The Mentor: Richard Thompson, fishing for the better food manufacturing at Factory

Stacy Wescoe//December 20, 2019

The Mentor: Richard Thompson, fishing for the better food manufacturing at Factory

Stacy Wescoe//December 20, 2019

Richard Thompson in his truck with his dog, Pot Roast. –


Perhaps best known locally as the former CEO of Freshpet Inc., who brought fresh pet food manufacturing to the Lehigh Valley, Richard Thompson has a long and storied career in manufacturing, particularly in the food industry. From pasta to Meow Mix, he’s led nearly a dozen manufacturing operations, while still finding time to live on an island off the coast of Belize for a number of years spending his time diving and fishing.

Now he is taking his knowledge and sharing it with young, startup food manufacturers with Factory in Bethlehem, where he provides investment capital and expertise to bolster the growth of business ideas he believes in.

LVB: Tell me where you are in your career right now?

I feel like after 40 years in the food and beverage industry I’m able to take that knowledge – success and failures alike – and share them with younger entrepreneurs. I can talk to them about what works at the wholesale level and at the retail level. Having a building and experts helping young entrepreneurs grow up faster is a great thing.

It’s really only been a year that we [Factory] has been operating and we feel like we’ve gotten off to a really good start. One thing is that they [incubator businesses] have to move here and work in this building. We’ve learned a lot about the metrics we wanted to build on. There’s nothing really like this on the east coast. We raised the capital. We built the building and we’ve invested in these companies. It starts this infrastructure of a real entrepreneurial community.

What do you attribute your success to?

Hard work and a little bit of luck, sprinkling in some love. I love what I do and the idea for me is to always do something that I love and it’s not work. So I’ve never had a job in my life. I’ve always been an entrepreneur. It’s an adventure. I’m the guy that when the weekend comes everybody goes home and I want to keep working.

When do you know when you’ve found a good idea?

I don’t have a crystal ball, but it’s a gut feeling. When you’ve been doing something for so long you just know. You can look at something and the product and the supply chain and know that it’s a good idea. You try it and if it’s not a good idea you get out. I’m the guy who’s done all the jobs from A to Z. Most people have only done A or a B or a D job, not the entire alphabet. They do one job specifically, but when you’ve done them all you understand.

What’s next for you?

For the next 10 years I think this [Factory] is a good place to build up to an enterprise of innovation. I’m focused on one thing for now, then we’ll see what happens.

What would be your best advice to would-be entrepreneurs?

Have the best partners you can get. It’s all about having the best partners. If you don’t have the best then move on because you can’t do it by yourself.

What are you most proud of?

I’m proud of it all, but most of all I’m proud that I’m still here because in the end all you have is your reputation and your family. I have a great wife, Amy, and I have myself. You can become someone you’re not supposed to be sometimes, but I’m still here. I still have my reputation and I’m proud of who I am. A lot of people lose that along the way.


Richard Thompson

Position: Managing partner, founder

Organization: Factory LLC in Bethlehem

Hometown: Coldwater, Kansas

What book are you reading right now?

“Stronger than Steel” by Jeffrey Parks

If you were stranded on a desert Island, what three non-necessity items would you want with you?

I actually lived on a deserted island for about seven years — well it wasn’t exactly deserted, but I did live on an island – so that’s an interesting question to ask me. I’d want a nice dive boat to go diving because that is what I used to do. A nice kitchen to cook all of the nice seafood I’d bring back. A nice veranda to sit on and watch the sunset and the sunrise.

What person influenced you most and how?

There’s always a lot of that influence from your Mom and Dad that is always good, but I’d also say Dough Madsen. He was a good businessman and I learned a lot from him.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to a younger you, what would it be?

I’m not sure I’d change a lot. I was a very fortunate young man.

If you could bring one thing to the Lehigh Valley from anywhere in the world, what would it be?

The Serengeti from Africa so I don’t have to travel so far to see it.

Are you a print person or a digital person?

I guess I’m a digital person. I used to be a print person, but everything is digital now.