Entrepreneur Q&A with Louden Johnson
2018 I2E Love’s Entrepreneur’s Cup Pitch
Picture: Louden Johnson named 2018 i2E winner of the IBM Small Business Pitch competition with his product
Louden Johnson was named the winner of the IBM Small Business Pitch competition with his product ShowTricks in the 2018 i2E Love’s Cup. We recently sat down with Louden to learn more about him and his entrepreneurial aspirations.
1. Where did you grow up and go to high school?
L: I grew up in Wayne, Oklahoma and went to Wayne High School. Graduated with 36 people. And that was a big class!
2. Why did you choose ECU and the Stonecipher School of Business?
L: I came to East Central University on a football scholarship. I knew I wanted to major in Business, so East Central just made sense for me because it has one of the nicest Business school’s in the state of Oklahoma.
3. And you always knew you wanted to study business in college?
L: Um, at some point I thought about Education but I worked with kids a little bit more (through church camps), and that made me think that man, I probably should stick with the business idea. Lot easier than dealing with kids (laughs).
4. Could you describe the product you developed for the Love’s Cup? How did you come up with this idea?
L: ShowTricks develops educational videos and a mobile app that puts students showing animals at livestock shows at a competitive advantage. The technology provides expert mentoring to enhance opportunities for 4A and FFA members. Basically the goal is to help level the playing field with showing animals. When I was younger and was showing steers, a lot things I learnt was through trial and error. I would do something and it wouldn’t work; but a lot of times when these tricks wouldn’t work, you were basically losing a month of your time. And a month for an animal is like an athlete taking off for a month; it drastically affects results and hurts them badly. Then I started observing my younger brothers who started showing and were successful because they learnt from my mistakes. I soon realized that they would be more successful if they could learn from experts. That is when I got the idea that I could build a product that provides expert guidance.
5. And how did you decide on the name “ShowTricks”?
Well, initially I had a hard time and I could not think of a name for it. But I kept referring it to as “show tricks” when I was talking to people about my idea, and then it kind of just occurred that ShowTricks itself sounds great.
6. You won first place for your pitch. Congratulations! Could you share with us a few tips on what makes a good pitch and why it is important?
L: I think just being confident is the key. Because I messed up a little the first time I presented it in front of the judges, but they never noticed it because I remained confident and kept on going. As long as you know your product and can display that confidence through your pitch that is what matters.
7. Why is it important for entrepreneurs to have an elevator pitch prepared?
L: Well you know if you are talking to potential investors, they are usually very busy. They will only be willing to give you a short time. A lot of times you may only get to talk to them for 90 seconds. I mean there is a lot of times when you might be in an elevator, or you might be walking out of the restroom washing your hands, and all you have is that 90 seconds to convey you message. So with such a short time span, you better be able to explain your product quickly and get their attention in order to get an appointment for a future meeting.
8. Did you draw any inspiration from Shark Tank?
L: I watch Shark Tank all the time. I love that show. My mom thinks I have a problem, I watch it so much! It is just intriguing to me how people’s minds work and how some of the simplest ideas can make money. You don’t have to have a rocket science idea to have a viable business going. As long as your product solves a problem and you are passionate about it, you can be successful.
9. On that note, what are your thoughts on entrepreneurship when it comes to small towns, like Ada?
L: I am a huge supporter of small areas and small businesses. I grew up in Wayne, Oklahoma where we had two gas stations and a dollar store. But there were small businesses that made millions of dollars a year and people never knew. The story about how Leachco (based in Ada) started, is so inspiring. It was just a small town guy who had a great idea. So, I think that it does not matter where you are from, you can start a business from wherever you are comfortable being.
10. What are your future plans with ShowTricks?
L: Agriculture has had a huge influence in my life and has made me the man I am today. I would love to give back. All my family is either in the agricultural or education industry, so I hope to start a company or develop a product combining those two. It might be an updated version of what ShowTricks is now, I am not sure. But definitely something along those lines.
11. At Ada Jobs, we strongly believe that entrepreneurship is key to advancing a community’s economic growth. We want to help develop local entrepreneurs and encourage new technology and new businesses. What are a couple of things that Ada could be doing to help you as an entrepreneur in Ada? What would you want to see?
L: Community involvement is huge. Because, the college gets access to many of the resources such as I2E’s programs like the Love’s Cup. But the community is often left out. I think communicating about the resources available to the community is important. Maybe having an entrepreneurship Facebook group for entrepreneurs and small businesses to communicate through might be helpful. I am excited about the Big Pitch - Ada competition that AJF is organizing in November. I think it is a great idea and it will be a good event to communicate the message.
12. Thank you! Is there anything else you would like to share?
L: I would just like to share the message and encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs not to be afraid. Whether it is participating in a pitch competition or starting a business, don’t be scared to do it. My mother recently started her business. And not going to lie, it was one of the scariest things she had ever done. But she went ahead and did it. Now she is doing great and enjoying what she does. It is a learning process like everything else. So yes, don’t be afraid, you only live once!