Steven Klingler '14: The Sweet Life

“My great great grandpa paid for his farm by growing and picking berries during the Great Depression. My dad always told me that farming was in my blood, the berry picking just skipped a couple generations,” said accounting major and entrepreneurial student Steven Klingler.

Aside from the farming, Steven has gained the will to persevere in spite of adverse conditions from his great great grandfather. Steven has spent the last several months before his senior year starting and running his own business, The Berry Patch LLC. in West Liberty. He is saving the profits from The Berry Patch to help fund his master’s degree at Urbana University.

“When I first told people that I was going to start my own business, all but one person laughed at me and it gave me the motivation I needed. It was never about proving them wrong, it was about making my dream come to life.”

The inspiration for Steven’s business was two-fold, it came from practical experience and from understanding the importance of hard work and dedication. “I spent the last seven summers working at the Champaign Berry Farm. One day it just hit me to start my own berry farm. But, the real driving force definitely came from working for my dad since I was sophomore in high school, he showed me how to have good work ethic.”

Once the idea was sparked, Steven began working in a fiery frenzy. “I found myself staying up ‘til all hours of the night planning. It would be three o’clock in the morning and I’d be on my computer working on logos.”

Steven admitted that the level of dedication to his company is possible because of his choice in school, Urbana University. “I wouldn’t have been able to come back to take care of my berries and see the whole season through if I wasn’t as close as I am. I also wouldn’t have had the organization and preparation skills that I have learned over the last couple of years.”

“As an accounting major, people think that it’s all about crunching numbers but it really isn’t. My major has helped me plan the whole season, from getting workers to making a schedule. At school I am held accountable by an attendance policy, starting your own business is a lot like that.”

With all of his preparation and dedication Steven has still met some unpredictable factors; weather and demand.

“All of April was a constant battle with frost. Then, when we were up and running everyone was asking if I do raspberries too. I really wanted to do raspberries with the strawberries but it’s just so much more work and the strawberries have taken over. I do plan on reassessing at the end of the season though.”

But don’t worry, the strawberries aren’t going anywhere. “I have around 9,000 plants that typically last from two to four fruiting years and will yield around 5,000 pounds of berries each year.”

Although it is a “pick your own” berry patch, Steven has hired a UU student, Eric Gullett, and several other local employees to help pick the excess and pull runners and weeds. “I plan on hiring more people for next year, this year was really my first shot and now I know a little better how to plan for the future.”

Steven has set himself up nicely for both academic and professional success with his entrepreneurial endeavor.

This spotlight was written by Sarah St.Clair ’12. Sarah is working on her Post Baccalaureate Teaching License in AYA English/Language Arts. She has her Bachelors in English and Communications. She enjoys swimming, running, and spending time with her family.


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