Starting a new business is hard enough as is, but when you’re in the middle of rural Missouri and you have an idea for an innovation-led startup, it can seem nearly impossible. However, in today’s connected world, entrepreneurs and startup ideas can come from anywhere, regardless of geography.
Meet Anna Haney of Noviqu, a manufacturing software company based out of Moberly, Missouri − population 13,974. Anna and Noviqu are proof that a startup can thrive and succeed regardless of where one lives if you have an entrepreneurial mindset and are always looking for new opportunities to grow.
We connected with Anna to find out what gave her the idea to start her own innovation-led startup and how she pushes forward while living in a rural Missouri town.
What is the startup environment like where you live?
Non-existent in Moberly. Columbia is 30 minutes away where the startup environment is better. However, having been in Kansas City for a little over a month, I can say with certainty that small communities just don’t have the ability to compete with larger ones in terms of resources, knowledge breadth and versatility.
How did you come up with the idea to start Noviqu?
My husband Chad and I started Tin Can Technologies, a software services company that built custom software for whoever needed it. I really cultivated my passion for helping people through software development while working as Tin Can, and we hired a variety of people, one of whom stuck around for the long haul.
While working at Tin Can Technologies, we had the opportunity to talk with a local manufacturer and provide a quote for a custom solution. While we sat in this meeting, the maintenance manager started arguing with the safety manager, who started complaining to the training manager about whose job was harder, what reports they couldn’t pull and what employees were and were not doing.
The aggravation and pains of the facility managers is what sparked Noviqu. We took information from that meeting to fuel our conversations with other manufacturers, and eventually decided to build one cohesive platform for digital safety, maintenance and training processes.
While others may have good solutions for safety audits, maintenance work orders or digital training courses, Noviqu puts all three in employees’ hands at the time of need. This allows us to provide unique insight into internal efficiencies, as well as increase the overall lifetime value of the equipment in a facility and the employees that us it.
Have you struggled because of where you live?
Absolutely. Hiring the best talent and asking them to come to Moberly isn’t a walk in the park so we have to work harder and have better incentives. Being in the middle of the state means finding potential investors that aren’t in my neighborhood. We have more traveling to do, and further to look to find the right partners and the right talent.
What were the first steps you took after you decided to move forward with Noviqu?
We read. We read everything we could get our hands on and talked to as many people that would talk to us. We applied to accelerators. We went through the online Startup School that Y Combinator puts on. We watched videos. In essence, we educated ourselves so as to avoid as many stupid little mistakes as possible.
Which resources have you used to propel Noviqu and yourself as a startup founder?
We’ve utilized a variety of resources and try to utilize those around us as much as possible. The list includes:
P.S. Most of these organizations offer free coaching or services to startup entrepreneurs. Head over to The Resource Navigator to find the nearest Resource Partner to you.
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What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in starting or growing your company?
The constant roller coaster that is entrepreneurship is honestly one of the most difficult things. It’s rewarding and it’s exhilarating at the top of the peak, but the constant up, down and all around is not for the faint of heart.
Keep your spirits up, regardless of how grim it looks, because you have to have faith that you’ll make it around the bend.
There’s this myth that rural towns don’t have entrepreneurs. Clearly this isn’t true, but what would you say to someone who thinks that?
We’re a rare breed and that’s a shame. Entrepreneurs often feel they have to leave small towns in order to make their dreams happen. While I’d agree it’s easier when you’re surrounded by like-minded people, it’s definitely doable with the right attitude.
Rural-town entrepreneurs are headstrong and confident in their ability. They’re self-made, self-starters and don’t need constant hand holding. That said, guidance on occasion is a must and being part of other larger communities once in a while can help fuel the thirst a rural entrepreneur may have.
Has being from a rural area helped you in any way?
I think being from a rural area helps keep us humble. People around us don’t have a clue what being an entrepreneur or startup is. “Raising a round*” sounds like French to most people around us. That means that we spend less of our time caring about how cool we sound and more time making sure the work we do matters. That’s not to say people in urban areas don’t care – they do – but often they’re measured by a different stick.
*“Raising a round” is a form of funding for early-stage startups that involves pitching a business to venture capitalists for investment funding in exchange for equity in the company.
What are some of the big milestones for Noviqu?
Our first accelerator was huge for us. It was the turning point from “this is a great idea” to “this is a great business.” We will always be thankful to Iowa Startup Accelerator for believing in us in the beginning.
Our first customer, Unilever, was another huge one. The team there is so amazing, interested in what we are doing and they fully see our long-term vision. We are lucky to have gotten a great customer right off the bat.
Being accepted into the Techstars accelerator has been another huge one. This was the point where we said, “Okay, we’re doing alright, what’s next?” Lesa Mitchell and Techstars has been amazing so far in helping us see how quick we can scale and grow.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners who live in a rural town?
- Read everything you can get your hands on.
- Take a trip or two to “entrepreneurial” communities and see what they’re about.
- Attend a 1 Million Cups (or ten).
- Be disciplined in your methods and keep yourself organized.
- Most importantly: validate that your idea is more than just a good idea, build it and kick ass. You’ve got this.
What do you say to someone who wants to get into the startup world?
It’s hard and anyone who says it is easy is being sarcastic or lying to you. In my experience, it’s best if you have a partner or co-founder to bounce things off of, but it’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life.
Connect with Anna of Noviqu
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Find the resources you need to start or grow your business
Check out The Resource Navigator, an interactive database that will connect you to the right resources specific to your challenge, industry and business stage. Looking for more hands-on assistance—or just like talking to real folk? Send us an email and we’ll send you your personalized action plan outlining the next steps you need to take to start or grow your business.