By: NetWork Kansas
Chris Tecklenburg completed the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program in Reno County during the Fall of 2018. Below he talks about the impact that this program has had on him and how it has helped him work toward launching his business, Tecklenburg Farms. The six-acre urban farm is located in a neighborhood on the west side of Hutchinson, KS.
Q: Describe your business and how it began since participating in the Ice House Entrepreneurship Program.
A: "Tecklenburg Farms LLC was established in 2016. We are still building infrastructure and have not sold product yet. Our plans are to go all organic by 2020. We are in the process of building a house adjacent to the farm, selling our house, and my wife quitting massage therapy of 20 years to be a full time farmer. We have three children (ages 13, 11, and 9). This year we will plan on installing more infrastructure, laying out the plots, planting perennials and growing many different vegetables."
Q: What were your key takeaways from participating?
A: "The The Ice House program was very encouraging. It thoroughly defines what an entrepreneur is and the mindset, then challenges you to break traditional molds. It challenged me many times to think differently. It encouraged us to make sure a product is sold before you sell. It also encouraged you to go and meet your customer base. Get personal and ask them want they want, when they want it, and how much they need. This is a different mindset than 'if I build it they will come.' I have a passion for growing vegetables but if no one wants to buy them than my passion is washed up. I was also encouraged through the program to find something that makes our product different from everyone else. While we were already making wise stewardship choices in the way we grow vegetables we decided to go organic. It is different, and to my knowledge an untapped market in Hutchinson."
Q: What are your plans to grow your business in the future?
A: "We have made the decision to grow organic. This will set production back a year but we know it is the right decision. We are transitioning to organic and plan to be certified by 2020. In 2019 we will continue building infrastructure, designing crop rotations, irrigation layout, building a facility to store and prepare vegetables for the market. In 2020 our customer base plans to be several local businesses, neighbors, and friends. By 2021 we hope to be serving local schools and the local SNAP program."
Q: How do you think the entrepreneurial mindset will help you to move forward?
A: "Asking customers what they want helped drive our decision to grow organic vegetables. This was a vital lesson learned in this class. The Ice House Discovery Canvas platform was extremely helpful. This divided an opportunity into three categories: identify the problem, focus on the solution, and making connections."
Check out the Tecklenburg Farms Instagram here.