Last Updated on September 8, 2021
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About Laura Wheeler
Laura: I grew up in Montana, and my parents have a conventional cow-calf operation. I knew I didn’t want to raise animals in that system and be at the whim of commodity cattle markets. I have a couple years of college under my belt, but naively thought college would not benefit me in my adult life (I wish I would have majored in business now!) I’ve worked in many job fields in different places across the U.S. Construction in Seattle Washington operating heavy equipment, teaching rock climbing to children with Autism and Asperger’s in North Carolina, a wrangler in Glacier National Park, and an Owner Operator driving my big truck (semi) building roads and oil pads, hauling production water, and hauling logs. I’ve owned a rental house in Snohomish WA since 2009. Coming back to St. Ignatius and raising animals has always been a dream though, and it’s finally happening in a way that’s sustainable! Tony: I grew up in Idaho, and throughout high school I worked on big (10s of thousands of acres) ranches. Out of high school I joined the Army, and was a helicopter mechanic. I made my way to North Dakota as a trucker, and bought my first truck in 2014.
About Roaming Bison Ranch
Our company: We are raising grass fed, grass finished bison, beef, and Mangalitsa pork. We have developed an online shipping program so our products can reach a wider market. We believe in the regenerative agriculture movement. Grazing animals for food, in opposition to the current feedlot model, is better for the land, our animals, our customers, and the environment in general! We would like to be part of the successful group of agriculture businesses who ARE making a difference by moving away from conventional farming and ranching methods. My boyfriend Tony Elkington and I started on our path of raising bison on a whim. We were hauling asphalt in central North Dakota in the spring of 2016. We were broke, and living in our trucks following the hot plant (place where they make asphalt) around; they move it to different locations at the end of each job. It had been an exceptionally rainy spring, and we were looking for an excuse to get out of the trucks (we couldn’t pave in the rain) that wouldn’t be expensive! We came across an ad from the National Bison Association for their Beginner Bison Producer workshop in Jamestown, ND. It was a two day deal, and we fell in love with the industry. That fall we bought our first 5 bison heifers. Neither one of us knew anything about bison, and we didn’t have land to put them on! Truth be told, we had no idea what our products or our market would be, but TONS of research has led us down this path, and we are so excited about where it’s going.
How Did You Get Your First Several Customers Or Users? How Many Users Or Customers Do You Have Now?
We have only been selling for about three months, but we have had a Facebook page since 2016. Our page had about 650 likes when we started selling, so we did a few posts asking friends and family to share our new website and see our products. A large part of our website traffic came from posting Craigslist ads in the larger cities we shipped to in the beginning. We have 600+ people on our email subscription list (not a lot, yet!) and have sold about 40 bundles.
How Does Your Company Grow And Acquire New Customers?
We use social media, Craigslist, and are currently working on our websites SEO to appear higher in search results. Right now we have a sample box on its way to Hawaii to a published health blogger with 300k+ social media followers. We have reached out to health and wellness coaches in all the major cities we ship to and offered ourselves as a resource to anyone looking to buy grass finished meat.
What Actionable Tips And Tricks Do You Have For New Founders Who Are Looking To Get Their First Thousand Users Or Dollars?
Have your ducks in a row as far as email marketing goes. We have been stumbling through figuring out relationship building through email and building our subscriber list. I feel we have missed some big opportunities by not knowing our stuff before launching our website and our products. If you’re building a website, do some research on basic SEO. Ranking higher in search results has been essential for us. Provide incentives for customers to leave a review. We offer a $15 account credit to any customer who will leave us a google review.
What Is Something You’ve Learned That Would Not Be Obvious To Somebody Who Hasn’t Worked In Your Space Before?
Building a relationship with your customers is everything. We are not the only company selling grass finished meat online, but people choose to buy from us because of how we make them feel.
What’s The Craziest Thing That’s Happened To You (Good Or Bad) On Your Founder Journey?
The whole journey has been a crazy learning experience! Bison are wild to handle, they are so big and powerful. You don’t know fear until you have a mad mama bison bluff charging you.
What Are Your Favorite Books?
My go-to book is “Grassfed to Finish” by Alan Nation or “Building A Storybrand” by Donald Miller But, in our journey some of the most influential forms of media have been podcasts (Regenerative Agriculture, Working Cows, and A Profitable Mindset)
Anything You’d Like To Plug?
For us? Our website www.roamingbisonranch.com For ranchers? Working Cows Podcast For businesses? The book “Building A Storybrand” by Donald Miller
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