“If you start a business, and you take out a loan, you’re a moron.” – Mark Cuban

Have you ever heard of a company called Two Tunics? Don’t worry, no one else has either. It was an idea I had that flopped. I was going to make and sell scarves made with ‘up-cycled’ fabric and give a portion of the profits to help women in India start their own sewing businesses. Very Tom’s Shoes-esque. As I began to make the scarves, I realized that I didn’t enjoy sitting at the sewing machine all day and that a scarf is not all that original. As with many ideas, this never really took off.

Now imagine if I had taken out a business loan to start this company, and invested in a bunch of equipment and materials. Then imagine I didn’t like what I was doing, or the product simply didn’t sell. I would be either stuck in the company with the bank as my boss, or I would go bankrupt.

Mark Cuban, billionaire investor and owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks, once said “if you start a business and you take out a loan, you’re a moron.” That’s a little intense, but I think he is right. It is much less expensive to fail small, and it gives you a lot more room to grow.

If your product really is amazing, the customers will begin to pay for your growth and experience. And, you get to be the boss instead of the bank.



What Walmart CAN’T do.


As I write, a familiar battle rages here in the community of Lake County (50,000 residents, 7 stoplights and one Starbucks). The battle is between small-town America and the dreaded (or loved, depending on whom you ask) Walmart Super Center. 

Supporters of the blue folks from Arkansas say the big-box retailer supports the local economy by creating jobs and increasing sales tax dollars available for local government. Opponents say that Walmart kills local business, doesn’t actually create new jobs, and is a leading cause of small-town America’s decline to insignificance.

I propose a different viewpoint: I don’t think there has to be a battle at all.

Of course, if I’m running a generic grocery store next to the proposed Walmart, I’m facing a challenge. In that case I am selling the same products, but with poorer selection and at higher prices. But who says I have to do that? What if I instead focused on specialty products, local farm suppliers and great customer service? Then, suddenly, Walmart is of no concern to me. Then I’m in a different line of business, one where Walmart can’t compete at all.

Here are a few things Walmart CAN’T do:

-Provide a customer experience.

-Build customer relationships.

-Give advice on purchasing a home appliance, lawn tractor or power tool.

-Service a decent bicycle. (They can only sell you another cheap one.)

-Introduce you to a farmer.

-Repair a tire rated for a sports car, even if it’s installed on a Volvo station wagon. (Believe me, I tried. “It’s against policy.”)

-Let your children pick a pumpkin straight from the pumpkin patch, or a Christmas tree straight from the stump.

-Advise anyone on tomato plants or fruit trees.

Those things, and many others, are impervious to Walmart impact. But those things are way more fun, more important and more representative of what small-town America should be.

If, in the meantime, Walmart wants to sell me a cheaper box of Corn Flakes, I don’t have a big problem with that.



The Purpose of Wealth

In 1996, professors William Danko and Thomas Stanley published a book revealing the habits of America’s super wealthy. The Millionaire Next Door is a collection of surprising discoveries about the affluent, including the observation that, according to extensive interviews and data collection, real millionaires don’t look or act like millionaires.

On average, millionaires wear regular clothes and inexpensive watches, and drive Fords. Yes, Fords. That was the preferred brand of transportation for the group surveyed. Mercedes made the top-10 list of auto brands, but otherwise the favorites were American cars and a few Japanese automakers.

So what did the super-wealthy have in common?

Most of the crowd was down-to-earth. Most were self-employed. Most were in a single industry for decades. Most also kept the same spouse for several decades.

Most of the millionaires kept detailed budgets for their companies and households. In fact, only a small percentage was wealthy from having large incomes, while many with large incomes were not wealthy. In summary, becoming a millionaire requires discipline and planning, but not a large income.

Why are we talking about personal wealth at YouHaveThreeCows.com? (This is, after all, a blog about changing the world via successful agricultural business.)

The reason is that the habits required for success in small business (like agriculture) are very similar to those required for accumulation of personal wealth: Discipline and planning.

Obviously, the purpose of farming is not to become wealthy. (If wealth is your primary goal, I recommend a different line of work!) But wealth, accumulated through sound business practices and healthy habits, does open some real opportunities to serve.

Consider, for example, this sandy plot of land in Mexico near Valle de Guadalupe. The site was inherited by a wonderful lady whom we will call Maria.


Maria has dedicated the property to feeding orphans near a drug rehab center in a particularly poor area of Mexico. A Christian church full of privileged individuals from the United States has helped her construct the building with a kitchen and a well.

Rachel and I got to meet Maria last Monday at her property to help design a landscaping plan. Her goal is to plant gardens to create a calm, beautiful environment for the children. The plants will be mostly fruits and vegetables so they also help feed the kids.

Meeting Maria and her husband reminded me that wealth has no purpose except to serve others. And for that purpose, it can be a powerful tool.