It started when Scott Mueller had ambition to grow beyond raising crops and feeding cattle on the family farm in north-central Nebraska. Today, he's the head of Samson LLC, a diverse, environmentally-responsible agricultural business in Columbus named the SBA's 2015 Small Business of the Year for Nebraska. Loren Kucera, director of the Nebraska Business Development Center in Wayne, nominated Samson LLC for the honor.
The company has grown a workforce from two employees in 2001 to eight today, and a 9.5 percent bump in sales over the past three years, to $3.1 million in 2014.
Among their business interests, for diners with a palate for juicy, tender Certified Angus Beef, Mueller met with cow-calf producers for his feed lot to meet the high standards for the brand.
Then, becoming the only licensed feed lot and restaurant combination in the country, he, along with his wife, Pat, opened the now-popular Traditions Inn and Restaurant in town to serve up those prized steaks.
And from that taste of the hospitality industry, Mueller teamed with investors to secure $1.7 million in financing from an SBA 504 loan with help from NEDCO to purchase and renovate a hotel and convention center in Columbus.
After his father retired in 1986, Mueller took over part of the farm; within a year he launched a grain and livestock feed lot, eventually growing it into a 2,500-head commercial operation.
But by 1995, increasingly tight environmental regulations in the industry pushed the company to diversify. With an eye on the growing popularity of sustainable practices in the agriculture industry, Mueller created a subsidiary to compost the waste from the lot and other locally-produced organic wastes to sell to commercial and residential customers. That same year, a well-known worldwide brand in animal feed asked Mueller, already a strong buyer himself, to sell their products to his lot customers. Soon enough, the company started winning corporate sales awards, including one reflecting 50 percent year to year growth.
In 2001, Mueller helped form Samson LLC, a company offering commodity brokerage services for beef producers and market speculators. But the brokerage revenue wasn’t enough on its own to sustain the company's growth, motivating Mueller to expand that company's reach further into the agricultural industry.
Cattle producers face an uphill battle to rebuild export markets lost over the past decade or so. With complex rules now in place to break into markets to sell beef from the heartland of America to Japan, Europe and other countries around the world, it's a challenge to meet both these requirements and the demand from domestic customers. Mueller figured out how to do both, supporting the $1 billion-a-year Nebraska beef export market