• Cass Mao

Thinking like a startup part three: a bigger vision

This month we have been sharing three key mindset shifts producers go through in our Farmers2Founders Bootcamp program.


The Bootcamp program helps producer-led businesses scale by teaching them best practices of high-growth companies. We believe that producers can unlock massive industry impact when equipped with the right tools and mindsets.


Catch up on Part One on customer feedback, and Part two on using digital tools.


The last (and hopefully lasting) mindset shift for Bootcamp teams was to explore greater ambition.


Explore the possibility of a bigger vision

The producers in Farmers2Founders programs come from farms ranging in size and complexity, from small mobs to multi-tens of thousands of acres. The ambition and experience of building a large farming business is not uncommon. Yet this mindset of scale is far less common when it comes to building off-farm businesses.


On day 1 of the Bootcamp we led a conversation on success, asking teams whether they hoped to become a half million, $2.5m or $10m+ turnover business. Only one company out of 8 put their hand up for this $10m+ goal!


Producers often haven't considered the possibility of their off-farm business becoming significant in size - value-adding to more than just their own produce, or even reaching a size that times them off-farm.


This usually isn’t just because they don’t want to go off-farm, but is rather because they haven’t seen models of what it looks like to build significant off-farm businesses - it doesn’t seem possible. This is a shame, limiting potentially major business ideas from reaching their full potential.


The Bootcamp tries to change this, pushing the producers to imagine what their business could look like, and making the prospect of a much bigger business at least seem possible. Then it’s up to the team to decide if such an idea is appealing. Sometimes it isn’t - many might prefer to stay on-farm and keep the business small. But for others, with support and access to experienced advice, this idea becomes exciting.


Over the course of the program we challenged teams to consider whether their goal for the business was limited by reality, or by perspective.


One team in the program, Synchronicity Farm, experienced this transformation almost by accident. Synchronicity is based up on NSW’s North Coast, offering customized produce boxes from local producers. At the beginning of the program they had their hands full with online orders, a weekly farmers market, and dreams of opening a full time shop. Then COVID-19 hit.


Joshua Allen from Synchronicity Farm


Within weeks, Synchronicity had experienced growth like they’d never before, and at the same time attracted an investor and channel partner that would see their revenue double almost overnight. Founder Josh Allen left behind his full time job and brought on nearly 30 staff to cope with demand.


Of course Synchronicity caught a tailwind with the lockdown moving customers rapidly to buying groceries online. But every business in the Bootcamp program had (and has) the potential to be a multi-million dollar business.


Even if the team doesn’t feel ready today or may not be interested to lead a significant off-farm business - if there is real pull from the market, there are other options to pursue the growth path such as bringing in partners down the track.


Apart from Synchronicity, two other Bootcamp teams have already started to experience the potential pull of their new company and are looking at ramping down their existing commitments.


For producers reading this, our advice is to simply do the experiment of imagining the business vision at five times the size. Does anything about that excite you? If so… explore the idea and start thinking about how to try and make it happen! There’s a growing number of programs like F2F that can help.


Conclusion

That brings us to the end of our three part blog on the inaugural Bootcamp and the teams. We’re so proud of the teams that went through the program, and how they have stepped up as business leaders and entrepreneurs.


Producer-led businesses are vital (and exciting!) to support because of their unique position to build solutions to industry problems.


Not every producer-led business is a technology business, and they’re not all going to raise venture capital, or become a $10m/year turnover businesses. But every business can think about growth, sales, marketing and their business model in a more scalable way.


Bringing the tools and mindset of high growth startups to producer-led businesses can make these businesses more ambitious, and more successful - and can empower them to have a greater impact on the ag industry by growing faster, building better products, and serving more customers.


Thanks for reading! Do you have any ideas of other transformations that producers go through in leading new businesses? We’d love to hear other stories from producers who have gone down this journey.


Catch up on part one and part two of this series here and here.


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