By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
COLOMA — Karen Warner was the recipient of $10,000 as a result of technology. However, the Coloma farmer nearly missed out on the $10,000 because of technology.
After entering into a business competition sponsored by Comcast, Warner was sitting on her sofa with her laptop and iPad close by. She happened to glance at her iPad and saw the email from those running the contest notifying her she was a finalist. The same email had not come through on her laptop because it went to her spam folder.
“I could have missed it completely if I didn’t have the iPad with me,” Warner said. “I never check my junk mail. You had to sign this paperwork to show that you were eligible. I ran down to the UPS store yelling, ‘I have to get this thing sent up.'”
Warner said she is always in search of free money and applies for grants and other competitions. She did a quick online search for business competitions and found one from Comcast. Warner proceeded to write a 250-word essay on how she would use the money to grow her business.
The organic farmer, who is known for her blueberries and apples, was later selected as a regional winner for the Innovation for Entrepreneurs Contest.
Out of the 16 entrepreneurs and 16 start-up businesses picked around the country, Warner was chosen to represent the Greater Chicago Region by Comcast’s Corporate Group. Warner’s ideas to better improve her business by incorporating technology hit a bell with the company.
“One of the things about farming is that it’s a very dangerous industry,” Warner said. “A lot of times you are by yourself, working with heavy equipment. If you’re out in the field a mile from the road and you get yourself trapped, you still need to let the EMS know where you are. They can get to your address, but not necessarily find you.”
Her plan that was pitched in the written essay was to include smartphones and install Wi-Fi on her property, so she could always be located.
Warner said she plans on using technology to do the record keeping for organic productions and for the point of sales system. Instead of jotting things down on paper, Warner intends to ring up the order at a register and take credit card payments.
“The other thing I did was add the ability to take food stamps,” she said. “I’m still waiting for the technology to arrive, but I am now a vendor for Michigan food stamps. People can come and buy fresh produce if they are low income.”
Jack Segal, vice president of communications for Comcast’s Greater Chicago Region, was in Coloma at Big Head Farm on Tuesday morning to present Warner with the $10,000 check. After the check was awarded, Comcast paid for some of the blueberry picking that took place.
“Technology is something you wouldn’t think about on a farm,” Segal said. “(Warner’s) plan had some really amazing uses, including the safety component.”
A few familiar faces from the area came out for the ceremony.
State Rep. Al Pscholka made an appearance and said he was pleased to see Comcast recognize Warner for her ingenuity. Alongside him was state Sen. John Proos, who said he liked to see the entrepreneurial spirit that Warner has showcased.
“Anytime that you can combine technology with the timeless benefit of agriculture in Southwest Michigan, you see the opportunity for growth and job creation,” he said. “Karen’s operation is one example of the hundreds of businesses that are making such a difference in our economy.”
Upon benefiting from the competition, Warner said she will be a resource for any local farmers who have not yet caught onto the technological wave that is sweeping “agri-businesses.”
“People don’t know you’re out here unless you tell them you’re out here,” she said. “You can grow a lot of great product, but a lot of farmers aren’t great at selling their product. If you don’t have your business on the Internet, you don’t exist in today’s world.”
(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on July 23, 2015)