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Find a problem to solve.

Richard Fluker thought that if he couldn't find bait at his local bait shop, there must be other fishermen who couldn't find it either.Also, he was a high school science teacher who needed insects to feed his frogs! He had a problem on two fronts which he solved when he launched Fluker Farms in 1958.

Q: Where do ideas for businesses come from?

A: Most small business owners will tell you they just noticed a problem that they thought they could solve. In the case of Richard Fluker, his problem was the local bait shop never had enough live crickets. To get ideas for a business ask yourself: what do people need or want and would they be willing to pay for it? Or, what do I need or want that others might want too? If you hit on a great idea that others are willing to pay for, then your business will grow and be profitable. If your idea has limited appeal, you may struggle for years trying to find enough customers to make your business viable.

This is why big companies spend so much money on research before they launch a product. They want to minimize the risk of bringing a new product to the marketplace that might not attract enough customers to generate profits. Small business owners are famous for spending time and money on an idea that is never embraced by the marketplace. You have to be determined and not give up too quickly, but, at the same time realize that just because you think it's a good idea doesn't mean it can be successful commercially.

Q: How does a small business do market research?

A: Generally, informally. Small businesses usually don’t have the resources to engage research corporations to conduct focus groups or do marketing firms to do surveys. But that doesn't mean they can't do market research themselves. If you have an idea for a new product, run that idea by potential customers. Ask them if they would buy it and, equally as important, what they would pay for it. What you learn is called “anecdotal evidence”. It's not scientific, you won't have a statistically expressed margin of error, but it's still very valuable. And if you preface your inquiries with the fact that you are thinking about investing your resources in this idea, you can reasonably expect people to be conservatively realistic in their responses.

Few of us would want to be responsible for someone else losing money! If your customers are already buying crickets from you and enough of them tell you that they would buy mealworms, too, if you sold them, that’s pretty reliable market research.

Market research is not just for big companies. If you have an idea for a new business or a new product or service for your existing business, do your homework before investing your resources in your idea.

Think about it

Do you have an idea now that should be tested? Who would be the customer of the new product or service? What are you waiting for?

Fluker Farms

David Fluker, Owner

1333 Plantation Road
Port Allen, LA 70767

Visit our web site:

Office: 2253437035

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1958

In the Studio

HATTIE: Hi, I'm Hattie Bryant and this is Small Business School. We're the program that teaches about starting and growing a business. Today we're going to visit a business that has been serving its customers since 1958.

(Voiceover) Fishermen in Louisiana shop at Fluker Farms. The Salk Institute, Harvard and the Smithsonian are also regular customers. What is it that they all want? Bugs. Crickets. Worms. Lizards.

You'll find Fluker Farms just over the Mississippi River from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. People in Louisiana love their fishing, and that means they need bait. Today the farm will ship 2 1/2 million crickets a week and hundreds of thousands of mealworms and super worms. The customers, bait shops and pet stores, want these little creatures live upon arrival.

And it's going to get there just, like, in two days?

Unidentified Employee #1: Yes, ma'am.

(Voiceover) Bugs. Crickets. Worms. Lizards.

HATTIE: And they'll be fine in there, they'll be happy. They won't die.

Employee #1: Well, no, they shouldn't die.

HATTIE: No matter what happens. Temperature-wise, do they get put on...

Employee #1: If they do, we guarantee 'em live.

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Richard Fluker got this whole thing going.

HATTIE: Tell me about some of the big obstacles to the growth, some of the lessons that someone who's thinking about starting a business today needs to learn.

RICHARD FLUKER (Founder, Fluker Farms): I bought it in '56 while I was in with a partner. I got laid off at Ethyl Corporation and I had to make a decision whether I was gonna go for public work again or was I going full time in the cricket business. And so I started in 1958 full time in the cricket business, and it was about 1961 before we got on the other side of the books. And my wife, David's mother, supported us while we were trying to get it going. Our accounting system was based on three cigar boxes, in and out and whatever's left over.

HATTIE: Why did you start a cricket business?

RICHARD: Well, back in--I've always been an avid fisherman, but a lot of times you'd go to the bait shop and they didn't have the bait on hand because they didn't have a source. And so in my mind that if someone was a supplier, could always supply the bait shops, well it would be a lucrative business, which it has turned into.

And then in the meantime, in 1958 Lawrence Curtis came by the Cricket Farm which was on the old 190--you did not have the interstate--and he was from the Ft. Worth Zoo, and he said he had been looking for a source of supply of live crickets for the different animals that ate a live source of food.

So in the meantime, well, he started ordering from us and being a science teacher, well, I decided that universities and others would be interested in crickets. And then it went from the zoos, where we had Dr. Michael Robertson, the director of the Smithsonian Institute. We sold them crickets over the years. Even when he was in the research program down in the Canal Zone ... we sold him quite a long time ... better known as "The Spider Man."

Solve A Problem

Meal worms are happy in their shipping box and arrive live to their destination.

Episode Overview - Fluker Farms - A Family Business

Port Allen, Louisiana: Small business is the source of jobs and new ideas in every economy. Here you'll see that necessity becomes the mother of invention. When somebody says, "That's impossible," entrepreneurs take up the challenge. Big business is about ROI and ROE; small business is most often all about family and power-love-and-money. That's a different value equation.

Let's travel to visit a different kind of farm. Not far from Baton Rouge where the mighty Mississippi River flows nearby, meet the Fluker family, David, then his Dad, sister, brother and their team.

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