Twin entrepreneurs

February 22, 2015

Benjamin and Caleb Newton dream of owning their own business, and they’ll work hard to get it

If you’re going to be driving through Parsons, Kansas, in the year 2020, be sure to stop in to Benjamin and Caleb Newton’s renowned bakery and coffee shop.

It isn’t there yet. But thanks to the entrepreneurship degree the 20-year-old identical twins are earning from Johnson County Community College, it will be.

When they were 12 years old, Caleb fell in love with baking. He knew immediately that he wanted to open a bakery when he grew up.

Benjamin, who also loved to bake, wasn’t completely sold. The two had a lot of other shared interests, too: music, photography and genealogy. Why limit themselves?

Caleb won him over. By 14, they were on the same page, dreaming of owning a bakery, coffee shop or patisserie in their hometown of Parsons.

“Small towns need new businesses,” Benjamin explained. “And for Parsons, and for other small towns in the area, there are opportunities there. You just have to be able to identify them and take steps to pursue them.”

Sticking together

The two of them had little doubt they’d run the business together. Ever since toddlerhood, the Newton twins have stuck together.

In fact, even during adolescence, when many twins feel a need to grow apart and claim individual interests, Benjamin and Caleb did almost everything together. They even continued the tradition their mother started when they were babies; they dressed alike, but Benjamin wore blue, and Caleb wore red.

“She did that so it was easier for people to tell us apart,” Caleb explained. “Benjamin, blue – both Bs, she thought that would help.”

The two were homeschooled by their mother, who has taught all of the family’s eight children. Their father instilled in them the importance of serving others and treating all people with kindness and respect.

They learned the value of hard work at an early age. The teacher for that particular lesson was their grandfather, who ran a pest control business in Parsons. By the time they were middle-school aged, they said, they were crawling under houses and digging trenches to control termites.

“If we were willing to work hard, he was willing to pay us well,” Benjamin said. “Instead of asking our parents for money, we went out and earned it ourselves. And that mindset has stuck with us.”

They also learned the value of all work, whether it was fun or not. “You don’t have to enjoy what you’re doing to do the job for a while,” Benjamin said. His brother nodded.

“You don’t have to like what you’re doing to get satisfaction from a job well done,” Caleb added.

Studying together

When they decided to come to Johnson County Community College, they had another decision to make: do they attend culinary school, or do they sign up for entrepreneurial study instead? 

“We debated that all through high school…” said Benjamin. “…for quite some time,” Caleb finished.

“We finally decided that we did have some experience baking and cooking for other people, and we knew the baking side we could learn on the job. But the business side – even if you’re an excellent baker but you aren’t a good business owner then your business will still fail,” Benjamin said.

“That was a big part of it. With an entrepreneurship degree, it would allow us flexibility moving forward. We could open a bakery, but it also leaves the option open for other opportunities,” Caleb said.

Even so, a bakery will allow them to work hard and be creative – two goals they wanted from a business.

“We’re both very creative, and any outlet we have for creative energy is something we enjoy,” Caleb said. 

“We also enjoy making things,” Benjamin said. “There’s something very satisfying about taking raw materials and putting them together into something that’s a finished product. We also enjoy the way food brings people together.”

Donna Duffey, professor and chair of entrepreneurship, said the Newtons’ positive attitude and work ethic have been wonderful for the program. 

“It is not just the faculty team in JCCC’s entrepreneurship program but the students in each of the classes that have enjoyed the opportunity to learn from and with Benjamin and Caleb,” she said. 

“Several students have even suggested to me that we should all take a field trip to Parsons, Kansas.”

If they wait a few years, they can all have coffee together…