Two years into her undergraduate degree in Business at the University of Calgary, Victoria Ross decided to look deeper into the idea of transforming waste into value after taking an entrepreneurship class.
“It wasn’t until I took the entrepreneurship class that I really knew I wanted to pursue it,” says Ross of the class that others warned her she would hate.
“I just loved it – it was so much more practical and hands-on.”
Inspired,Ross took her idea to task. Pursuing multiple ideas around waste diversion;Victoria spent two years researching the quickest, most impactful way she could execute her vision. She discovered that the waste created by breweries can actually be used as nutritional animal feed, but most of it in the Calgary area was going to compost sites and just rotting and degrading. This led her to two years of research and development into how she could begin to repurpose the waste into nutritional animal feed.
A great idea isn’t enough
“You can have a really cool idea, but it’s not really going to work unless you talk to the people that you want to eventually sell it to, consult with them and iterate your idea,” she says of the process.
“It requires a lot of personal growth and development. I really had to know what my weaknesses and strengths were, build on those, and be flexible.”
She credits several mentors who encouraged and guided her along the way, including preceptors at the University and her business partner (who she literally cold called after googling for local experts on creating alternative nutritional fertilizers/feeds).
“They instilled a lot of confidence in me that I didn’t have before – they showed me where I could improve and what I already did well and connected me with the right people who would also grow me as an entrepreneur,”Ross says.
“Mentors are absolutely necessary in the entrepreneurial space.”
Building a legacy
With Agro Systems going into operation in June 2018, Ross continues to learn and grow along with her business.
“The long term vision is being able to help farmers who are doing their jobs to help feed others and being able to provide the breweries with something more affordable so they’re not losing money on that aspect of their business,” Ross says of the farmers and brewers who are her customers,and like her, small business owners.
She credits her customers as helping her to make Agro Systems a success in early days, when she was picking up 1100 pound bins of waste on her own from the breweries.
“All of these brewers were actually helping me load up my truck. That was amazing, they’ve been so patient,” she says. “And the farmers make a real effort to be on time every time so that we can keep our operations going; if the farmers don’t come grab their grain we run out of space to repurpose the brewery grain.”
The collaboration and cooperation of her customers has seen Agro Systems take off. Now serving 19 local breweries and supplying nutritional animal feed to three families of famers, Ross been able to hire on her first employees – her father and sister. Being able to do this is important to Ross as her goal is to build an empire, a legacy to pass on to her own family.
An inspired vision
Hiring her biggest inspiration in creating Agro Systems has really brought the vision full circle.
“The biggest inspiration has been my dad. He is a farmer and for 30 years he worked as a farmer and had to work two jobs to get the bills paid,” says Ross, citing the fact that nearly 50 per cent of Canadian farmers can’t afford to live off of just being a farmer, something she learned in University.
“It really frustrated me to see all of these hardworking men and women who can’t survive off the means of their passion. So, I wanted to be able to create a company that would be able to provide them with cost saving products or a value-added message that could be implemented into the agriculture industry.”
What you need for the Entrepreneurial Process:
- A willingness to undergo a lot of personal growth
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- Learn to be flexible