Every small business owner is keen for inspiration from successful peers. Rony Cohen of Urban Food Farms shares with eBrandz readers his success mantra, his commitment to business and family and most of all his ‘green’ ideas.
Kindly give our readers an introduction to your business.
Urban Food Farms is all about sustainability. We offer efficient vegetable growing solutions that allow anyone get good results with no prior experience and minimal maintenance. We have offices in Los Angeles and Dallas. There is also a demo urban farm in Los Angeles. Most of our businesses is conducted online on our website www.urbanfoodfarms.com.
Kindly give us a brief description about yourself.
Hi, I am Rony Cohen, Founder and CEO, Urban Food Farms. Prior to this, I worked in the garment and computer industry for a long time. I ran an operation in Puebla Mexico and was responsible for 124 people and the distribution of 70 million small components per month. About 9 years ago, I started selling scooters and related items online. That website is one of the oldest and best rated scooter sites on the net.
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture?
I was on the lookout for new green products to sell online, when I met a supplier that offers organic coco coir. It was not long before we decided that selling greenhouses and sustainable vegetable growing solutions is a novel business idea that people can really use.
What three pieces of advice would you give to college students who want to become entrepreneurs?
Think, Innovate and Trust. Trust in your ideas and break through because having your own business may pay zilch, but, it can also pay big. Innovate, because the world revolves around new ideas. And, think before you react.
If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?
I am pretty content and thankful for what I have, but if I could start over, I would finish my education and have my own business sooner.
How long do you stick with an idea before giving up?
As long as I can see the potential, I try never to give up, but being stubborn is not a good businessman trait.
How many hours do you work a day on average?
It varies greatly depending on the season, but on an average about 10 to 12 hours per day.
How has being an entrepreneur affected your family life?
Being my own boss has advantages and I can work at my own hours. I keep in mind that family comes first and my daughter appreciates it.
How do you generate new ideas?
I get new ideas by ruminating about problems and their solutions. I let my thoughts run wild and when I sense a solution, I develop on it and think about it. Sometimes, an idea can mature in a second but sometimes it takes days, even weeks.
What are your ideals?
The ideals that drive me are truth, honesty and justice. I would not know what to do without them.
How do you define success?
Success is when a person is content with what he has. There is no point in always wanting more and more.
What is the best way to achieve long term success?
Long term success requires long term planning, determination and lots of courage.
How do you build a successful customer base?
Building a good customer base is vital for all businesses. The most important thing is to keep customers happy. If customers are happy with their transactions, even if they never come back, they will tell their friends and family about their experience. Building a customer base also takes a lot of patience, and, advertising helps too.
Do you think there is some sort of pattern or formula to becoming a successful entrepreneur?
No, I don’t think there is a pattern. It’s each man with his decisions and luck. One of my business mentors once told me, being successful is 50% guts and 50% luck. Thinking over it, may be there is a pattern or formula to it. If someone keeps going with guts all the time, he or she will eventually meet a period where the 50% luck will kick in too.
If you could talk to one person from history, who would it be and why?
I have always dreamed about seeing King Solomon. My grandfather used to tell me so many stories about him, I would like to see him, his throne and his court as well as the temple he built.
What book has inspired you the most?
The book that inspires me is the all time world wide best seller, the Bible. I love reading it over and over, and, I always find a new meaning, a new interpretation.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
The most satisfying moment in business was when I took my first paycheck. For the year, I worked very hard and did not take any pay. But, once we started having some sales, I was able to include myself in the payroll.
What do you feel is the major difference between entrepreneurs and those who work for someone else?
There are people who need to feel the security of a regular paycheck. For years I remained an employee because I feared business would not be able to afford me a regular paycheck. Now, that I have my own business, I would not like to go back to being an employee.
How do you go about marketing your business? What has been your most successful form of marketing?
During the first year of selling scooters online, there were days when I spent more than $ 2000 on Google ads. It took me a while to realize that it was better to optimize the website for natural listings. Our main and most successful form of marketing is SEO. We supplement that with print advertising whenever possible.
What kind of culture exists in your organization? How did you establish this tone and why did you institute this particular type of culture?
I guess we have a green culture. We are into sustainability, so we like to save paper, water and energy. Our greenhouse products and vegetable growing solutions are as green as can be. Though, I am not sure if we chose this culture or if it chose us.
What are some of the biggest mistakes you have made?
In the course of my business, I have made many mistakes. Some costly, others not. But more than agonizing over them as mistakes, I characterize the ‘boooboos’ as a learning curve errors. If I had to recount the major mistakes, I would say not managing inventories properly, followed closely by paying for Google ads. The third was moving into a larger warehouse that was still not large enough.
How can you prevent mistakes or do damage control?
Errors can be minimized with proper procedures in place and not postponing tasks to the next day. Since, we are all human, I don’t expect to prevent all mistakes. The most important thing I do when mistakes happen is to remain calm. Communication is also very important both to prevent mistakes and control damage. For example, if I know an order is going to be late, I make it a point to let the customer know. Trying to be quiet about it or hiding it only make things worse when the customer eventually finds out.
What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love to spend time gardening in my hydroponic system and be with my daughter. Being with friends and riding my motorcycle are also favorite pass times.