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Entrepreneurship 101


Robinson’s love for ice cream combined with a unique use for goat’s milk resulted in a contest-winning business plan for Billy Goat Ice Cream Co. But Robinson wasn’t ready to start the business yet. After graduation, he went on to pursue a master’s degree at OSU in Stillwater, Okla. It was there that he met business partner Neil. The pair reworked the business plan, highlighting the health aspects of goat’s milk, focusing on Oklahoma-sourced milk and ingredients, and cre- ating a brand that’s all natural with no artifi cial dyes, fl avors or preserva- tives. They entered their business plan into a contest and it took fi rst place out of 50 entries.


Even with a stand-out proposal, Robinson and Neil faced several chal- lenges before bringing their product to market. Neither had any back- ground in the foodservice industry, so there was a big learning curve. Much of the research and development process took place in the kitchen of Robinson’s apartment as the team created and tested ice cream recipes. Today they have fi ve fl avors: Dark Chocolate, Salted Caramel, Bourbon Vanilla Bean, Garden Mint and Coffee Cacao Chip. Networking led to one of the biggest victories for their business. At a Stillwater Chamber of Commerce event, Robinson and Neil met a repre- sentative from the USDA who told them about a grant opportunity for economic development in rural areas. They applied and in June 2014 re- ceived a $95,000 grant. “That was a turning point of the business that provided our foundation. Manufacturing equipment is very expensive and it gave us the tools to execute our dream,” he says. The dream becomes a reality this spring as Billy Goat Ice Cream comes


to Oklahoma grocery stores. Follow Billy Goat Ice Cream Co. on Facebook and @BGIceCreamCo on Twitter for updates. At the end of the day, the most successful entrepreneurs are those who believe what they’re doing will enhance people’s lives. As the fl icker of kerosene lamps gave way to electrical lights in the Oklahoma countryside, this was true. The pioneers of electrifi cation were driven by the prospect of helping their neighbors and their communities. This is the legacy that Oklahoma’s rural electric cooperatives—and cooperative members—contin- ue today.


CEO RaShaun Robinson (left) and COO Caleb Neil (right) will see their dream become a reality this spring when Billy Goat Ice Cream hits Oklahoma grocery stores. Courtesy photo


Dr. Bruce Barringer is the chair of the Oklahoma State University


School of Entrepreneurship and a Central Rural Electric Cooperative member. He says an entrepreneur is a person who brings a new idea to the market, or a new concept or product to a place that does not have it. In doing so, there is usually an aspect of personal risk involved. “We teach what we call the ‘entrepreneurial mindset.’ There are four


characteristics that are part of most successful entrepreneurs: some- one who’s opportunity seeking, willing to take responsible risks, has some level of creativity and has a good self awareness of their skills and passions.”


Barringer teaches entrepreneurship as a process: Step 1: Recognize a business opportunity. Step 2: Test the feasibility of the idea. Step 3: Launch the venture. Step 4: Get feedback; make needed changes.


Some of the biggest mistakes made by entrepreneurs include launch-


ing a venture prematurely, without suffi cient research and develop- ment; choosing a business partner with the same strengths, rather than complementary skills; and poor management of fi nances. According to Barringer, Oklahoma is a great state for entrepreneurs.


People are eager to embrace new products and services and there is a lot of support for entrepreneurs from their local communities. For entrepreneurs living in rural Oklahoma, he identifi es several challenges and advantages.


Living in a rural area usually means more limited access to : ✓ service providers ✓ suppliers ✓ banks ✓ employees


“The good news is you have a receptive audience. They are ready for


fresh, new ideas. And there’s not a lot of competition,” he says. Barringer recommends a couple resources available to Oklahoma


entrepreneurs: OSU’s Riata Center for Entrepreneurship (405-744-7552) and the non-profi t SCORE organization (405-609-8004) that provides support to entrepreneurs and new businesses.


MARCH 2015


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