Doug Whitcomb

CEO, Whitsons Culinary

"Learning never, ever, ever ends. It’s the ultimate competitive advantage. Helm’s ability to bring exactly the right group together is the future of real time learning for leaders."

Discovering Innovation


I started Whitsons as a single coffee shop with my wife and it has grown over 40 years to employ ~3,500 employees as one of the largest private food services companies in the U.S. I joined Helm to get away from my daily routine and meet creative and innovative entrepreneurs and thought leaders.


In late 2015, I asked the group where they thought the future of foods was going. One of the members reminded me of my role as President: “if you want a particular future, you’re a CEO - go out and make it!” Another spoke about the growing health consciousness of some Americans and the sad slide into obesity and diabetes for so many other Americans. Through that and some other conversations and some introspection and reflection an idea was born: to bring vegetables, which have been a garnishing or side dish for Americans into Center Plate! Imagine: vegetables the main attraction!


As I developed this idea, we had to build a new $25 million factory to harness the demand for this new food line which sells nationally and is growing every day. Business is the business of innovation - it’s the duty of any entrepreneur to get altitude and raise yourself above the fog of everyday operations.

Creating success is far harder than it seems. You have to be searching and current on all aspects of the market and be able to differentiate between fad and trend. Then, at Helm, it all comes together in that moment of inspiration when you’re speaking with other people who contribute bits and pieces to your puzzle, when suddenly… BOOM! It’s there. Suddenly it’s clear where your product, the market and new opportunity align. And you know the moment it hits.