2011 Small Business of the Year
Innovative - that’s just one of the words to describe SFP and its founder – 2011 Small Business of the Year.
Larry Sanders grew up on a farm, earned his Ph.D., and then went to work. He understood from personal experience there was a need for creating products that could help the farmer overcome inefficiencies in the soil. His goal: to create products that help today’s farmer achieve higher crop yields while, at the same time, preserving the environment. His company now holds about 100 patents.
He founded the company in 1998. After several years of research and data gathering, the company launched its first two products: AVAIL and Nutrisphere-N. There was no money for marketing, Sanders says, so he gave away a lot of product to universities and farmers. There was some disbelief originally as to the products’ claims to increase crop yields by as much as 15 percent, but that disbelief quickly dissipated. The results were real, and sales increased dramatically thanks to word of mouth.
Last year SFP’s revenues grew by nearly 22 percent, while the number of employees grew by 24 percent. His client list has expanded beyond the U.S., now including the United Kingdom, Netherlands, Zambia, Australia, and Peru.
A company’s growth is just one criterion for selection as the “Mr. K” Award. The Small Business of the Year must also excel in employee relations and community service – just as the late Ewing Kauffman – Mr. K - did throughout his entrepreneurial career. Sanders’ philosophy is to create outstanding products and hire outstanding employees.
Benefits include health, dental, life, and disability insurance; profit-sharing; a Cafeteria plan; 401 (k); health club membership; and tuition reimbursement. The last two years, employees also received a $5000 bonus.
Not surprisingly, Harvesters is one of the charities SFP and its employees support. Employees receive paid time off for activities they choose to help their favorite charities. SFP also provides pro bono services and products, as well as financial support to area not-for-profits.