Entrepreneurial leaders push the boundaries and take calculated risks to pursue their passions. Without these bold and courageous people, we would not have the benefit of so many of the innovations that we take for granted today. I came across an interesting definition of entrepreneurship that struck a chord with me. Almost 40 years ago Harvard professor Howard Stevenson stated, “Entrepreneurship is the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.” This definition, which you almost have to read a few times to fully get the meaning, describes the process most entrepreneurs face. They have a vision and drive to take a risk to pursue an opportunity. The reality is that most lack the resources to fully implement their vision. They have to “bootstrap” the venture and do what they can to make their dream a reality. This is often in the face of considerable challenges and obstacles.
I recently visited with Lisa Kuiper, who is pursuing her dream of providing pasture-fed beef and lamb as well as fresh eggs from free-range chickens. She started her business, Livingston Springs Farms, in 2008 and has found a niche in providing organically farmed meat and eggs. Across the nation, there has been a sharp increase in demand for “farm to table” produce and meat. Restaurants are also helping accelerate this trend by working with local farmers to provide fresh and locally grown food. In Mississippi, Kuiper’s business is still on the cutting edge. However, the demand for the organic grass-fed beef and other meat is on the rise.
Kuiper grew up in Southern California and graduated from California State University-San Bernardino with a degree in biology. She has always had a heart for animals. She shared, “As a girl, I would bring home wounded animals, such as baby birds, squirrels, and rabbits.” She later became a vet technician and obedience trainer at the Animal Health Center of Madison and started Livingston Springs Farms with her brother-in–law. Kuiper shared that her cattle and sheep are “free from added hormones and antibiotics,” and they do not use pesticides or herbicides in their pastures. They are also using sustainable farming techniques including solar power and reclaimed water.
It is hard to be a pioneer, and that is one of the challenges for entrepreneurial leaders like Kuiper. One of the challenges for organic meat farmers is that the regulatory environment is geared toward large-scale meat production which can be challenging for the small farmer. In addition, whenever you are on the leading edge of change you have to take the lead in educating the marketplace of the benefits of your product/service. She noted that “grass-fed meats are lower in saturated fats (bad fats), lower in calories, and higher in the good fats such as CLA, omega-3 fatty acids, and is higher in vitamins such as E, A, and the B vitamins.” Kuiper shared that she has effectively utilized social media to promote her business, and she is a regular fixture at the Downtown Jackson Farmer’s market as well as the new Livingston Farmer’s Market.
Like most growing entrepreneurs, Kuiper’s resources are limited. However, she has not let that challenge or the regulatory environment thwart her vision and passion for providing this type of innovative farming product into the marketplace. Kuiper has the ingredients for success in her business, and she is well positioned to be a leader in this “farm to table” movement. For other entrepreneurial leaders, Kuiper is a great example of how vision combined with hard work can lead to a successful business.
Martin Willoughby, a business lawyer in Jackson, is a regular contributing columnist for the MBJ. Willoughby can be reached at martin.willoughby@ butlersnow.com.