Steve Kozachyn, serial entrepreneur and executive director of external affairs for the Rohrer College of Business spoke at the Rowan Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RCIE) for “Coffee With an Entrepreneur,” where he recounted the triumphs and failures that come with being a business owner.
Currently, he owns Kozy Acres, a Christmas tree farm and apiary in Gloucester County. His business also sells homemade soaps and honey year-round. Before Kozy Acres, he had a long career making toys. Kozachyn initially used his engineering skills to create ride-along toy cars for children.
After years of designing toys under his own business, he eventually moved over to Matell and designed toys there as the Executive Vice President for Boys Toys, after they bought his company from him. He explained that for many young business students, there’s an aspiration to work for large corporations and make the most money that they can. However, what Kozachyn found was not as glamorous as it may have seemed.
One moment he shared was when he was on a business trip in China, and did a video call with his family. His wife was excited to show him something new– his son walking. That moment was when Kozachyn realized that while he was successful when it came to material things, he was missing out on valuable time with his family, which changed the course of his career.
“I wasn’t there. That’s something I should be there for,” said Kozachyn, sharing his reaction to the call with the students.
After that, he asked to be sent home and sent his resignation letter to Mattel. From there, he developed several businesses, one of which included a food truck called “Sausage Fest.” He’s also worked on computer-aided design (CAD) conversion companies and beehive removal services. He emphasized that while money is important, “lifestyle” is what young entrepreneurs should be aspiring towards.
“I learned a long time ago that when I retired from industry, it’s not about the money. It’s about lifestyle. So I work to support my lifestyle,” said Kozachyn.
In just a few weeks, Kozy Acres Christmas Tree Farm will be getting ready to welcome families who are ready to purchase this year’s tree. The farm is open a limited number of hours per year, being that it’s open weekends from Black Friday to Christmas, and each customer is charged a flat rate of $60 per tree. Hayrides, hot chocolate, and treats are free for all customers, and at the farm, he also sells homemade Kozy Acres honey and soaps. Maintaining the Christmas spirit and holiday excitement is very important to him as a business owner who is selling a product, but also as an experience for families.
“My philosophy is the fact that families don’t spend enough time together. This is an opportunity for everybody in the family to do something together. I don’t nickel and dime— free hot chocolate and coffee. I even buy little Danish and Brownie things from Sam’s Club every weekend, free,” said Kozachyn.
Having so many business endeavors and experiences, Kozachyn can be described as a “serial entrepreneur.” Having speakers come with this type of experience is important to the RCIE, as it may introduce someone to a career they hadn’t thought of before.
“I think when students hear about entrepreneurial journeys and the paths that others have walked through, they can picture themselves walking in that path, too,” said Jessica Vattima, the assistant director of the RCIE and adjunct professor of entrepreneurship.
Senior Cammy Wright is a marketing major with an entrepreneurship minor who attended Kozachyn’s talk. She explained that one of the takeaways she had was how to prioritize people while also running a business.
“I really liked how he talked about, in the Christmas spirit, he wants to make it about memories, and he doesn’t nickel and dime people and he keeps it very simple in the sense he’s like, come get your tree, we’re gonna give you a photo…I felt like that was really cool because I feel like a lot of people do get caught up on the money,” said Wright.
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