Developing and Selling a Microbial Product
Interview with Louis H. Elwell, Founder of Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc.
From selling flowers as an 8 year old to increasing crop productivity today, Louis Elwell has always been in the "Green" business. Today he is one of four partners at Bio Soil Enhancers, Inc.
Louis Elwell and his partners founded their company in 2007 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Bio Soil cultivates and markets an organic, sustainable, non-GMO microbial product which dramatically increases crop yields while reducing fertilizer needs.
When did you start the business?
Bio Soil started in 2007. The core management team has a predecessor company which has been cultivating and marketing microbes for waste bio remediation for roughly 20 years.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I have been a serial entrepreneur since the age of 8 when I was selling fresh cut flowers. Most of my businesses have been environmentally friendly - energy conservation, solar energy, waste bioremediation.
Did you write a business plan? Was it an effective tool for you?
Yes, we wrote a business plan. The primary purpose was to use if for raising funds, where it is a critical document, however, even without the need to raise funds, a business plan is essential to have a clear understanding of what the business is and what it is attempting to accomplish.
Did you have a partner when you started your business? How did you select a partner?
There were actually four partners. Trust is the most essential ingredient to be part of the team. Different skill sets and competence are also necessary traits.
Green business is all the rage right now. Has it really been practical for you as an entrepreneur to incorporate green business practices?
The green movement has added greatly to getting the company exposure and interest in the products. Making farming more profitable by increasing revenue (yield) while decreasing costs (primarily fertilizer) would be an excellent value proposition in any environment, but the green emphasis just makes things easier.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
Telephone service rates such as Vonage, Skype or an unlimited cell phone plan are significantly lower than conventional wire line services.
How has your experience in running the business been different from what you expected?
Given the numerous benefits of our product to feeding the world, making farming more profitable, lowering costs to consumers, remediating and protecting the environment, etc., I expected to have few problems with government regulation; however, government regulation has almost killed the company. It has certainly added extra costs in both time and money which were wholly unnecessary.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
Put together a good management team where team members possess different skills to bring a product to market.
It sounds like you are doing very interesting work, Louis. Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us.
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