We had the good fortune of connecting with Sam Kwalwasser and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Sam, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
My view on this topic might sound contrarian, but taking big risks is not something I think is in any way desirable, or even necessary, to become an entrepreneur or business owner. I prefer to minimize risks, and have incorporated that philosophy into the structure of my company.

Many people believe that in order to start a business, they must quit their jobs, take on huge amounts of debt, and stake it all on that big idea. I disagree. It’s much more desirable to bootstrap an idea, test the concept and see where that takes me. I would rather keep my day job while building a business in early stages if it’s possible. When the time comes to scale, one can make a calculated decision about whether it’s worth it to take the leap into full time.

The challenge with this philosophy is coming up with an idea that can be explored and tested without committing vast resources.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I stumbled upon the field of mycology (the study of fungi) by accident while reading a book about something mostly unrelated. This was just before the start of the pandemic. I grew my first mushroom, Lion’s Mane, from a grow kit I purchased early in 2020. I estimated that working remotely from my corporate day job would give me more time to attend to the mushrooms needs as it grew.

I want to pause for a minute to talk to the reader about how rewarding and beneficial the hobby of growing your own gourmet mushrooms at home can be! It’s like gardening, but way cooler. Mushrooms also have all kinds of benefits for everything from the environment to personal health.

My vision for my business is to make culinary and functional mushroom growing a more accessible hobby, and improve the success of my customers with their projects, whether they are a commercial mushroom farmer, or a hobbyist.

To describe how I arrived at this business model, let me dive in to my research and decision making process. So, as I dove deeper and deeper into this as a hobby, I was becoming increasingly aware that there was a growing community of people online who were doing the exact same thing with their newfound time at home. I started to look at different business models that could grow with this expanding demand, and realized that supplying ‘cultures’ (This term describes an isolated genetic strain of an organism. For analogy, it is like a plant cutting is to a gardener.) was a critical piece of what a gourmet mushroom grower needed as they begin each new project.

To explore the idea further, I networked to find suppliers, and then put together some spreadsheets to determine the viability of this model. As it turned out, the unit cost for selling a culture is very low when considering only the cost of materials. The value that I could add was in providing high quality, proven genetics for growers. This value added product relies heavily on my own personal time/skill investment in developing the genetics as well as rigorous quality control standards.

I should probably mention some of the other reasons I chose my particular path in my industry. Often people assume that my business is a farm when I tell them what I do. To be frank, mushroom farming is really, really hard. It’s both resource and labor intensive. I have an enormous amount of respect for my colleagues that own or work on farms. However, I found that I enjoy some parts of the hobby more than others. Isolating genetics for farmers is far more interesting to me personally than operating a commercial farm.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite place to visit in Miami has to be the Wynwood area. When I’m not growing my own food, I’m eating all the best food I can find.

If you’re able to spend the afternoon in Wynwood, you’ll want to grab lunch at The Taco Stand, make sure to save room for dessert, then walk next door to check out the Wynwood Walls. After taking in the beautiful murals and artwork, head to Fireman Derek’s Bake Shop & Cafe for their crack pie. If you can still move at this point you’ll want to stop by Veza Sur Brewing Co. and Wynwood Brewing Company.

Pro-tip… The last I checked, Le Chick still offers happy hour on Saturdays!

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I owe thanks and shoutouts first and foremost to my incredible wife and children, who put up with my stockpile of test tubes, petri dishes, other lab equipment, as well as my commitment of time to this venture.

Second, to all of the members of the online and local mycology communities. There is no chance I could have build my brand without their ongoing support and collaboration.

Third, to Chris Gillebeau and his book, ‘The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future.’ I have read this book and listened to the audiobook 3 times over the past 7 years, and must give credit to this work for my concept of how a business should approach risk, planning, and execution of ideas. Without it I would have been stuck in the mindset that one must take on massive amounts of risk to pursue their dream business.

Website: https://soflofungi.com

Instagram: @soflo_fungi

Facebook: SoFlo Fungi

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