By: Mollie Lastovica
Four former students of the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications have been recognized as recipients of the 2013 Aggie 100 Award.
Initiated by Mays Business School’s Center for New Ventures and Entrepreneurship, the Aggie 100 recognizes 100 Aggie-owned and Aggie-led businesses for their growth rate and success.
Eligible companies are those that have been in business for five or more years with revenues of $250,000 or more for a specified year. The companies’ operations and initiatives must comply with Aggie values and the Aggie Code of Honor.
Four of the 100 recipients for 2013 are products of the ALEC Department including Tyler Merrick ’00, agricultural development, Jerome Urbanosky ’75, agricultural journalism, Dat Nguyen ’98, agricultural development and J. Scott Cunningham ’00, agricultural development.
Merrick operates Project 7 out of San Clemente, Calif., Urbanosky runs AmeriTech Staffing, Inc. in Houston, Nguyen is part of AgsReward, a real estate and insurance company in Austin and Cunningham works with Veritas Building Consultants, LLC, of Cedar Park, Texas.
For Merrick, graduating from the ALEC Department was not part of his original plan. As a junior, Merrick was dismissed from Mays Business School for academic reasons—a result of committing too much time to running businesses on the side of school. He was raised in the agriculturally-driven community of Hereford, Texas and sought to be admitted to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“I contacted the College of Agriculture about finishing my schooling there and shared my interest in going back into my family’s pet food business after school and they gave me a shot—it’s one I will never forget,” Merrick said. “A lot of colleges passed on me and even though it was my first time to go on probation, the business school would not consider a second chance. If Dr. Joe [Townsend] had not believed in me, I would not have graduated A&M, most likely, and that would be a hard thing to accept.”
He completed his schooling and graduated with a degree in agricultural development in 2000. After returning to his family’s business and helping operate that for eight years, Merrick founded Project 7 in 2008.
“It [Project 7] really just was birthed out of a heart to attempt and build a brand/business model that sustainably gave back to charities in need 365 days a year,” Merrick said.
The company is dedicated to making “products for good” and focuses on seven areas of need—feeding the hungry, healing the sick, hoping for peace, housing the homeless, quenching the thirsty, teaching them well and saving the earth. Through partnerships with global nonprofits, the company works to address those areas while also marketing consumer packaged goods.
Winning the Aggie 100 Award for Project 7 was a unique feat for Merrick, who had formerly been recognized with this award for his family’s business.
“I had the privilege to win this award a couple of times when I was at my family’s pet food business, but since transitioning out of that special opportunity and starting Project 7, it was really special to win this award as Project 7,” Merrick said. “The biggest thing is that with hard work and team effort, [success] can be done. You may have years you’re down and not always on an upward trajectory, but don’t forget… plow seed back into the earth, roll up your sleeves and remember you did it before.”
His own experience of overcoming challenges drives Merrick to promote perseverance to all. As a student in the ALEC Department he learned the importance of obtaining a degree.
“Graduate. It sounds cliché, but most of the folks I know are not in a specialized field of study such as law, medicine or engineering, like they graduated with,” Merrick said. “It’s just as important to finish what you started to prove to yourself that you can finish a task you started. For me, I got a second chance in ALEC and I am forever grateful for that opportunity.”
He encourages people to remember the importance and impact that second chances can have in one’s life.
“As you pursue academic excellence and rankings, don’t forget to give people—who maybe don’t add up on paper—a second chance,” Merrick said. “That doesn’t just go for the department—that goes for all of us in life.”
Just five years in, Merrick’s commitment to Project 7 has proven successful. However, awards and recognition do not drive his work. When asked to define what he hopes his legacy will be, Merrick’s response is concise.
“This is such a big question, but not hard to answer,” Merrick said. “That people will see Jesus in my life lived.”
For more information about the Aggie 100 Award and recipients, click here.