After graduating from college, Zach Zepf wanted to apply his agricultural background to a new business venture. Zepf grew up with a brother who has autism, so he wanted to combine his love of agriculture with a commitment to help the special-needs population.
Zepf noticed the demand for locally grown produce as the farm-to-table movement gained popularity. He decided that his venture, Zeponic Farms, could support the special-needs population by employing individuals with autism and other challenges to farm produce for the local market.
Zeponic Farms operates out of a customized shipping container, which allows the team to use hydroponic technology to offer fresh produce year-round. Its hydroponic growing method uses 95 percent less water than a conventional farm.
“Without Len’s mentorship, Zeponic Farms would still be in the planning phase,” Zepf says, crediting volunteer Len Johnson for helping Zeph overcome the steep learning curve of starting a business. "Thanks to Len I received the information vital to launching our company, with all of the necessary components of a successful business. Len helped with the design phase in all of our marketing materials," Zepf says, including the company's logo, business cards, website, and shipping-container signage.
The Grow Your Business workshop allowed Zepf to start networking and get professional advice in funding and marketing. "As a result, we were able to secure a loan for our first hydroponic farm," he says.