Kenneth Owen was introduced to farming early in life in Oregon, where he was raised. This childhood immersion in agriculture taught him how beneficial things that grow naturally can be for human beings. After graduating from school, Ken landed in Palm Springs and began his career in land development. As he cultivated new business relationships, he found that he had a skill set well-suited to sales. This led him to a position with AT&T, which eventually brought him to Los Angeles. It was here that Ken became one of the largest distributors of the then-new technology of voice over internet protocol (VOIP).
In California, Ken continued to learn all he could about investments and land development. Initially, he invested in several businesses, and while some worked out and went public, others did not do as well. However, whether successful or unsuccessful, each opportunity provided him with more education in real time, and Ken took every lesson to heart. The skills acquired through these transactions would eventually lead Kenneth Owen to the success he has found today.
Five years ago, he found a farm for sale in Belize that he recognized as an excellent potential opportunity. The owner wanted to sell 512 acres quickly, and he and Ken quickly agreed to terms. Although Ken’s initial plan was to continue the teak and mahogany production that was already taking place on the farm, which he renamed TKO Farms, Inc. he also began researching ways to grow a more diverse set of crops. In the end, Ken found an excellent option with the graviola fruit. At the time, even though the benefits of graviola fruit had been well-studied, no farm on Earth was producing it the way TKO Farms, Inc. could. Through trial and error, as well as a lot of hard work, TKO Farms, Inc. has become a top producer of the graviola fruit. The business ensures that their products are of the highest quality, and makes shipments to clients across the world.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
As a young man in Oregon, I grew up farming lumber. Throughout my career, I learned how to find a good investment, so when I was fortunate enough to find this pre-existing farm in Belize, I jumped at the opportunity. Originally, I was planning to focus on lumber—primarily, the teak and mahogany that was already growing there. After some research, I discovered that companies producing health and wellness products are at the top of the S&P 500. With 912 acres, I thought it would be an even better investment to grow something that could be used in that industry. We added the graviola fruit as a crop because of its great health benefits for people and the potential for a great return. There was no other farm with such a large focus on graviola fruit at the time, and to this day we are still the largest farm of this kind in the world. It takes a lot of work to keep everything running smoothly, to keep the plants healthy and the insects away. We went from growing trees that were very low-maintenance to growing trees that are very high-maintenance. We all had to learn very quickly. It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been such a rewarding experience. The products that are made from our fruit are of the highest quality and really help the people who use them. We are fortunate to have such a fruit as a crop.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My mornings start at about 5:30 am. The first thing I do is go to my office and follow up on emails. I try to spend a few hours interruption-free, so I can focus fully on what needs to be done for the day. By 9 am, I start working on phone calls. I wear a lot of hats and I get pulled in a lot of different directions. On any given day, I am the chairman, the CEO, the human resources official, and the head of product development, as well as a marketing and financial officer. I work on things as they come to me. My workday ends at 4 pm. I used to believe in 14-hour days, but my opinion has changed on that matter. By working so much, you just end up getting exhausted and you are less productive as a result. I much prefer being able to check out and go home to enjoy my evening with my wife.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Whenever I have an idea, the first thing I do is research. I like to know as much as I can when I present it to my team. I am a doer. I like to get to work instead of sitting around talking. I form a plan and get to work, which is the best way to figure out if an idea is feasible. Due diligence and the willingness to put in the required work and money is how you bring ideas to life. You also have to understand the market. Most markets are inundated, so if you want to enter into one, you have to be careful. I try to enter marketplaces that are unique and different, and that are not inundated in any way. That gives me a chance of dominating that market space before others move in. Keep focused, keep your head down, and stay at it until the idea is a reality. Once you put energy out there, it’s amazing what comes back to you. It’s kind of amazing how opportunity sometimes knocks on my door. And when I answer, I think to myself, “Wow, this was only an idea the other day and now it’s taking place!” I call that the ‘universal good energy,’ and it comes to those who want to succeed with things.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The public’s embrace of the health and wellness industry. It’s a trend that just keeps getting bigger and better. I think there’s still a lot to learn about health and wellness, but I love being a part of it. So many people are just learning the importance of natural medicines, like fruits and teas. As always, we continue to learn more as we go along. I’m excited to learn more myself, and also to share that knowledge with people who are just starting to learn about health and wellness.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
