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21-Oct-2015

Holen One Farms marinades on successes, friends and family


“Let’s build a concession trailer and travel around the country selling food and meeting new people,” I said to my wife, Renee. She was less enthusiastic, but agreed to think about it. After almost 53 years together, we became a pretty good team through operating a farm and raising children. We also became good at entertaining our friends and meeting people.

 

We traveled the Midwest for 12 years with a 16-foot concession trailer, serving grilled beef tenderloin, grilled pork loin and grilled chicken breast, all served with fresh squeezed lemon and limeade.

 

All of the Holen One Farms food items were prepared with the use of our original recipe rubs, marinades and sauces. Many people asked for the “Secret Sauce” recipe that made our meats stand apart from anything they had sampled before. We recognized the opportunity that presented itself and we knew we had to market our spices, marinades and sauces. We had served over 100,000 satisfied customers our products and had traveled over 125,000 miles around the Midwest in a truck with, "HOLEN ONE FARMS~FINE FOODS" in bold letters on the side.

 

In 2005, we began to explore the possibilities of the processed food business by contacting the University of Nebraska’s Food Processing Center and enrolling in the “From Recipe to Reality” seminar.

 

We learned about everything from federal regulations to bar coding. We also learned about how hard it is to ever see your product on the shelf in a major retail outlet and the high dollar investment it takes to launch a new product. Undaunted by the dose of reality, we decided to proceed with the processed food plan by following the same business plan that had been working for us for the past 40 years; give people a good product at a fair price, treat your customers like friends and operate with your own money.

 

After several failed attempts to find a co-packer that could make our products to our specifications and at a price that would allow us to compete, we found just the right company that placed customer relations right up there with product satisfaction. We had learned in our previous 40 years that it’s not about the product; it’s about the people and sharing your story with them. There are many great products out there. How you relate to your customer sets you apart from the competition.

 

In 2006, we loaded up our pickup with Holen One Farms Marinade, BBQ Sauce and Java Rub and set out to make some friends. We stopped at stores and asked if they would stock our products. We decided to limit our area of trade to Nebraska, due to the fact that we were distributing the product and the high cost of shipping out-of-state.

 

We were amazed at the number of stores that were looking for Nebraska-made products. We also noticed that a lot of store owners asked us if we would be back, meaning that many people stop by with products and never return. We assured them that we would be back. Sales in most stores continued to grow, however, in a few stores, the products just never caught on. In cases like this we would buy back the product and, hopefully, leave as friends. “If you can’t make a sale, make a friend.” This has always been our motto.

 

We found that we could greatly increase our sales by doing demos in stores and various venues of food shows in the areas that our products are sold. Holenonefarms.com went up and online sales exploded.

 

These efforts also made it easier for us to share our story. Our business story is of our passion to create a product and present it to the public in such a way that it is a reflection of our life's story. We live our lives in the stories we tell. If we don't like the way the storyline is going, we have within us the ability to change the story. After all, it's our story.

 

We expanded sales of Holen One Farms products to nearly every part of the state of Nebraska and needed a distributor for the Lincoln and Omaha area. Most of our new stores were now coming from the store managers calling us at the request of their customers.

 

We sold the concessions business in 2010 and the extra time allowed us to enjoy growing our Holen One Farms-Fine Foods business by traveling 30,000 miles yearly stocking stores, delivering products and working food shows and demos. We were also allowed time to enjoy our five children and 17 grandkids along the way. Holen One Farms caters 45 to 50 events per year.

 

Businesses can and must change and adapt to the markets and surrounding pressures. Our story is about success and failure. Success gives us the desire to push on and failure makes us wise. I encourage everyone to share their story, the failures and the success, because that identifies us with our customers. It's all about people and everyone has a story.


About the Author

Mike and Renee Holen
Owner, Holen One Farms
Mike lives on their family farm outside of Loomis, Nebraska.  Renee has a degree in Art Education and Mike has a Soil Science Degree.  They raised a family, livestock, and farmed prior to starting Holen One Farms.

   

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