Interview With Dale Solomon
Describe your product or service:
“We grow, pack and distribute fresh and fresh frozen spirulina. We also do spirulina consulting for others who are interested in growing spirulina.”
Describe your company values and mission:
Keep Fighting — The universe is indifferent to your suffering. When you have been kicked to the ground, all that matters is what you do next. So keep fighting for your dream and never waste time being discouraged.
Continuous Improvement — Complacency doesn’t exist here. There is always a more efficient, higher quality, faster, better way to operate. Be on the lookout and celebrate when you find it.
Facilitate Value — Oasia Biotech is a for-profit company, but we do not aim to make profits. We aim to delight our customers by fulfilling every need that is important to them. Profits are nothing more than a byproduct of this process.
Fail Often, Fail Once — Failure is an unavoidable part of learning, but learning isn’t always part of failure. If you fail once and learn from your mistake, you should be proud of yourself. Fail twice in the same way, and you have merely created waste.
Speed — Learning, growing, and expanding our business is a top priority. Walk the line between speed and chaos.
Never Stop Learning — You are either learning or dying. You don’t want to be dying.
Focus & Commitment to Our Mission — Combating climate change is at the heart of Oasia Biotech’s purpose. We believe there still is hope to save this crazy, beautiful, amazing planet, but it will take dedicated teamwork from every person and organization on Earth. We welcome anyone who wants to join this call to action!
Have a Negative Mindset and a Positive Attitude — Leaders ask ‘what could go wrong’ and get ahead of quality issues before they present themselves. Some problems will inevitably occur. When they do, focus on the root cause. Adversity provides opportunity, so find the root solution with a positive attitude.”
How are you funded? I.e. type of funding, number of funding rounds, total funding amount.
“Personal funding, government loans, family loans, and investor loans. Three rounds. Approximately [$250,000].”
How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)
“Myself and my production manager, Miguel Islas. I am an industrial engineer, lean manufacturing expert, and value facilitator. Miguel is veteran-focused, patient, and dedicated efficiency lead. Together we fulfill the Oasia Values!”
How did you come up with and validate your startup idea? Tell us the story!
“I started in my backyard because that was the smallest version of my business that I could envision. I just wanted to get my hands on some spirulina to be able to put it in front of customers and see what they had to say. After the first season, I made some tweaks based on customers' concerns. Then it was off to the races! We have been growing rapidly and continuously improving ever since.”
How did you come up with your startup's name? Did you have other names you considered?
“Oasia Farms is a play on the word ‘oasis’ because spirulina is a desert crop that grows in the water. Our ponds are a little desert oasis!”
Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?
“Yes! Ever since I was a kid, I had small businesses. First, I sold lemonade. Then I had a vending machine company, a used golf ball business, and a painting company. It's always been my dream to run a business.”
Did you encounter any roadblocks when launching your startup? If so, what were they and what did you do to solve them?
“Every day is a challenge. I don't even know where to begin! Ask anyone who has grown something, and they will tell you how difficult it is. Plants are inherently temperamental, and spirulina is no exception! My vision propelled me forward through the tough times. I also used my connections and colleagues in the industry to help me through problems. Networking was my saving grace.”
Who is your target market? How did you establish the right market for your startup?
“Health-conscious individuals, older middle-aged women, cyclists, vegans, and smoothie lovers.”
What's your marketing strategy?
“100% word of mouth. I focus on creating the most convenient, affordable, highest quality product I can. We also have the best customer service in the industry. Everything is about the customer. I treat them like they are family, and they are extremely loyal in return. Help others because you sincerely care, and it will come back to you tenfold.”
How did you acquire your first 100 customers?
“My phone was my best friend. I would call, email, and text anyone who was willing to answer (and a few who weren't too, haha!) I tried to meet as many people as I could to get the word out. When others see the passion you have for your product the excitement becomes contagious.”
What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?
“The main KPI that I look at is average lb/week produced, revenue, YoY growth, profit margin, grams/minute harvested, and production allocation to our various revenue streams.”
What's your favorite startup book and podcast?
“‘The Startup Checklist’”
What is a song or artist that you listen to for motivation?
“Rage Against the Machine.”
Is there a tool, app, or resource that you swear by to help run your startup?
“Google Calendar and Excel.”
What is something that surprised you about entrepreneurship?
“I thought fundraising would be a lot more difficult. It is still difficult, but not an insurmountable task.”
How do you achieve work/life balance as a founder?
“I love to play poker with my friends and do WhatsApp video chats with my girlfriend every night.”
What is a strategy you use to stay productive and focused?
“I give myself tasks that are exciting. I love things that improve efficiency or the quality of the product. At the end of the day, it can't be all boring work, or you will burn out.”
Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?
“Remember to appreciate everyone around you.”
What was your first job and what did it teach you?
“I was a lean manufacturing consultant for Aluminum Precision Products. They hired me to find continuous improvement projects, but the staff was highly resistant to change. At the end of the day, you can't find city hall. You have to find an organization that aligns with your vision for your career. Be part of something that matches what you are trying to accomplish.”
More on Oasia Farms
Dale Solomon, founder of Agtech startup Oasia Farms, shared valuable insights during our interview that will inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs.
We asked Dale Solomon, founder of Oasia Farms, to share the most impactful ways to support their startup, and this is what they had to say.