Entrepreneur Report – Bob Greiner, HMC Farms

HMC Farms is a largely family owned and operated fruit farm in Central California. Bob is an owner in the company, however a non-family member in the HMC line. HMC was started in 1887 and has survived many changes and difficult times in the farming industry. This post is less about HMC directly, and more about Bob’s experiences as an entrepreneur.

Bob is one of three siblings, each of which are entrepreneurs or have tried their hand at creating a business. When asked about this, Bob recalled a conversation between himself, his older brother, and their father: “We were underachievers; lazy, undisciplined. One day Dad sat us down and asked us what we wanted to do with our lives.” We didn’t have any real answers, and eventually one of us asked him what he, an electrical engineer, would do if he had to do it over. “He said he would either be a dentist or a CPA.” Lo and behold, several years later Bob became a CPA, going on to earn his MBA from UW while his brother became a dentist. Bob’s path to entrepreneurship was a little different than many. “A lot of it just happened. It wasn’t really intentional – I started off at a CPA firm, and even worked for Boeing for a time, but when I got the chance to be an owner in a business I jumped at it. I’ve always been a bit of a risk taker – an entrepreneur needs to be, and needs to be forward thinking. You can’t be consumed with the right now and you need to be willing to endure some things for the future benefit. When I was much younger, I was a crab fisherman. We were paid on how many crab we caught, not on the number of hours we worked, so there was always that thrill of ‘did we let our pots down in the right spot, did the crab come?’ Part of entrepreneurship is the thrill of the hunt, like crab fishing.” Similar to the mystery of whether you have successful pots, have the decisions you made helped company come together or not.

“Entrepreneurship is a lot of hard work – nothing is as easy as it seems in the dream phase. There are some down times, some scary times.” Bob recalls a specific time when he questioned whether he had made the right career choice. In the late nineties, our business was much different. We were more of a marketing company – we had fruit of our own, but also a lot of fruit wasn’t ours but we did the packaging, etc. “The boxes for the grapes had big wooden ends, they were rigid, costly, bad for the environment. We did a bunch of research, tests, and designed new corrugated boxes to use. We developed the specifications, ordered the boxes – we said ‘we are going to take everyone to these new boxes, save all our farms a ton of money.’ Then a couple months into storage the boxes started collapsing. Fruit was molding, the gasses weren’t escaping…it was a complete DISASTER.” It turned out the box manufacturer hadn’t built the boxes to specifications and after a year of legal pursuit, Bob’s company won out. However, the prolonged legal proceedings took our attention away from running the company so long that “we thought we were going to lose it all. We were dancing along the edge of the cliff, but we were able to put together some deals to save the company. I would have much preferred to have been doing anything else other than that…that was scary.”

Being an entrepreneur has also been very rewarding. One of the best things has been “seeing the business come together and be successful…that taking those lumps early on has paid off. The company persevered through those hard times.” If my son or daughter wanted to go it on their own, “I would say Great! I would counsel them to be better planners…do your homework and be knowledgeable about what you’re doing. Align yourself with good people.”

Bob’s final words to all of us aspiring entrepreneurs; “Know your business. Align yourself with good people. Be optimistic. Persevere. Realize that nothing is as easy as it seems.”

 

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Re-targeting

I don’t know whether things have changed recently, because I haven’t been able to catch the sneaky culprits on my favorite sites, but it used to be that Foster School of Business and the Husky Team Store were the two biggest re-targeting offenders. The two would split time prominently displayed on my favorite “news” site (Dawgman.com) and on my favorite media channel (Pandora.com).

For me, neither were effective. With the Foster ads, I am obviously already enrolled in the program and thus do not need to be sold on it’s benefits. As for the Husky Team Store, I can definitely see how this could have been an effective strategy as the ads were usually displayed where I was consuming other Husky news. However my purchasing behavior is more direct than that…I don’t generally make purchases on a whim, they are usually planned, making these types of ads less effective at inspiring action on my part.

ZenHub.io

ZenHub is a workflow management tool for GitHub. ZenHub offers many of the project management attributes you would expect, including kanban boards, communication tools, file sharing, etc, but  is the only tool runs natively in GitHub’s interface. This allows users to avoid context switching with third-party tools and to work more cohesively within GitHub. They provide a feature set designed to empower teams from large enterprises, as well as the open source development community.

I would recommend ZenHub reach out to:

Ben Sandofsky (@sandofsky) – He has blogged about git on his site, and seems to be well connected in the tech community.

Coderwall.com (@coderwall) – Coderwall is a collaborative learning platform for software developers to improve their programming knowledge.

OPEN, by NY Times (@NYTDevs) – Open is a blog about code and development written by NY Times developers, covering topics from their own open source projects and api’s to the technology driving open source projects.

Blog 2 – ETEK Wearables

This may seem like a little bit of a reach, but in actuality the product concept is quite similar. I am in the Baby Tech group, and I came across ETEK on Angel List. ETEK is creating an athletic shirt that contains sensors and a BLE transmitter that allows the shirt to detect biometrics and convey them in real time to your smart phone. This is very similar to our concept in that, the sensors would be sewn into the fabric of the baby onesie and would similarly transmit to a mobile app on the parents’ smart phones, most likely via BLE. The comparison is made more interesting by the idea that sportswear could be a natural extension of the Baby Tech line.

ETEK has not done any marketing that I can tell. The website does rank first on branded SEO which is good, but they are nowhere to be seen on searches such as “wearable tech sportswear” or “smart sportswear.” The reason for this is most likely the website itself. There is virtually no content on the site – ETEK has a 45 second vimeo posted (but not published on YouTube), but little else. This is made worse by the vagueness of the vimeo; it does not demonstrate any compelling reason to buy or even provide a specific features of the product. ETEK is definitely not doing any paid search or display yet either. I also checked social channels, Twitter and Facebook, and could not find mention of the company or product on either of these sites.

ETEK’s positioning is in sportswear and connected devices. From the information they have explicitly provided, the value prop seems to be an advancement in the technology of the sensor/transmitters themselves, coupled with the mobile app that allows activities to become social events. Their tagline; “Compete, Compare, Challenge” is a call to athletes to come together and push each other.

They have not been at all successful that I can tell. Could be that I am not searching in the right areas but I don’t believe they have done any marketing whatsoever and branded search won’t drive traffic if there is no brand established.

Blog 1 – Better late than never…….? Dwellable

I chose to take a closer look at Dwellable, number 113 on the GeekWire 200. dwellable

Dwellable is a mobile first vacation rental app that strives to provide unique and tailored properties for the particular traveler conducting the search. The key differentiator between Dwellable and, say AirBnb, is Dwellable’s “Quality Scored Inventory.”

The vacation rental industry is massive, as evidenced by the number of very large players in this space including Expedia, Travelocity, Hotels.com, AirBnb, HomeAway, etc which in theory would make this a very space to compete. Dwellable’s positioning is a little different in that they are looking to be the Kayak or Ebay in this space by providing objective, high quality listings that best match the traveler’s needs. dwellable mobile

Dwellable started out targeting many of the independent property owners and property managers who were not already locked in with competitors, who also were willing to invest in providing the media needed to create a great end-user experience (professional hd photography, premium content, etc).