Editor’s Note: The following story appeared in the July 6 issue of the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. “Then & Now” is a profile of a past member of the Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class.
The challenges Luke Briggs has faced throughout his life gave him the strength to establish his own business, a decision he said he wished he would’ve made sooner.
“Life has brought a lot of challenge and change, but one of the things I’ve learned throughout this process is to keep your faith and be willing to pivot,” Briggs said. “Trust in yourself, your friends, your faith and you’ll get going in the right direction.”
Briggs was the Walmart and Sam’s Club team leader for Ghirardelli Chocolate Co. when the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal named him to the Forty Under 40 class in 2010.
He left Ghirardelli in 2013 to reduce his travel schedule as he had a daughter, Sloane, with complex medical needs. She died in 2014.
He was a senior team leader for Walmart, Sam’s Club and McLane when he left the company to join Harvest Group, a Rogers-based omnichannel growth agency providing services to consumer packaged goods companies. There, Briggs was a business unit director in grocery and director of strategic partnerships and worked with various entrepreneurs across multiple industries. He spent about three years with Harvest Group before he established New Nexus Group in Bentonville.
“We’re doing some very unique things in the market, really helping people navigate the ins and outs of Walmart Inc.,” he said. “We offer brokerage services, strategic consulting, industry connectivity and equity investment.
“We specialize in entrepreneur, better-for-you, disruptive brands across food, OTC, health and wellness, beauty, deli, dairy, baby and family.”
Briggs, 41, and Tim O’Brien are partners in the company. Briggs worked for O’Brien when he was at Dr Pepper Snapple Group before going to work for Ghirardelli.
New Nexus Group has eight employees who have experience across the retail industry, and the company tends to have more employees than they do clients. The company’s revenue rose more than 100% in 2019, from 2018.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, its employees have worked from home. Recently, employees were given the option to return to the office after the company completed a deep cleaning and took the advice of a healthcare consultant. That includes social distancing and providing hand sanitizer, personal protective equipment and keyless entry.
The company’s clients were deemed essential in the wake of the pandemic, and it has not had any layoffs as a result of COVID or had to reduce any benefits or pay.
In December 2017, Briggs joined Tall Tree Foods as vice president of business development while continuing to work for New Nexus Group. A former relationship with a mentor led him to Tall Tree Foods.
Briggs has worked to grow the brands of the company and to put them into a position to be sold. New Nexus Group represents all the company’s brands for Walmart. In November 2018, Briggs became chief strategy officer at Tall Tree Foods.
“I lead overall strategy for the organization and how we approach our top customers, and how we engage with our consumers,” Briggs said. “I’m a utility player. We have three operating companies: one in Louisiana, one in Milwaukee and one in Seattle. And really, I’m a scale creator, so I go in and create scale in whatever capacity that means.”
That might include government relations for expansion incentives or rebranding work and consumer propositions or anything that might impact the consumer, customer and team.
He spends most of his time with Tall Tree Foods, and O’Brien handles daily operations at New Nexus Group. “Up until COVID, I was traveling every week, so it was 90% Tall Tree, 10% New Nexus, and the only reason 10% there is my 100% equates to an 80-hour workweek. But I’m very fortunate because being close to the private equity and venture capital space … provides exposure and access for additional clients in supporting consulting initiatives for New Nexus Group that we wouldn’t otherwise have.”
Briggs serves on the Dean’s Alumni Advisory Council of the Sam M. Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas. He enjoys cooking, and before COVID, his company’s director of culinary operations had provided farm-to-table meals for employees three days a week.