Written by Hope Tinney
WENATCHEE, Wash.—Wouldn’t it be great if there were a Web site that served as a one-stop directory of businesses across the country and around the world that sold agricultural products or prepared food online?
That was the idea that spurred Glen Klock to start his business, AgBASE in 2006. At least 200 businesses with a similar goal have come and gone since then, he said, but like the Energizer Bunny, he’s still going.
“I come to work every day and I’ve got a challenge and that’s good,” he said. “I’ve lived for a challenge ever since I was a kid in 4-H.”
Klock is now “past retirement age,” he said, and has had a lifetime of challenges in a number of different fields, but AgBASE brings together several interests: agriculture, technology and international markets.
“I’m trying to do something that lots of people talk about,” he said, “but no one has been able to bite the bullet and make it happen.”
Other people have built directories, he said, but they’ve mostly disappeared in obscurity because no one visited the sites. Klock has kept his overhead low while trying to find a sustainable model that can continue to grow and meet the needs of producers and customers.
With the help of Jim Fletcher, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Klock has made impressive progress.
In the early days, Klock said, he was ecstatic if he got 300 page views in a day. Now he routinely gets more than a million page views every month and his site “facilitates” about 100,000 transactions between growers or producers and wholesale buyers every month.
His directory has grown to about 2,000 vendors selling more than 10,000 products. Amazon pretty much dominates the retail market, he said, but he is working to serve the wholesale market.
Klock said the resources and expertise of his SBDC business advisors have been “incredibly valuable.” He meets regularly with the SBDC advisor in Wenatchee, Jim Fletcher, but has also consulted with Vern Jenkins, the SBDC export specialist based in Spokane.
“I come up with wild ideas every once in a while, and they say “Hang on there Glen, let’s look at this a little,’” he said, and laughed.
Over the years he and Fletcher have had countless discussions about how to create a sustainable business model for his online directory. They’ve had big picture discussions about business strategy as well as detailed discussions of complicated export or import challenges.
Recently, he said, he heard there were grants available from the Washington State Department of Agriculture that he might qualify for and could help him significantly expand his operation. But, he couldn’t find the information he was looking for.
A few days later Fletcher called him with a link to the information he needed to apply for a $250,000 small commodities block grant. “Jim was right there and had the information I needed,” he said.