About 10 years ago, a dairy farmer, Leroy Shatto of rural Osborn, Mo., made the most significant decision of his business career. He decided to stop selling to a huge milk cooperative and go direct to area grocery stores.
He was able to get eight letters of soft intent from grocers. After several rejections, he found a bank that would finance his venture.
Shatto was one of the featured speakers at a small business workshop sponsored by Constant Contact Wednesday, June 19, at the Edwards Campus of the University of Kansas, Overland Park.
Marisa Gray, the president of Business West, and I attended the seminar. I was impressed with Shatto as I recalled the days of growing up on a dairy farm.
Shatto said he could not compete with the corporate dairy farmers and the big milk cooperatives. Simply stated, the more milk he sold, the more money he lost.
Today, Shatto sells milk from cows that have no growth hormones; it comes in glass bottles that are environmentally responsible and is probably about 12 hours old.
Besides whole, 2 percent and skim milk, Shatto sells several flavors including chocolate, strawberry and root beer. Ice cream, cheese and butter are also available.
Shatto, whose family has been in the dairy business since the late 1800s, said that when he sold to the huge cooperative, he never heard from customers. Now, thanks to social media, he receives thousand of compliments. That is very important, Shatto said.
What Shatto and his wife Barb are doing is what my late father and mother did nearly 75 years ago with Bland’s Grade A Dairy in Enid, Okla. My father would get up at 4 a.m. seven days a week, milk the cows by hand and then have milk from the previous day delivered at customers’ door by 7 a.m. Their biggest supporters, besides very satisfied customers, were medical doctors who strongly endorsed whole, raw milk as a very wholesome and healthy food.
Shatto’s milk is not raw, but his basic approach in marketing and caring about customers are the same principles that my parents used.
From what people have told me, there were several successful independent dairy operations in Wyandotte County during the first half of the 20th century.
The other featured presenter at the seminar was Gary Walker who is known as the “King of Green.” His Magic Touch janitorial service does not use harmful chemicals.
The company cleans more than 170 office buildings in the Kansas City area including 61 banks. Magic Touch is based in Lee’s Summit.
One of the main reasons that Marisa and I attended the workshop was to gather ideas for a social media workshop that will be held later this summer at Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is the executive director of Business West.