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Engler Journey: Hannah Esch

Engler Journey: Hannah Esch
Hannah Esch - Oak Barn Beef

And this crazy little Nebraska girl went out to northern California for the summer. That was one of the biggest learning experiences that gave me the confidence to start Oak Barn Beef.

- Hannah Esch, Founder of Oak Barn Beef

A conversation with a removed consumer, an internship in California and endless support from her family fostered the creation of Oak Barn Beef.

Hannah Esch grew up on her family’s beef operation near Unadilla, Nebraska. With the guidance of her parents, both of whom are entrepreneurs, Esch she developed a deep love for cattle and a fierce impulse to start a business of her own. But, for what seemed like an eternity, she couldn’t pinpoint what kind of business she wanted to start.

Throughout Esch’s first few years at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, she fully submerged herself into the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship program. The program allowed her to brainstorm business ideas, engage in hands-on entrepreneurial activities and develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to go out on her own. During this time, she hoped that someday she would figure out what kind of business to build.

Listen to the Engler Journey here.

It wasn’t until one profound experience during her time as a 2017 Nebraska Cattlewomen Beef Ambassador that Esch recognized her opportunity to build a meaningful business.

“I got a lot of surprising comments, but the most surprising one was when a third-grader from a rural community told me that eggs come from cows because they’re next to the milk in the grocery store,” Esch said.

And in that moment, Esch knew what she wanted to do: with the help of her family’s beef operation, she was going to close the gap between producers and consumers. She didn’t know exactly how she was going to close the gap, but with resources from the Engler staff and an internship on the West Coast, Esch created Oak Barn Beef.

“One thing (the Engler staff) really empowered me to do was to get an internship in my field, so I started researching other companies like the one I wanted to build,” said Esch. “When I came across Five Marys Farms in Northern California, I knew that I could learn a lot from that company.”

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The operation was a perfect fit for Esch, but there was one small dilemma: Five Marys Farms didn’t offer an internship. Esch said the hardest part about the process was sending a letter to the company, asking for an internship to spend the summer at their rural California ranch.

“And they accepted, and this crazy little Nebraska girl went out to northern California for the summer. That was one of the biggest learning experiences that gave me the confidence to start Oak Barn Beef,” Esch said.

Today, Hannah Esch is the founder of Oak Barn Beef. It’s a farm-to-table operation that focuses on sharing the message of ethical ranching practices.

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A common interview question is “tell me about your biggest failure.” I always answer with:⁠ ⁠ “I fail every single day. It’s inevitable. Whether that is a miscommunication with our butcher or it is not doing a 10/10 job on a customer call, I fail all the time.⁠ ⁠ In my entrepreneurship program, there is a saying on the wall that says “Fail Fast. Fail Forward. Fail Cheap.” and that saying has changed my mindset on failure. Instead of focusing on the failure, I constantly ask myself “how could I have handled that situation better?” or “how can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?”⁠ ⁠ Those thoughts turn a small (or big) mistake into a learning lesson. Something to laugh at and move on to take on the next thing. Something to get better from.”⁠ ⁠ And it’s true. I fail everyday! So learn to laugh at yourself. it makes life so much better!⁠ ????⁠ ⁠ What’d you fail at today?⁠ ⁠ Photo credits: @stellastock

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Learn more about the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln here.

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