When Barnes and Noble opened a mega bookstore in Erie, Pennsylvania, Kathleen Cantrell could have gone out of business. But instead, she did something else. Kathleen took a big risk, she moved to a new location, added a cozy reading nook and coffee shop, and emphasized making special orders for regular customers. Now, Kathleen provides book lovers with a special, localized treatment, in a unique and appealing alternative environment. She makes a lot of people happy, and she’s making money. Kathleen Cantrell is your basic entrepreneur. Brad Morgan is not your basic entrepreneur. Far from it, he’s done something amazing! Brad’s story begins a few years ago, when his back was up against the wall. Our County Extension agent, wonderful man, Jerry Lindquist, first year we was in business, he come here, evaluated the books, looked at our financial statement, and he looked me right square in the eye, and he says, “You’re broke, get out.” “You cannot possibly make it.” And I looked right back at him and I says, “What have we got to do to get this right?” Well, at that point in time, the average rolling herd average for this county was like fourteen or fifteen thousand pounds of milk per cow. He says, “Brad, in order for this thing to float, you’ve gotta be well over 20,000 pounds of milk per cow.” Well, at that particular time, there was only one herd in Osceola County that had that kind of production. By the second year, we was the top producing herd in Osceola County, and by the third year, we was the sixth highest producing herd in the State of Michigan. So, out of necessity, you put your butt in the corner, you’d be surprised what you can achieve. For over ten years, Brad led the region in milk production per cow. But in 1999, milk prices plummeted. Suddenly, Brad was in trouble. But like Kathleen Cantrell, he didn’t give up. He quite literally found new prosperity, right under his feet. We always bought our feed here, so we had to find a way to dispose of the manure. It was costing me about $25,000 a year to dispose of the manure. Well, my father and I was talking, and basically I says, “Dad, I’ve done some research on this, and I think we can compost this manure, and I think we can make it a marketable product.” So, we contacted Michigan State and they come in and did some studies, and did all of this, and they told us “yes” we could, and we could probably sell it at $3 a yard. Well, at $3 a yard, the cost of production is $9 a yard. That just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. They basically told me that it was pretty much unachievable. The value of the product wouldn’t be there, but I was a little independent, a little pig-headed, a little stubborn. We decided that there was a better market out there. To question developing a new marketplace for a product that hasn’t even been developed yet, to me, I think people are pretty narrow-minded when they draw the line that quick. Brad was not put off by failure. He had confidence, and persistence. And, he had a vision. Most of the equipment was already here and available. We obviously had the property, we had the raw feed stalks, we had tractor, we had skid steer, and we started composting. We haul in dairy manure and we stockpile it on a cement pad and then, come spring, we’ll take out the race-track straw and mix it together with the dairy manure. It will actually start heating in the pile, so it will start breaking down for us when it’s in the pile. And then after that, we’ll take it and we’ll put it into a wind row. A wind row is a long pile that’s about six feet wide by four feet high, about 100 yards long. For the composting business, I turn the compost. We turn the wind rows because the living organisms in there need the oxygen. We turn it about once every three days. If every time she turns it, and you lose that much steam off from that wind row, that’s moisture leaving the system. Now unless it’s replenished, sooner or later, that product just dries right out. That wind row right there, I mean it’s still got plenty of moisture in there. I mean, when you can ball it and throw it up there, and it just barely breaks up, that’s about perfect. We’re speeding up this process from what everybody thought would take two years, and we’re doing it in sixty days. Brad was seeing incredible results. But “about perfect” wasn’t good enough, so he hired Joe Scrimger, a consultant with expertise in soil biology. Brad was following an important rule of entrepreneurship: “Do what you do best… and trade for the rest.” I’d never paid somebody so much money to be such a critic, but the one thing that Joe brought to the table is if you’re going to market a product, don’t accept the average. You have to create a product that is better than anybody else can make. What Joe would do, is he would basically come in and he would test it, he would analyze it, he would scrutinize it, and to the point to where he was almost offensive. And I’d write him another check, and I’d write him another check, because as I started watching our process, as we was learning, he was learning, as we was learning, he was challenging us to do more, and consequently, it shows up in the marketplace. We’ve developed eight different product lines, and now we’re even growing that into probably be ten or twelve by the end of the season. The Dairy Doo obviously is our base product. We’ve got that kind of down to a science. The Dairy Doo is basically calf pin manure, dairy cow, any kind of manure that we can get out of a dairy herd, or a beef herd. We’ve probably taken this to a level that nobody else has probably looked at, and we’re probably a little more meticulous about it. We can make a very nice compost, and it’s a lot more stable than what most people even recognize. If we’re going to make, go through this much time and effort, this much energy to make a product, we feel we have to be the best on the marketplace. It’s interesting, that’s the thing… it’s fun. When you can take a raw product that had no value, and turn it into a product that has extreme value in the marketplace… from large production agriculture, to small production agriculture, to homeowner, to garden… golf courses…it’s wide open. Successful entrepreneurs never take their eyes off the customer’s needs. Customers’ freedom to choose in the market keeps the entrepreneur on target. The entrepreneur’s freedom to innovate means the best for customers. You might say the fertilizer of entrepreneurship is freedom. Kathleen Cantrell has found ways to successfully compete. She works hard. Her business creates jobs. And if she doesn’t cover her costs, she’ll fail. Brad Morgan could have failed, too. But he refused to accept government subsidies. Instead, he bet on his own ability to turn a waste into a profit. He offered gardeners a high quality product, and another choice. He took a big risk investing his money up front. But in the end… it paid off. Brad’s compost is in such demand, he partners with other farmers to maximize production. Well, our goals when we first started this business, we felt if we could sell $30,000 worth of product, we would be just tickled pink. Our goals for this year will be well over a million and a half. That’s not a big company, but there’s an opportunity out there. By “out there,” Brad means the Free Market, where people can choose. If they don’t choose his product, he fails, but the customer wins either way. Brad serves their needs, or his competitors will. If government doesn’t create too many barriers, Brad can succeed. His customers will reward his hard work and risk with profit. It’s called capitalism. And it’s that simple. And then, when that checkbook doesn’t balance, and there isn’t enough money to go around, and I mean, you’re constantly fighting the financial battles that we was fighting, it puts a lot of stress on the family. On the other hand, I look back today, and I wouldn’t rewrite that book for no love nor money. Are we successful? Yeah, but I’m not sure it all revolves around money. My success will be measured when I’m long gone. I have visions of a grandchild or two, or three, actually being involved in something that I built. If you have a vision, go for it. If anyone of these kids come up with an idea or a project, I’ll support them a hundred percent. But if you’re going to do it, do it, and do it well. Do it well. Pursue your vision. Given the incentive, and the freedom to innovate, entrepreneurs enrich themselves, while making the world better for all of us.