Starting a business is both simple and complex. It is simple in that it essentially must solve a problem or meet the need of a customer who will pay for the solution. It is complex because it has myriads of components since the “…startup is greater than the sum of its parts; it is an acutely human enterprise,”1 according to startup expert, Eric Reis.
I had heard much about Ryan and Rebecca Stowell, and this week, had the privilege to meet Ryan on a Zoom call. “We are in the middle of the startup process,” Ryan stated, and as we talked it became clear that the Stowells are grappling with the complexities of supply chain, markets, raising capital, developing relationships, discovering competition, insuring quality controls, developing price points and management strategies and much, much more.
However it was refreshing to see their starting point – solving a problem!
Ryan and Rebecca had spent 15 years in the restaurant business in their home state of Colorado when they responded to an opportunity to help manage a retreat and resident center in Thailand for Burmese children of refugees. It was not long before they got to know relatives in the hill country who had begun to grow coffee in place of the historic opium crop. As they continued to befriend these families, the coffee farmers asked the Stowells if they would help them find markets for their product. These relationships were key to their model. And it caused them to wonder, “Is there a business here?”
Their business model started to emerge, and the first steps were taken toward solving the farmers’ problem. It meant raising over $100,000 in capital, partnering with experts in the coffee industry, and finding business consulting expertise.
Most every successful startup owner knows intuitively or learns the importance of coaching. They contacted IBEC, and before long they were immersed in the Triventure model. The training they received from Mike helped them to step back and reinforce the basics. “It gave us confidence and stimulated lots of conversations,” affirmed Ryan. The online courses and concepts helped them to take an idea in their heads and write a plan intelligible to investors. Ryan was very appreciative of the IBEC coaching from Bob and the financial expertise from John. They were able to develop a plan for a pitch which resulted in a substantial startup low-interest loan from Legacy Ventures.
And so, Seed of Hope was launched as a way to serve their community and promote sustainability. Moreover, Rebecca mentions that, “the plan is to sell roasted coffee in Thailand and green coffee in the United States, as a way to support the farmers and make disciples of Jesus.”
- Eric Reis, “The Lean Startup.” Crown Business Books, 2011, page 2
Larry W. Sharp, BAM Support Specialist, IBEC Ventures