CYstarters Spotlight Story: Fast Farm
By Brooke Geils & Diana Wright, ISU Pappajohn Center for Entrepreneurship
This story is part of a series featuring each of the twelve startups in the CYstarters 2017 summer cohort. Each team has the opportunity to focus on their startup or business idea while receiving $6,000 or up to $12,000, along with mentorship, accountability, and educational sessions on how to build a business.
Connecting the Dots
Raised on a corn and soybean farm in Kenton, Ohio, Brandi Barrett was destined to become an agricultural entrepreneur. At age 10, Brandi was part of the TAG (Talented and Gifted) program at her school where she was tasked with designing a product for a class assignment.
Her first idea? To create wind-shield wipers for glasses to keep rain away. Considering what materials were readily available, she instead landed on using plexiglass to create a visor with the help from her father. Although Brandi admits it looked a bit obnoxious, her solution was never the less intuitive and resourceful.
From then on, Brandi’s parents saw her as an entrepreneur. It wasn’t until recently that Brandi’s parents shared this story with her and dug up some photos (see below).
Lessons learned from an Expert
When Brandi first came up with the concept behind the company she is building today, she had a strong voice of reason on her side — her dad. Brandi’s father has over 30 years of experience in the agriculture equipment business as a mechanic, salesman for a dealership and manufacturer, and now a territory manager for Ritchie Brothers. Brandi was able to leverage her father’s expertise to develop a potent new business idea — Fast Farm.
What is Fast Farm?
Fast Farm helps farm equipment dealers find qualified leads so they can make more sales and save more time.
On the flip-side, Fast Farm helps rural American farmers find necessary farm equipment in a timely manner so their time can be spent on what matters most — livestock, crops and family. By playing the matchmaker, Fast Farm is the ultimate platform to connect farmers with dealers in a space ripe for technological innovation.
In a recent interview with Brandi, she gave us some insight on her journey, her business, and what’s in store for her down the road.
Where are you today in developing Fast Farm?
To date, the application for farmers is built thanks in large part to AgEI (Agricultural Entrepreneurial Initiative at Iowa State) and their partnership with a developing firm in Iowa City (Launch Deck). The development discussion started in February and took only 6 weeks to complete the build out, freeing up time for beta testing. My favorite memory to date was seeing the app as a finished product. Not kidding. Ask anyone that saw me when I found out my app was ready for download and they will tell you how excited I was!
Next steps for the product are to build out the website interface for the dealers. All this month during CYstarters I will be talking with dealers to discover how their half of the interface should be built.
How has the market responded so far?
The challenge for growing Fast Farm is the chicken and the egg scenario. I will have to build a customer base on both fronts — the farmers looking for ag equipment and the dealers who have the equipment available.
A great opportunity that I am gearing up for is to have both sides of my product built out for the National Farm Machinery Show taking place in Kentucky next February. Success is about speed and access to the market, and I think the show is a perfect place to launch Fast Farm.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced?
In my agricultural entrepreneurship class, I was 1 of 4 girls in a class of 50 people. It is not universally accepted that a woman can be knowledgeable about agriculture; it is portrayed as a man’s game. I felt as though I was an imposter but I’ve come to believe I do have a great product regardless of what society thinks.
How can we change this to make it easier for women to go into agricultural fields or to start their own business?
I think for agriculture, we need to continue to see companies employ women as leaders within the industry. Then we will see a trickle-down effect. A great support network that I’ve come across recently is FarmHER.
For entrepreneurship, I don’t think I would have known how to answer this question until I attended EntreFEST (annual conference in Iowa City). There I listened to a woman entrepreneur describe the imposter syndrome and how she never believed that she deserved the credit. She felt she was the “token female” in an accelerator program. What she went on to describe was that there’s so many people that do this thing called entrepreneurship. You want it to be easier, but you don’t realize how long it takes.
It really comes down to just doing it. Honestly. And the more women entrepreneurs or women in agriculture we continue to see, the bigger the support system can be for mentorship.
Favorite moment in CYstarters so far?
I appreciated the very first day of the program during the Entrepreneurial Leadership workshop (led by Donna Gilligan). For one of the exercises, we were all dealt a hand of three cards with adjectives to describe each of us. My first thought was that this was the instructor’s first impression of me… I didn’t necessarily agree with the chosen cards. Later we learned that the cards were dealt at random and we were able to discuss them and change them with others in the group. Finally, we were able to choose from the deck our top 3 and share a personal story using all three words.
My three words were Controlled, Intellectual, and Adventurous.
What is your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs?
To be open to any type of criticism and open to sharing your ideas with people. I have not always been so open because I pride myself in being independent but entrepreneurs need the support system. You need people who can test your ideas and answer your questions. There is no formula for entrepreneurship; you have to talk with people about what went right or wrong with their businesses.
“Build your network.”
Where are you headed and how would you invite others to join?
My ultimate goal is for any buyer to be able to find any piece of equipment through my app in a timely manner. Right now I am focusing on used agricultural equipment. I encourage interested farmers and dealers to email me to pre-register (email@example.com). This way, when Fast Farm goes live, people will be ready to utilize it!