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A few weeks ago I let you all in on a contest Comcast is running called Innovation for Entrepreneurs (I4E for short). It’s a contest where Comcast will be awarding $20,000 toward technology costs as well as a trip to Philadelphia to meet with them.
This week I’m totally psyched to introduce you to one of the finalists from South Florida, Joe Cardenas the CEO of AQUACO Farms in Lake Worth, FL. AQUACO Farms is a South Florida based fish farm that sells fresh Florida Pompano in the area. They are working hard to make sure the deliver a delicious and sustainable product from South Florida to Orlando.
Speaking as someone who lives in South Florida, you’d be surprised how hard it is to find decent fresh fish around here, so I’m excited to share his interview with you all.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
After 15+ years in the commercial banking industry, I was fortunate to have gained the experience and insight of working with some of Florida’s top companies and business owners. This gave me the confidence needed to take on an industry such as Aquaculture that is poised for growth and will allow opportunity to put to practice the skills, relationships and knowledge garnered earlier in my career.
What were some of the largest obstacles you had to overcome from a technology standpoint?
The basics! I had lived in the world of spreadsheets, term sheets and excel. That does not immediately cross-over to marketing and branding your startup. So I quickly reached out to those that could help with a website, investor deck and general material to help market the company. That quickly transitioned to the field of biology and the technology needed in the design and engineering of a state of the art recirculating facility. Again, I was fortunate to have a great biologist/engineer who was familiar with what we would need in completing the project.
What resources did you need most when starting your business? (Finance info, tech help, etc.)
While I could walk over the financial performance, investor material and budgets in my sleep, it was meaningless unless I could tell the story of what we were creating and visually tie-in our product and project as a whole. With the help of a great PR team (Influence Communications), we were able to tell the story of our startup business and the great impact we would be making in the Industry.
How is technology shaping your business?
Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS) have come a long way in the last decade and while they are more efficient and cost-effective, they are also more reliant on technology. With the help of Comcast’s I4E Award, we can better tie in all of the outlining parameters in the design such as automated feeding systems, water quality monitoring and inventory management software.
How do you keep up with always evolving technology?
As a startup, we know what is in front of us but not yet what lies ahead. Fortunately, there are industry resources shared globally when it comes to evolving technology. Aquaculture in the US is behind many other Countries when it comes to pioneering improvements in technology. Requiring us to keep an open eye on what is happening around the world and collaborating with domestic research organizations such as Universities, NOAA, and other non-profits that are encouraged through grants to advance the use of technology in the Industry.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to start their own company?
My best advice is to start with a service or product that has a natural consumer demand or solves an existing problem vs. starting with a product/service you have to convince someone they need.
What would winning the I4E contest mean to you?
For Aquaco Farms, winning the contest would help validate the hard work and determination it takes to not only start your own business, but see it through the adversity needed along the way. Financially speaking, I have yet to meet the entrepreneur who is not ready to incorporate great ideas and move their product forward with the next capital injection so of course the cash prize is nice. However, the resources gained through the opportunity to work with their expert teams is of even greater value to Aquaco Farms. These are suggestions, advice and council that can benefit any startup well past their startup phase and build a great foundation for success.
Click here to learn more about the Comcast I4E Comcast.