Penny Schulz and Jo Williams
You don't know what you don't know
Penny and Jo were dissatisfied with a fragmented livestock marketing system and were keen to find solutions to bring about more transparency and more options that suited the needs of producers and stock agents. The pair came up with a new idea over a drink one evening while complaining about their frustrations with the current processes.
As livestock producers themselves, Penny and Jo understood the pain points felt by others. Penny co-owns and manages Schulz Livestock, a sheep and beef farm, and also consults to the dairy, beef and sheep industries. Jo is a director in her family’s sheep farming business, and runs a 5000-merino breeding ewe enterprise with her husband.
Coming into the Farmers2Founders Ideas Program, Penny and
Jo’s idea was to create a meta-search engine to help livestock
producers to source animals and encourage stock agency firms
to post their sale lots online with consistent livestock
During the Ideas Program, Penny and Jo reviewed the idea for
their product and realised that they did not have a good way to incentivize agents to cooperate. The program pushed them to go out and talk to their potential customers and users to understand what incentives might get these agents willing to use such a product.
“We spoke to more than 30 stock and station agents over the course of the program, and it was really eye-opening because we realised how blind we had been to the concerns and challenges that agents were facing. Even though I’d worked as an agent for years and years, I had been thinking about building this product just for producers, not considering why agents would or would not get on board.”
“After speaking to all of these agents, we started to really understand their workflow and challenges, and realized there was an opportunity to help agents better manage their client relationships and track stock that might be available for sale/purchase in their network - and by helping the agents do this, we would make it easier for producers to get great service, more animals, and better outcomes.”
This change in direction is a common outcome in the Ideas Program - teams often find that what they had originally planned to build is not as appealing to their target market as they first thought, and have to change plans. But, as Penny says, “We’re so glad that we did go and have all those conversations and realize we were on the wrong track, and come up with this new idea that was really directly shaped by our actual customers problems. It means that we can feel really confident now that we are solving a real problem that someone is willing to pay for - so we can be confident investing more time and money in further developing the product.”
Penny and Jo created a basic prototype of this new product using off the shelf software, and are now working with a pilot customer to test the concept in action. If all goes well, they’ll be aiming to have a minimum viable product in the market in 2020.
“Agents are often held up as the bad guy that everyone wants to disrupt. But a great agent is worth their weight in gold. We think that our product can be a win win, helping agents do their jobs better so they can help their client producers better.”
“We wouldn’t be here without the guidance and coaching we received from Farmers2Founders. The expertise and level of support we received really blew us away. The format is also set up to support producers - remote, flexible, and covering travel costs as well, which made a big difference for us being able to get off farm.”
Penny Schulz and Jo Williams graduated from the F2F 2019 Ideas Program, and are based in South Australia.