What does it take to be an entrepreneur in precision ag?
As a company committed to agri technologies, we strive to serve farmers well with not only our solutions but useful information they can benefit from.
So we reached out to entrepreneurs in our dealer network and had interviews with them in the hope of giving back to the community.
The following is a conversation between FJD and Mr. Leonel Giesbrecht, the founder of Teccam, a Mexican agri startup based in Chihuahua.
(Johan Hildebrant to the left, the owner of the John Deere; Leonel, founder of Teccam to the right)
What made you decide to start Teccam?
I have been looking to start a company for a long time but wasn’t sure what to sell. My background is in precision agriculture. I was talking to one of my partners one day and he said he'd been working with you guys and he introduced your products to me. And you know what, this is exactly what I had been working on for a long time. The main problem with precision agriculture is that it's very expensive and hard to get. Your products are a lot more affordable. There's a huge market for affordable tractor autosteer here in Mexico.
What is the meaning of Teccam? What does it represent?
The Tec represents Tecnologia in Spanish, and cam is taken out from campo, which is the Spanish equivalent of field. Combined, Teccam Soluciones means Farm Tech Solutions.
What is the mission statement of Teccam?
In Mexico, precision agriculture hasn’t been that common. Teccam's mission is to introduce advanced technologies to Mexican farmers so that they can make Mexican farmlands more productive and competitive worldwide.
What excites you the most about being an entrepreneur in agriculture?
The Mexican market has enormous potential. There are many opportunities in the Mexican agricultural sector. It's a good time to be an entrepreneur in Mexico.
How do you market your products?
I have quite a few contacts from my old job, but a lot of the deals are closed thanks to word of mouth. We started the company here in Chihuahua and have worked with partners from other areas. We are on Facebook to promote Teccam, but we do a lot more demonstrations. Here in our area, we host demonstrations and tell people to come and see, drive the tractors, and see if the system has something they like. I think it works. In our area, people need to see to believe. When they see that the system works, they decide to buy.
Who was your first customer and how did your team land the first order?
The first customer was the uncle of the friend who introduced your products to me. We only had two or three systems in stock back then and we flew out with one and installed it for the uncle.
Before Teccam, did you try other businesses?
Not a lot. I used to look at some big projects that needed lots of funding.
I calculated and figured that if the business could not run with a profit margin or the numbers couldn't add up, I would just wait.
As an entrepreneur in agribusiness, what advice would you give to beginning entrepreneurs?
I know a lot of young people out there want to get out of their regular jobs, but I think it takes a bit of time. The first thing is to save up a bit of money. Instead of investing it in something you're not sure will be profitable, keep the money and wait. When the opportunity comes, you're going to go in 100%. If it takes five years or ten years, so be it. The first step is very crucial. You have done your waiting and calculating. Once you're sure this is going to be something big, you will just have to give it your 100% or even 150%. There's going to be lots of work, lots of working hours, and lots of flying. But it'll be worth it in the end. There's also something I'd like to mention. In my culture, when you start something new, people will not support you unless you succeed. You don't need to care much about what people think. If you think this is something worth your time and money, just go for it.
What is your plan for the future of Teccam?
I would like to turn Teccam into the national powerhouse of farming and construction technologies, and the chances of that are huge. I think in five years, Teccam will be on people's minds across Mexico.
Do you plan to add more products to Teccam's portfolio?
Right now, we are very happy with the tractor autosteer. As a dealer, I would like to diversify my products as much as I can. We have our eyes on three to four products that we would like to put on the market now.
As an entrepreneur, what's your typical day like?
That's the beauty of being an entrepreneur. You never know what your day will be like. It's the off-season now, so things are calming down a little bit. Therefore, I go to the office more, trying to get some administrative work done. Like today, I would like to start a marketing campaign. During a busy season, you wake up but you don't know what you are going to do that day. You come into the office, and it might be something here and something there. For me, it's exciting because things don't get boring easily.
What's the biggest challenge you've faced so far since you started Teccam? How did you overcome it?
We have two major challenges. The number one would be the liquidity of cash and it takes patience. The number two, which I think is the bigger challenge, is the shipping for the last couple of months. We order 25 units of the tractor autosteer and sell them all out within two weeks. Then we will have to wait again. You just have to learn to navigate. One thing that will work for sure is that we place bigger orders, so we have more in stock. Farming in Mexico is seasonal. When the season is well upon us, if the order does not come or the liquidity is not exactly the way we like it, things will be hard. It's stuff like that we have to work our way through and learn from, so we won't repeat mistakes.
How do you make sure the products you sell meet your standards and your customers' needs?
I have a background in precision agriculture. When I see some products, especially autosteer, I know if they are good and what their quality is like. We have a couple of systems working at our partners' places and we know how they performed. You get the feel. Let's take the steering wheel as an example. When you look at it, you know it's solid and built. We draw confidence from the product so we can promise our customers that if they buy from us, we will offer them one-year free services. Let's just say a farmer has a problem with the product during the first year of use. He gives us a call, and we will go out there to troubleshoot for free. At the end of the day, the farmer will also know that we have confidence in our products. It will be a waste of money on our side if we don't believe in our products but make such a promise. We have our skin in the game. If it were a bad product, we wouldn't be sitting in the office every day. Farmers know we are ready to go out there and help them. I think it's this kind of confidence that allowed us to sell so many products.
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