Young entrepreneur growing his own business
Aaron Rerucha feels blessed for contest that helped him start his Ox-Bow's Natural Landscapes.
Posted: Mon, Dec 1, 2014
Aaron Rerucha was nervous.
He hadn't done much public speaking, maybe just one speech class. Yet there he was, standing before the crowd and the judges and the other competitors at UNL last December in the first-ever Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program Business Plan Competition.
It helped that he loved his plan so much – for a business inspired by the love of his family and the Nebraska dirt, and his deep roots in it.
"I just got up there and presented what I love," says Rerucha, who grew up in David City, Neb. "And I felt the Lord speak through me and out to the people."
His plan was for a business he named Ox-Bow's Natural Landscapes, which would focus on bringing back the historical significance of the Nebraska prairie by creating natural landscapes for clients. All the materials used would be native to Nebraska and the Midwest.
Aaron spoke of his Nebraska ancestors, who were farmers and craftsmen and who inspired the business plan (in the winters, he says, he'll make furniture from Nebraska wood). He spoke of a 24-acre plot of land a few miles south of Columbus, where his business would be located. It's a plot of land that's been in the family for generations. Aaron used to walk it with his grandpa and listen to stories about the land, and about how the ancestors survived the Dirty '30s and the Dust Bowl days.
He spoke of how his grandpa had researched the plot and discovered that both the Mormon and the Oxbow trails had traveled through the property. He'd found the ruts and pointed them out to Aaron. His grandpa developed that plot into a little park, a sanctuary for Nebraska history.
Aaron says that when his grandpa passed away, he thought this would be a perfect opportunity to build his business on that little plot of dirt, and to merge his dream with his grandpa's.
"I think he would be super excited."
After presenting his plan, Aaron sat back down, just happy to have it over.
Then the judges announced the winner:
Ox-Bow's Natural Landscapes.
"I was sitting there, on my computer typing, and I didn't think I was going to win, to be honest," he says. "It took awhile for it to register. I was sitting there and they were waiting for me to accept my award and I thought, ‘Praise the Lord, I just won this competition!'"
He also won the $4,000 grand prize.
He wants to thank Nebraska native Paul Engler, the Hall of Fame Texas cattleman whose gifts to UNL created the Engler Entrepreneurial Program, located in IANR. Aaron, who will graduate in the spring, is majoring in horticulture/landscape design and minoring in entrepreneurship. He's proud to be an Engler Scholar.
He's proud to be a Cabela's scholarship recipient, too.
"Scholarships are vital," Aaron says. "The ones I have gotten have really help me get through school with minimal to zero debt, and so a huge thank you goes out to all of the donors."
One time, he heard Engler speak at UNL about how entrepreneurs must have a fire in their belly. Aaron knows he has it.
And one year after that business-plan competition, his business is on fire.
"Things are going very well," he says one hot day this past summer, taking a break from working on a project in David City. "The way it's looking, I have business for pretty much all of next year lined up already."
Student Support and Agriculture are two priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska, the university's current fundraising initiative, which ends Dec. 31. More than $268 million has been raised for University of Nebraska students like Aaron Rerucha since the campaign began in 2005, and more than 1,858 scholarship funds have been created.