Lessons from Three Years as an Entrepreneur

Agricultural Food Systems has now been in business for three years!

It’s been an interesting year for AFS: we completely redesigned the TenderID prototype, took part in another round of testing with the USDA, continued fine-tuning our technology, and were featured on CNNMoney’s website with fellow John Brown University alumni businesses James+James and Craftistas.

Any entrepreneurial journey must be one marked by constant learning. Sometimes this learning comes through success, other times it comes through hardship and failure. As Winston Churchill put it,I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” In other words, every situation presents an opportunity to grow. During my first year running AFS, I learned the importance of thinking strategically, constantly moving forward, and staying humble. The second year as an entrepreneur taught me to not let my identity be defined by my work, the benefits of delaying gratification, and how collaboration is an integral part of innovation. Those six themes were prevalent again this year as we continued to move forward with our R&D. Here are three additional lessons I learned this year:     Read more of this post

The Entrepreneurial Race Part 4: Getting Sponsors

BTCC Final Round Brands Hatch 20th October 2012

This is the fourth post in the “Entrepreneurial Race” series. Click here to read Part 1: Getting to the Track (funding options), Part 2: Picking a Pit Crew  (selecting a Board of Advisors), and Part 3: On Your Mark, Get Set, GO! (launching).

Race cars have a lot of stickers on them. Each one represents a sponsor that has paid to have their logo placed on the vehicle with the expectation it will be seen in person, online, on TV, in a magazine, and in other images of the vehicle. The sponsorships help the race teams to pay their drivers and pit crews as well as cover fuel, tire, and maintenance costs for the race car.

Most entrepreneurs need to enlist their own sponsors at some point in their startup lifecycle. In order to get “stickers” on their startups to cover costs and accelerate growth, the founders must go out and pitch their businesses to potential investors [for more on four different funding options, check out Part 1 of this series].  Read more of this post

Lessons from Two Years as an Entrepreneur

Agricultural Food Systems, a company three friends and I started after graduating from John Brown University, celebrated its two year anniversary of incorporation yesterday!

Last year, I shared three lessons I learned during my first year as an entrepreneur. Since last May, AFS participated in the first cohort of the ARK Challenge, began testing of the TenderID in conjunction with the USDA, and was featured in Bloomberg Businessweek and Arkansas Business (article 1 || article 2).

As I’ve continued on my entrepreneurial journey, one of my personal mantras has been “never stop learning.” If for some reason AFS doesn’t work out (which hopefully won’t happen) and I learn nothing in the process, then the whole experience has been wasted. However, if it fails and I have some valuable takeaways, then it was a worthwhile (though costly) endeavor. As Winston Churchill said, “I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.”

That being said, here are three lessons I’ve learned in the past year: Read more of this post

Lessons from One Year as an Entrepreneur

This past Saturday, Agricultural Food Systems, a company three friends and I started after graduating from John Brown University, celebrated its one year anniversary of incorporation!

What a year it’s been! It all started with a strategic management class at JBU which led to us entering our business plan in the 2011 Donald W. Reynolds Arkansas Governor’s Cup. After some very positive feedback there, we decided to start the business and were officially incorporated on May 19, 2011. Since then we have been busy getting the final production model of the TenderID, a technology that accurately and consistently predicts tenderness in raw beef carcasses on the production line, ready to for the market and should be ready for launch very soon (for more on AFS and the TenderID, visit the AFS website).

Needless to say, I’ve learned a lot about business and entrepreneurship in the past year. Jumping straight from college into being a small business owner has been quite the adventure with lots of teachable moments. Here are three of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far:  Read more of this post

Don’t Waste Your Singleness

lowell heart

Today is Valentine’s Day, a day to celebrate the powerful emotion called love. People spend over $14 billion each year to celebrate the holiday with that “special someone” by making dinner, writing poems, sending cards, dressing up, calling loved ones, and buying flowers, chocolate, or overstuffed animals.

But what about those of us who are single? Should Valentine’s Day (or Singles Awareness Day as some jokingly call it) be a sad, depressing, or anxious day? Not at all! In fact, it’s a unique and exciting stage in your life. Many single people waste their singleness moping around, worrying about finding a boyfriend/girlfriend, or trying to impress those around them. Rarely do people define themselves by their singleness. It’s odd that our culture seems to place marital statuses into a hierarchy that places marriage as higher up than singleness. In contrast, singleness has its perks like flexibility, fewer financial commitments, & spontaneity.

Here are several ways you can avoid wasting your singleness:         Read more of this post

Social Media and the Classroom

With the start of the school year right around the corner (at least for those who still have to go to school), I thought it would be appropriate to write a post about how social media can be used by teachers in the classroom to enhance learning. A recent study by Ofcom showed that 47% of teenagers in the UK  now own a smartphone, compared to just 27% of adults (I imagine that the percentage is almost the same, maybe higher, here in the US). Before I go into detail, let me announce some breaking news from Siloam Springs, where I currently reside.

Siloam Springs High School students can now use their phones at school! Siloam recently finished construction of a brand new high school. Along with the new building, the school district is making some modifications to their technology policy. For the first time in Siloam history, students are allowed to use their cell phones in-between classes (as long as they don’t make calls). That means tweets, texts, status updates, etc. Additionally several of the floors in the building have an extra outlet plugs in them to prepare for the day when most students have all their books on electronic devices.

Now that Siloam Springs High (and I presume other schools) are allowing students to use their cell phones (and laptops for some, especially colleges) at school without any reprecussions, how can schools integrate social media into the classroom environment to enhance the learning experience? Here are just a few suggestions:

Read more of this post

College Reflections: Advice

With the end of my college career approaching, I decided it would be fitting to write a series of posts reflecting on my years in college at John Brown University. The first two posts were about my experiences with School and Church. This final post in the series will contain some advice to those that are currently in college or will beginning that journey soon. Hope you enjoy!

I’d like to wrap up my College Reflections series with some advice that I have learned over the past four years.

  1. Prioritize: One of the hardest things for college students (and people in general) to do is prioritize things. Freshmen show up at JBU and instantly are presented with a plethora of activities, clubs, and friends to connect with and get involved in. As a result, many fill their schedules with 25 hours of activities in a 24-hour day. In order to really get the most out of the four years in college, it is important for each person to get his or her priorities. Of course, school/homework should come first for all students (if you don’t do well in school, you won’t be at school, and won’t be able to do any of the other stuff). Behind that, each person needs to decide what is most important and what they feel like will be the most fulfilling. For me, the list of priorities was school, church, internship at Harvard Avenue Baptist, internship at the Arkansas World Trade Center, JBUltimate club frisbee team, and everything else. Setting priorities makes it much easier to say “no” to certain things, prevents becoming overcommitted, and makes college even more enjoyable.    Read more of this post
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