Simmons, who along with his wife Sara Simmons are the owners of Pure Holsteins in Little Rapids, spoke at a lunch meeting of the Rotary Club of Corner Brook at the Glynmill Inn on Thursday.
His talk took club members through a history of the couple and how they came to be dairy farmers — from studying at the Nova Scotia Agriculture College to deciding whether to become part of his family farm here or Sara’s in Moncton, to facing succession issues and growing a business.
Simmons spoke of the struggles they have faced and the lessons they’d learned. He said he wished more of the younger generation of businesspeople had been present to hear what he had to say.
“We were really good at managing cows ... But the one thing we hadn’t learned until we started Pure Holsteins was how to manage money.”
It was that skill that nearly cost them their business.
The hardest day for him didn’t involve being in a barn, in a mess, trying to fix something. It came sitting behind his desk as he had to make calls first to their lender and then their suppliers to say the money just wasn’t there.
They had thought their business was to make milk and Simmons said it took them a long time to figure out that they are in the same business as other businesspeople.
“We’re in the business to make money,” he said. “And as soon as we realized that things started to get better for us.”
The Simmons were able to overcome their troubles and eight months later had turned things around.
They are now operating a thriving business and looking at expansion. They’ve introduced new technology at the farm, have taken to social media to promote themselves and have developed an app that helps other farmers manage their operations.
Earlier this year their efforts earned them the title of Atlantic Outstanding Young Farmers for 2015 and a spot in the Canada's Outstanding Young Farmers competition held in Edmonton last week.
The couple didn’t win one of the two national titles up for grabs, but Simmons said the experience was more than worthwhile.
“We took a lot home,” he said and added “anything we can learn from anybody benefits us.”