When I wake up in the morning, I don’t spend time in bed trying to get motivated. I put my feet on the floor in less than ten seconds. I prefer to get up and do my work instead of lying around and thinking. Thinking about strategy and the tasks ahead of me is reserved for my office, and that’s why I go in early. I like to start checking things off my list as soon as possible so I have as much accomplished by the time I end my work day as I can. I have an innate desire to get things done, and I act on that impulse aggressively. You have to be diplomatic but aggressive in order to be productive. I feel like I’ve found the right balance to keep things moving throughout the day.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Always stay true to yourself. Stay focused, stay dedicated. I’ve learned that doing this pays off immensely. I’ll bet the people who adopt this mindset for 40 years become successful CEOs in about 35 years. Remaining dedicated to yourself and those around you is what produces positive results. Also, personally, I have always listened to older people. When I was in my early 20s, I was always around people that were about 50 or 60 years old. I have always believed it pays off to listen to experienced people and absorb everything that they have to teach.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I believe in having good energy and a positive attitude, and in giving more than taking. Many people already understand and practice this, but I think the more that do, the better this world will become. It’s all about balancing your life. My days start with gratitude and I will say a quick prayer each day to show my gratitude for all that I have. I’m religious, so I always thank the Lord for where I am today. I feel like I’m one of the fortunate ones. You can be challenged with 100 issues, and whatever they may be, you can find a way to overcome them with faith and positivity. I’ve also always been a big believer in giving back to the community and the world whenever I can.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Consistency is key. Take care of yourself as consistently as you take care of your business. I take vitamins daily, and I drink pH-balanced water. In the space that I’m in, working with natural medicines, I have seen the benefits to be had and I put them to work in my own life. It has made a big difference for me. To all entrepreneurs, I would recommend finding whatever balance works for you. Business owners tend to get caught up in the business so much that they forget to take care of themselves. Don’t let that happen. If you don’t maintain your own wellness, your business will suffer.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
My strategy has always been the same thing: stay focused. Surround yourself with people that are just as consistent and just as focused as you are. If everyone is focused on the same goals, your business will grow. Assemble a good quality team of people who are in it for the long-term and who are dedicated to whatever you produce. Be a good leader. That means listening to others and trying new things. People will follow those who they believe in. The longer someone sticks with you, the more congruous the team becomes. It also helps your team become more empowered. Many of my employees don’t even have to ask me when making decisions anymore, especially those who have been with me the longest. That is such a valuable tool in the business because it allows things to move more smoothly overall. We all have a similar mindset and similar goals. I have members on my team that have been with me for over twenty years. I think that speaks volumes.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Every entrepreneur has faced failure in some way or another. Economies change, and employees come and go. There are so many factors that are always moving, and if you can’t handle them, you shouldn’t be an entrepreneur. There is no way you are going to get 100% of what you need to be done perfectly. The key is learning from the failures you encounter. You overcome these challenges by reaching out to those who have already experienced them and learning how they worked through them themselves, and also being ready to pivot when necessary. With the markets changing all the time, you have to be ready to produce what is needed. Do your homework and do your best. Have people around you that can give you insights on the next steps to take, then just move forward.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There are so many people that come to me with different ideas that I never thought about before. Perhaps with one in a hundred or so, I’ll say, “I’ll run with this. Give me enough time to study it and see where the marketplace is at, right now.” Although I can’t think of a specific example off the top of my head, I would encourage anyone interested in starting a business to look into something that gives back to those less fortunate. At the very least, find a way to make people’s lives easier. Especially these days, with so much going on and with everyone affected by stress more than ever, find a way to make things easier. In essence, that’s the idea at the center of most successful new companies.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
$100 is kind of that magic number. It’s an amount where you have to consider what will give you the best return. The best $100 I’ve spent recently has been on dinner for my wife. When you’ve been married for many years, you learn what will make your wife happy. Things like flowers for no reason or a dinner out on the town will make her feel good, and that helps your relationship. Spending money on my wife will always be the best way to spend my money.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I am not software-driven. My business is still run using old-school methods, like pen and paper. It’s all about the basics. I will write something down and pass it off to those who need it. They may use more up-to-date methods, but old-school methods have always worked well for me, and I believe in not trying to fix what isn’t broken.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The first book I would recommend for everyone to read is the Bible. You don’t have to approach it from a religious standpoint, but I feel it is a great resource. The second recommendation I have would be The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden. It has a wealth of knowledge that can help anyone in any walk of life.
What is your favorite quote?
I have many, but I think my favorite is from Winston Churchill: “When going through hell, don’t stop.” You can’t stop, you have to push through to the other side when facing adversity. It’s a great quote to remember.
- Have faith.
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Work hard and power through adversity.
- Surround yourself with solid, intelligent people who are working toward the same goals and will stick with you for the long-term.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.