feedback on his upbeat attitude. But even in their conversations, he showed such enthusiasm about the prototypes he tinkered with at home.

“We were sad to see him go,” she said. “People enjoyed working with him.”

Waffle House taught Patterson two important lessons: that no data are too small to measure and to understand the responsibilities of employees at every level.

The restaurant chain measured how many steps employees took to get from grill to counter and how much time it took to seat patrons, measures that Patterson believed helped the bottom line. He has brought the strategy to Stella Brands to ensure the most production in the least amount of time.

He has studied the machines he uses with Stella so that he knows what problems he can expect his employees to solve on their own.

“They can’t B.S. me,” he said. “As a business owner, I have to be hands-on.”

Move to Las Vegas

With his mixing cap patented, Patterson still faced the problem of how much capital he needed to produce large numbers of the cap.

Brother-in-law Barry Shier sold him on moving west to Las Vegas in 2007. Shier, a former executive with New York’s Waldorf Astoria and Mirage Resorts, had seen the area transform since 1983. More residents, more international visitors, more hotel rooms, more trade shows.

“Vegas was a great marketplace for entrepreneurs, for a new way to do something,” Shier said. “He jumped at the opportunity.”

Shier and Patterson wanted to open a craft beer operation called Belly Wash. They put the project on hold when Shier joined plans for an Elvis Presley-themed mixed-use development on the Strip. Then the recession hit. The development busted.

Shier shifted to consulting and started a collective called The Partner House. Patterson, who has a background in information technology, was brought in as the technology expert.

He served as e-commerce vice president for Sofisticado, a travel booking platform aimed at South America, and technology director for destination management company Out of The Box.

But Patterson still tinkered in his garage. He came up with an adhesive to prevent shirt collars from curling, which he dubbed the “No Curl Collar.”

Shier sold Sofisticado in 2012. The next year, Patterson made his first appearance on the QVC shopping channel to promote No Curl. He now sells the invention on Amazon for the most part, making at most $600 in a day. He still wears them on his own polos.

“He doesn’t get himself pigeon-holed,” Shier said. “We’re cheerleaders on the sidelines.”

K-Cup rush

Around that time, a rush had begun over the expiration of coffee maker Keurig’s patent on K-Cups, the single-serve containers of coffee. About 20 years after Keurig debuted the container, private label containers similar in design hit the market.

Patterson started his contribution to the container rush in 2014. He opened Stella Brands’ first manufacturing outfit in Boulder City, 1,000 square feet in size, next to Colorado River Coffee Roasters, run by Don Anderson and his family.

Patterson wanted a source of beans and to learn about the business from Anderson. A frequent topic of conversation: Patterson’s plastic bottle cap.

“He sees so much opportunity,” Anderson said. “Brent is a good friend whether we do business or not, and I’m particular about who are my friends.”

Stella Brands hit capacity, and Patterson moved to his current location near the intersection of Warm Springs Road and Rainbow Boulevard, three times the size as that first Boulder City space.

His big goals are grow the printing line and add a mixing cap filling machine. He still tinkers in his garage, sometimes joined now by curious eyes of his infant children, the same gaze he had when he would spend time with his engineer father. Patterson said he’s thankful for all the twists his life has taken so far.

“You can’t force things,” he said. “You have to let them happen on their own time.”

Contact Wade Tyler Millward at or 702-383-4602. Follow @wademillward on Twitter.

