Venture School alumni business, FarmlandFinder, named Rural Entrepreneur of the Year by the American Farm Bureau Federation

Steven Brockshus, an alumni of the University of Iowa’s Venture School program, is making an impact across the country with his business FarmlandFinder. Recently named the 2019 Rural Entrepreneur of the Year by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), Brockshus and his business aim to make the world’s agriculture real-estate information easily accessible through an online portal. The prestigious title from the AFBF is awarded annually to a business that is scalable and has the potential to dramatically improve the agriculture business and the lives of those living in rural communities across the nation.

FarmlandFinder removes the headaches people experience when trying to buy, sell and value farmland. Making the information transparent and easy to access online, FarmlandFinder provides its customers with confidence when making big life decisions regarding land. The business is designed to assist anyone trying to identify what land is for sale, if its a good time for them to buy or sell, and even establish the value of these real-estate assets and their transactions. The Ames-based FarmlandFinder doubled their number of employees this past year, bringing their team to a total of nine.

Growing up on a fifth-generation dairy farm in northwest Iowa, Brockshus is well versed in both the successes and struggles of farming. It wasn’t until he was elected to a national Future Farmers of America (FFA) position, which he took a year off during college to pursue, that he became interested in entrepreneurship. After meeting with thousands of students, farmers and agribusiness men and women across the country, it became clear to him that these people were not only following their passion but also making a huge impact on their communities as a business. It was then that Brockshus decided he would study entrepreneurship when he returned to school.

As a junior at Iowa State University, Brockshus had an idea. But he was just really learning what the word entrepreneurship even meant. Not quite sure how to move forward with his idea, he decided to participate in his first pitch competition in 2015. Pitching his business Terva (known today as FarmlandFinder), he took first place at the competition in Ames. A part of his award was a paid enrollment in the University of Iowa’s Venture School Program.

Brockshus participated in the Des Moines Venture School cohort in spring 2016. Venture School is a premier statewide innovative training program focused on real-world experimentation, customer discovery, and Lean LaunchPad methodologies. This program uses the official National Science Foundation I-Corps curriculum to help high-potential startups turn their ideas into reality.

“The knowledge of leveraging the scientific method for building a business that I learned in Venture School still influences how I think today. If you are serious about building a successful business, the program is very helpful,” stated Brockshus.  Venture School helped him validate his business hypothesis, and become aware of the areas he still needed to do additional customer discovery in. “Venture School saved me a lot of time as a founder. Without it, I would likely still be trying to figure out what our customers really need.” Brockshus said he entered the program having potential clients, but had no focus regarding what his business could actually grow to be. “When I finished the program, my business was hyper-focused. I could answer the problems we were trying to solve and clearly articulate the solution, but I also knew what problems I wasn’t going to solve – at least not yet. It was just as important for me to know what elements I shouldn’t focus on.”

Brockshus said he also values the sense of community he gained from Venture School. “The relationships I built with both teams and instructors have helped get me to where I am today. I am still in contact with several of them. Being in Iowa is a great place to build a business and there is a wealth of resources to help you do so,” he stated.

FarmlandFinder is a great example of how the Iowa entrepreneurial ecosystem is continuing to grow. “Iowa has so many entrepreneurial resources available for anyone trying to figure out their next step,” he said.  Brockshus not only benefited from programs through the University of Iowa’s John Pappajohn Entrepreneurial Center, but he also mentioned a dozen other entrepreneurial programs and resources he benefited from across the state. “I love that in Iowa we have entrepreneurial comradery. Everyone is so accessible and willing to open their doors to help you. You can’t find that just anywhere. Everyone knows there are differences between Iowa and Silicon Valley. But in Iowa, communities pull together and have pride in helping and supporting their businesses.” said Brockshus.

In offering up his advice to entrepreneurs, Brockshus encourages others to “share the problem and solution you have identified with as many people as you can. Don’t hold back for fear of people stealing your idea. Nobody is more passionate and intimately connected to your idea than you are. In sharing, others will give you honest feedback which will be crucial for you to know in order to succeed,” he said. We all need to believe in our future and what we are building towards. “I believe FarmlandFinder will make buying and selling land simple, instant and online. Having that clear vision is important.”