TOWN TALK: Failure is better than lack of transparency

Date: June 2018 Client: For Farmers Weekly
I’ve been watching the story of Happy Cow Milk Co with interest since it popped up on my Facebook feed.

It shows how being up-front and transparent can ultimately save you if things go tits up (pun intended).

Happy Cow Milk Co’s story began four years ago when founder Glen Herud wanted to create a more sustainable model for dairy farming and built his own milking shed and processing equipment to fill reusable glass bottles that can be recycled.

So far, so good.

The company had a following of customers who believed in its purpose.

You need only look at the comments on Happy Cow Milk Co’s Facebook page from some of its 4500 followers to get the picture: “I don’t drink cows’ milk or eat veal because I think most farming practices are cruel or unethical at best. But I’d happily change my mind and buy milk from you.”

But reality bites.

Investors were hard to pin down and the economics caught up with this small upstart, which this month went into liquidation owing creditors about $100,000.

What interests me is not the David versus Goliath story, against milk processing giants, but the way Happy Cow Milk Co valued its customers.

This was a company that not only talked to its customers from the get-go but treated them like insiders, as part of its purpose and journey – through the good and the bad.

When Herud shared the story of his decision to wind down the company on Spinoff it attracted attention from around the world. So much so, he decided it was worth pursuing again – this time with crowd funders and a new distribution model.

Happy Cow Milk Co set up a sign-up page for supporters to receive updates on the company’s website and received thousands of hits.

On a Business is Boring podcast, Herud says he has received invitations to speak, investor inquiries from San Francisco and renewed interest from local investors he’d been trying to entice.

Why? Because consumers have spoken, because it was a continuation of a conversation, because it was like hearing a friend needed help.

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