President Trump’s tariffs could raise costs for real estate developers, analysts say
President Donald Trump made his fortune in real estate, but by slapping tariffs on imports from close allies, developers in Las Vegas and other cities could get hit hard.
Las Vegas business and tariffs
Barry Yost, co-owner of Precision Tube Laser, LLC, places a metal pipe into the TruLaser Tube 5000 laser cutting machine on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Nevada Film Office Connects Businesses To Producers
The director of the Nevada Film Office discusses its revamped locations database and how it will affect local businesses. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Opendoor isn't the typical house flipping company
Unlike most house flippers, the company aims to make money from transaction costs rather than from selling homes for more than their purchase price.
The Venetian gondoliers sing Italian songs
Gondolier Marciano sings a the classic Italian song "Volare" as he leads guests through the canals of The Venetian in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Building In Logandale
Texas homebuilder D.R. Horton bought 43 lots in rural Logandale. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Indoor farming in Southern Nevada
Experts discuss Nevada's indoor farming industry. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Fontainebleau could have become a Waldorf Astoria
Months after developer Steve Witkoff bought the Fontainebleau last summer, he unveiled plans to turn the mothballed hotel into a Marriott-managed resort called The Drew. But if Richard “Boz” Bosworth’s plans didn’t fall through, the north Las Vegas Strip tower could have become a Waldorf Astoria with several floors of timeshare units. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LVCVA CEO Rossi Ralenkotter announces plans to retire
Rossi Ralenkotter, CEO of the LVCVA, on Tuesday confirmed a Las Vegas Review-Journal report that he is preparing to retire. Richard N. Velotta/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Cousins Maine Lobster to open inside 2 Las Vegas Smith’s stores
Cousins Maine Lobster food truck company will open inside Las Vegas’ two newest Smith’s at Skye Canyon Park Drive and U.S. Highway 95, and at Warm Springs Road and Durango Drive. Cousins currently sells outside some Las Vegas Smith’s stores and at Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices to continue to rise, expert says
Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, gives homebuyers a pulse on the Las Vegas housing market. (Eli Segall/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NV Energy announces clean energy investment
The company is planning to add six solar projects in Nevada, along with the state's first major battery energy storage capacity. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
3 Mario Batali restaurants on Las Vegas Strip to close
Days after new sexual misconduct allegations were made against celebrity chef Mario Batali, his company announced Friday that it will close its three Las Vegas restaurants July 27. Employees of Carnevino Italian Steakhouse, B&B Ristorante and Otto Enoteca e Pizzeria, all located in The Venetian and Palazzo resorts, were informed of the decision Friday morning. Bastianich is scheduled to visit the restaurants Friday to speak to employees about the next two months of operation as well as how the company plans to help them transition to new positions.
Nevada has its first cybersecurity apprenticeship program
The Learning Center education company in Las Vegas has launched the first apprenticeship program for cybersecurity in Nevada. It was approved by the State Apprenticeship Council on May 15. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas union members voting to authorize the right to strike
Thousands of Las Vegas union members voting Tuesday morning to authorize the right to strike. A “yes” vote would give the union negotiating committee the power to call a strike anytime after June 1 at the resorts that fail to reach an agreement. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Small businesses struggle to find qualified candidates
A 2018 survey found that over two-thirds of small businesses in Nevada find it somewhat to very difficult to recruit qualified candidates. Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Nevada secretary of state website offers little protection against fraudulent business filings
Property developer Andy Pham tells how control of his business was easily seized by another person using the secretary of state website.
Caesars may be going solo in its marijuana policy
Several Southern Nevada casino companies aren’t following Caesars Entertainment’s lead on marijuana testing.
How much is the Lucky Dragon worth?
Less than a year-and-a-half after it opened, the Lucky Dragon was in bankruptcy.
Gyms and discount stores take over empty retail spaces
Grocery stores used to draw people to shopping centers. But many large retail spaces have been vacant since 2008. Discount stores like goodwill and gyms like EOS Fitness are filling those empty spaces, and helping to draw shoppers back in. K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Funding source of Las Vegas stadium for the Raiders is sound, expert says
The stadium is funded in part by $750 million of room taxes, the biggest such tax subsidy ever for a professional sports stadium. Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and The Lincy Institute at UNLV, says that is a good use of public funds. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas needs light rail, expert says
Robert Lang, executive director of Brookings Mountain West and the Lincy Institute said he is afraid of a "congestion mobility crisis." Las Vegas needs a light rail system, he said, to accommodate the city's growing number of attractions. (Richard Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Three takeaways from Wynn Resorts' Earnings Call
Matt Maddox came out swinging in his first earnings conference call as Wynn Resorts chief executive officer, boasting of record Las Vegas quarterly revenues and applicants lining up for work.
Star Wars VR Comes to Las Vegas
Sneak peak at the new "Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire" VR experience at the Grand Canal Shoppes.
Elaine Wynn continues her fight to change Wynn Resorts board
Elaine Wynn, the largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts Ltd., is seeking to kick a friend of her ex-husband Steve Wynn off the company’s board of directors. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Zillow is getting into house flipping in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Review-Journal real estate reporter Eli Segall says flipping houses has waned in popularity after the housing bubble burst.
Ellis Island Buys Mt. Charleston Lodge
Ellis Island, which operates a casino, brewery and hotel just off the Strip, purchased the Mt. Charleston Lodge in early April.
Casinos to be penalized for allowing drug-impaired customers to gamble
Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo talks about an amendment making casinos subject to the same disciplinary standards of preventing people to gamble if impaired by drugs as they are for letting them play while intoxicated by alcohol.
Terrible Herbst to open large travel center in Southern Nevada
The 50,000-square-foot commercial travel center will include 96 fuel pumps and the third White Castle restaurant in Southern Nevada. Wade Tyler Millward reports.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like