When Ted and Terry Merrell first had the opportunity to start farming on their own, they had dreams of making it big in the hog business. Make it big they did, but an unexpected need for a different service took their business in an entirely new direction.
In 1983, Ted and Terry, Walton, were fresh out of high school and college with a passion for raising hogs. They had 125 sows of their own at the time, rented buildings in four different counties, traveled roughly 100 miles a day to do chores and produced 6,000 hogs a year.
Fast forward a few years and the brothers were far from stagnant in growing their business. They had a 550-sow operation with a goal to market 12,000 hogs per year. They also had another small side business in the making.
Earlier in their careers they realized dealing with manure was a continual challenge. This realization sparked a new idea. With the help of their father, Dayton, they purchased their first high flotation spreader truck. This tool allowed the boys to spread waste more quickly and at a lower cost.
Ted and Terry began meeting the demand of farmers. They worked around the clock in their 1,600 gallon truck.
After servicing solely agriculture customers for two years, Ted and Terry were desperate for business and wanted to grow into other areas of waste management. They found that municipal waste was a market they could also tap into. They made their first bid with the city of West Lafayette. A tough decision on price, lots of prayer, and the flip of a coin was the magic potion needed to win the bid, an account Merrell Bros. still have almost 30 years later.
Today, Merrell Bros., Inc. has nearly 100 employees, six office sites across the United States, and they offer 11 different services to meet any disposal need. Surprisingly enough, a business that started solely with agriculture biosolid management has now flourished into so much more.
"Ninety-five percent of income initially came from farmers, and it's really only about 5% today," Ted explained.
It's clear that religion and prayer are huge driving forces for their business. "We are part of His family. Our work demands so much time, we need to give the real purpose to what we do. At the end of the day money is just green paper that motivates people," Terry expressed as he further explained why he and his brother glorify God in every aspect of their business.
When asked what advice Ted and Terry had for those with startup businesses both inside and outside of agriculture, they simply said, "Pray hard, you better have a passion for what you're doing, keep your options open and find your niche."