J.W. Hunt Organics and the Food+City Challenge
Post by Trevor Grode ’19
One week ago I traveled with the rest of our team to the Food+City Challenge in Austin, Texas. It’s an annual event aimed at spotlighting innovation and sustainability in the food industry. I was accompanied by the rest of my team, who along with myself make up our company: J.W. Hunt Organics. We are a food company that specializes in popularizing and educating consumers about Hemp foods. As young, inexperienced entrepreneurs, we went into the weekend not knowing what to expect. Half of me was expecting a million dollar investment and the other half was expecting to get laughed off stage. The results were, well, mixed. Although we didn’t win the grand prize – or walk away with that million dollar investment – we did manage to win their award for nutrition. The most valuable thing we got out of the weekend, however, was knowledge and experience. We learned that a great product doesn’t necessarily equal a great business, here’s my take on why.
Everyone – everyone – loved our product, and yet we didn’t get a single sales offer. I couldn’t figure it out. I was up all night thinking about what went wrong and I finally figured out the inconvenient truth that all entrepreneurs with great new ideas must face: you can’t talk an idea into existence. Our biggest problem wasn’t that we were young, or our ideas were too far out, it was that we were unproven – we hadn’t made any money yet. There was a company in a booth near ours that made crackers out of ground up crickets that was closing deals left and right. CRICKETS! Everyone laughed at them when they first described their products, but once they dropped the bomb that they’d done $200,000 in revenue in the first 10 months you’d better believe no one was laughing then. There are a million great ideas out there, more than a few of them world changing, but you can’t talk a promising idea into reality. I happen to believe that industrial Hemp can change the way we eat, build things, use our resources, and treat our planet all for the better, but none of that matters if it won’t sell. When I was a freshman in high school I thought I was a good lacrosse player. I had talent – I showed promise – but I didn’t get to start over older kids who had proved themselves already until I played in a few games and proved that I could actually perform and was more than just hype. Going to investors – or even big-time distributers – without sales is a lot like that. It’s a tough sell and makes their investment all the more risky. All in all, we learned a lot. Chiefly, you should take failure in stride, just like success. We are by no means discouraged by the weekend. In fact, people liked the taste of our product so much that we are as confident in Hemp as ever. In the coming months we hope to use some of the insight we gained in Austin about our customers and peers to grow, and continue our mission of introducing America to sustainable and responsible health food that doesn’t sacrifice taste.
Thank you to the Undergraduate Professional Accelerator Fund for this opportunity!