Tell us about yourself?
I currently reside in Fort Worth, though I grew up in Dallas. I am the CEO and Founder of Harvest Returns, a platform for investing in farming and agribusiness. I recently retired after a thirty-year career as a Captain in the Navy Reserve, having deployed all over the world, including to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Persian Gulf, and across Africa.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
Starting a company in new segment (online investments in agriculture) makes you a pioneer. There are no blueprints to follow, but as a pioneer, you should definitely expect to get some arrows in your back.
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Regulations and taxation are a big headache for start-up companies, so choose the advisors who will help you through these challenges carefully.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
I’ve found it fairly easy to juggle. Though running a new company can easily be all-consuming, it’s important to surround yourself with a team that allows each other to take time off when needed.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
I was mostly influenced by my personal experience investing in alternative assets, primarily real estate. My co-founder Austin Maness spent his summers growing up working on family farms. Together we created a nice balance that allows us to empathize with both of our customers – farmers and investors.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
Our team is passionate about making a better agriculture system by investing in farmers and agribusinesses who are transforming the way food is grown. We believe investments in agriculture can help produce food more sustainably and profitably for a growing world population.
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
Our business continues to grow as more and more people realize they shouldn’t take the food system for granted. Supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine have woken people up to the fact that a globalization brings risks to food security. New entrepreneurs should spend as much time talking to potential customers as possible to understand not only the problems they need solved, but the problems within existing business models.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?
Our biggest problem was convincing people to invest in an asset class that is new to both of them using an online process that is also foreign to many high net worth investors.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Texas over other states in the US?
Texas is one of the best places to do business in the country, period. Being a company with investors and investments all over the country, we are constantly reminded why areas with too many taxes and burdensome regulatory environments (California, and New York, especially), are driving companies out of those states. Given that we’re in the agriculture industry, Texas feels like a natural home for our company.
Are there any disadvantages of operating our business in Texas?
We haven’t found any whatsoever.
Texas has a pretty diverse population. How have you found the quickly changing demographics have impacted your business? Have you got new opportunities? Managed to expand your business into new areas?
We are excited about the continued rapid growth in Texas’ population and the benefits it will bring our economy. I personally hope that the people who immigrate from other states realize that Texas succeeds because we value low-touch government.
It is often reported that, in Texas, politics and business are intertwined. Have you noticed this? Has it impacted your business?
That’s a feature everywhere. It’s only impacted our business in a positive way because most Texas politicians know to stay the hell out of the way of free enterprise.
With rising prices across Texas (and the US as a whole) have you been impacted? Do you have a plan for dealing with inflation going forward?
Our farming partners have definitely been impacted by rising cost of input materials (such as diesel and fertilizer) as well as labor inflation. Overall, however, because food is a necessary product, we continue to see the value of our investments in agriculture grow.
What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?
We want to be seen as the leading one-stop shop for people who want to invest in farms, ranches, and agribusinesses. We want to continue to deploy capital into the world’s most important industry with our investment partners.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
They should visit our website and view some of our educational content and blogs. It’s important to understand an industry before you invest in it and our goal is to make more people aware of the benefits of investing in agriculture.