Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Erik Heim, founder and president of Nordic Aquafarms Inc., located in Portland, ME, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Nordic Aquafarms has been a pioneer in moving aquaculture into a controlled environment in tanks on land. The key benefits include the elimination of airfreight of seafood, local food, protecting local coastal waters, and preventing escapes of fish. We operate three so-called land-based farms in Europe and are developing farms in Maine and California. Our customers here in the US are consumers on the west- and the east coast who seek high-quality sustainably farmed local products. The US currently imports over 90 percent of its seafood, so this is a food security issue also for the US.
Tell us about yourself
I am a dual US-Norway citizen educated in the US and have spent about half my life in each country. I got into aquaculture about ten years ago when I saw an opportunity for a sustainable shift in the fastest-growing segment of the global food industry - aquaculture. The led to me founding Nordic Aquafarms in Norway some eight years back. Since then, the company has expanded to three countries. I had a previous executive career in financial services and in consulting. What motivates me is to make a meaningful impact in sustainable development and quality products, as well as creating a great workplace for our people.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The journey of founding Nordic Aquafarms in my living room some eight years back and guiding the company to become one of the top-tier land-based aquaculture companies internationally. We have brought on board a lot of talent and work with some of the best business partners out there to develop the business. In the US, permitting our project in some of the strictest states in the US has also been satisfying - it demonstrates that environmental stewardship and an attractive investment can go hand in hand.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
The responsibility to balance all the interests as the company grows - from investors to employees, to local community interests, and political priorities. The task of maintaining a tight ship evolves as the company grows and you enter into new markets. In addition, one must be prepared to navigate a future where the founder is no longer in shareholder control as a company grows. That will happen in capital-intensive industries. Successful leaders must be able to migrate from being in control of a small operation to becoming an effective leader in a larger company with many more interests involved.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Stay grounded - building a business takes time and requires navigating many hurdles and not aiming too high too fast.
- Build resilience - things often don't play out exactly as one hopes - creating options and resilience will strengthen the likelihood of success.
- Build trust through integrity - your political capital has a large impact on how far others will go in supporting your venture. Getting the facts right, engaging with stakeholders, and keeping your promises goes a long way in building trust. Overselling easily destroys trust.
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
Building networks and trust is important - they can make the difference between success and failure. Sometimes it is hard to predict how they come into play, but they sometimes make all the difference. Nordic Aquafarms came about through the most unlikely connections and strong local support from people with financial capacities, and good timing.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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