Next Ship date: december 7, 2020

Lessons Learned & the Successes in 2019

December 30, 2019

Lessons Learned & the Successes in 2019

Well, well, well the year 2020 has finally arrived and yet, it still seems so far away! 2020 is the year I graduate from college and it has felt that this year would be *forever* before it finally got here. It just so turns out that with one blink of an eye, this year is here and 2019 is gone.


2018 was a year of figuring stuff out. I had just came up with the idea of Oak Barn Beef and was going through the motions of trying to find out how to market our beef, how to ship a perishable product, and how to do something that has felt way over my head since day one. Through an amazing push of “you can do it” from my entrepreneurship program on the UNL Campus (Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program), I took the first step and Oak Barn Beef became an LLC (a real business!) on April 13, 2018. Once that first step was finished, I was ready for the next. It was energizing to be figuring it out, but I was definitely doing so baby step by baby step. 

Entrepreneurship

Hannah and Engler Director, Tom Field

I knew that if I wanted to take the leap to build a business that I would operate full-time when I graduated from college in May 2020 (again - it felt SO far away at the time!), I would need an extra hand. That was when I started researching companies all across the US that had similar businesses to mine. When a friend told me about Five Marys Farms, a direct-to-consumer ranch in California, I knew that I wanted to learn from them. I also knew that if I had the opportunity to do so, it would take Oak Barn Beef from a local business to a national business.

Five Marys Farms
Mary of Five Marys Farms and Hannah of Oak Barn Beef

So fortunately, Five Marys took me on as an intern for the summer and taught me just about everything they knew. It was one of the most “once in a lifetime” opportunities I have ever had and feel incredibly blessed to have the chance to learn from the *queen* of farm-to-table, direct-to-consumer businesses. That summer was full of learning.

When I returned back to Nebraska in August 2018, I knew exactly what to do. I implemented so many of the things I learned at Five Marys into my own business back in Nebraska. I knew a lot because of my experiences, but building your own business is still a hard thing to figure out! The next 4 months of 2018 were dedicated to a lot of mess-ups, big learning lessons, and lots of “i'm sorry's” all while building a business.

Beef shipped to you
First Ship Day Ever- August, 2018.

Which brings 2019 to a year of growth. There are still a lot of moments of “figuring it out” (most moments actually). But it has developed to a mixture of both. I feel like I don’t always do a good job at sharing the 'failure moments' as much as I do the successes… So here’s a list to start of the reflective process about some of the lessons I’ve learned in 2019:

  1. It’s okay to be excited, but it’s not okay to make impulsive decisions because of the excitement.
    1. This one has been a hard lesson for me to learn. And I’ve actually had two learning experiences with it this year since I didn’t learn my lesson the first time. I’ve been working with other businesses to do promotional events or partnerships and have said “YES” too soon. It’s easy to get so excited about outcomes that I don’t think about all of the inputs and if it is the best time to say that YES.
  2. Everything is easier if it is in writing.
    1. While I haven’t learned a BIG lesson with this one yet, it is something that I am making a priority in 2020. My parents are great business mentors and have taught me this since I was little. If it is anything important, simply put it in writing. Whether it is communication, business deals, or anything you want to reference later.
    1. Don’t burn yourself out.
      1. Remember, you don't need permission to “just go to bed and get some rest,” I made a big realization that I was burning myself out the last few months of 2019. It’s okay to take some time to rest!

    There have been a lot of smaller, more specific lessons learned in 2019, as well. I think about failure a lot. And I fail every single day. It's inevitable. Whether that is a miscommunication with our butcher or it is not doing a 10/10 job on a customer call, I fail all the time.⁠

    Sometimes the 'lessons learned' feel like this - getting pooped on first thing in the morning!!

    In my entrepreneurship program, there is a saying on the wall that says "Fail Fast. Fail Forward. Fail Cheap." and that saying has changed my mindset on failure. Instead of focusing on the failure, I constantly ask myself "how could I have handled that situation better?" or "how can we make sure this doesn't happen again?"⁠ Those thoughts turn a small (or big) mistake into a learning lesson. Something to laugh at and move on to take on the next thing. Something to get better from.


    Oak Barn Beef has had a great 2019 year and a lot of it is probably because of those lessons learned. Here are a few of the highlights of the year:

    1. We reached over 400 customers!! That is a lot of support and I am so thankful for everyone who has purchased our premium beef, Oak Barn Beef apparel, or beef jerky. I can’t believe we’ve had over 400 customers. What’s really cool is about 200 of those have connected with us in the past 6 months. That shows to me that we are doing something right!
    2. I have pitched Oak Barn Beef in multiple business competitions. We have won over $33,333 in competitions in Nebraska that I’ve been able to invest back in Oak Barn Beef. I’ve even pitched to Shark Tank in the preliminary rounds that they held in Nebraska! (I didn’t win any money in that one! lol).
    3. Oak Barn Beef’s sales have increased by 286% in 2019 compared to 2018. Oak Barn Beef has so much support and people really do love our beef. My family is very proud of the beef we produce and to hear so many happy customer reviews means the absolute world to us. Have you left a review yet?
    4. We’ve shipped to 41 states across the United States! Is your state colored on the map? If not, can you help us reach our goal of shipping to all 50 states by the end of 2022? How cool that our family farm’s product has been shipped to that many places.
    5. I’ve done about 20 speaking engagements about Oak Barn Beef in 2019. I maybe did one event in 2018, so that is a huge difference! I have tremendously gotten better at public speaking and am still working on improving a lot of things. Speaking engagements truly help spread the word about Oak Barn Beef and bring us a lot of customers. I am so thankful for these opportunities and will never say no to one of these because of that.

    UNL Husker Beef

    Sometimes entrepreneurship feels like a pretty lonely life and I cannot tell you how much a supportive community, like Oak Barn Beef’s community, makes a difference in my life personally and the journey of Oak Barn Beef. My parents, Don and Linda, make a lot of my dreams come true. My dad constantly refers to himself as “the chore boy” since he is the one feeding the cattle everyday and caring for their health. I help as much as I can, which isn’t as often as it used to be! Dad makes Oak Barn Beef happen and I am so thankful for that. My mom is always there to give a helping hand and assist with anything she can. Whether that is a busy shipping day or looking at my accounting books, I am so grateful for her. 

    Family Farm Beef

    My parents are a huge help, but Eric also deserves a shout out! For those of you who don’t know Eric and I have been dating for about 2 years. That means he has been through the whole entire journey of Oak Barn Beef from when it was an idea to now and he has made a huge impact on the development of Oak Barn Beef.  Eric is someone who never gets the credit he deserves but is making Oak Barn Beef happen. He has dropped all of his commitments and shipped boxes on busy days, made multiple financial spreadsheets for Oak Barn Beef, and to be frank, has listened to me whine and cry on the bad days. None of this would be possible without these three people and many, many more.

    Family Farm Beef

    Eric and Hannah after an Oak Barn Beef shipping day

    2019 has been a great year, even with challenges and hard lessons learned. A big, big thank you to every one of you for helping me reach my dreams and supporting me along the way. From every one who helps Oak Barn Beef run on the backend to our customers and outside support, I wish each and everyone of you a blessed year in 2020 and the best decade yet. 

    Best regards,

    Hannah

    Owner of Oak Barn Beef

    Oak Barn Beef




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