KC Scientist’s Mushroom Business Grows from Home Basement to Custom Warehouse

Robin Moore, founder MyCo Planet

KC Scientist’s Mushroom Business Grows from Home Basement to Custom Warehouse

If you want something and you can’t find it, make it yourself.

That’s what Robin Moore did. She started out growing unique mushroom varieties for her own use, but now, she’s the founder of MyCo Planet, the largest mushroom farm in the Kansas City area. Learn how Robin went from feeding her family to producing 19 tons of mushrooms each year, and hear what advice she has for other entrepreneurs.

A surprising taste for business

Robin did not set out to become the preeminent mushroom grower in KC. She just wanted to cook.

“I love cooking with mushrooms,” she says. “But I couldn’t find many varieties in stores, and I wanted to try something different. There are so many varieties with different textures and flavors, and you can do so much with them.”

So she did her research and started growing mushrooms in her basement. Robin had always been a gardener, and the mushrooms took off.

“I just fell in love with mycology and the entire mushroom process,” she says.

That process more than filled her own cooking needs, so she shared her mushroom bounty with friends and family. And then there were still mushrooms left over.

“I had the idea of setting up at a farmer’s market on Saturdays,” Robin says. “I had to officially become a business to do that.”

So she did. A scientist by training, Robin had been a stay-at-home mom and a substitute teacher, but she’d never officially been an entrepreneur. So she put her research skills to use and determined exactly what she needed to do to set up an LLC and what permits and licenses she’d need to sell at farmer’s markets. MyCo Planet was official.

Then came the big day.

Mushrooms from MyCo Planet
Mushrooms from MyCo Planet

Market research at the farmers market

Robin set up a booth in downtown KC’s City Market. She was terrified.

“I had no idea if people would even buy mushrooms,” she says. “I don’t enjoy public speaking, so I was incredibly nervous to talk to people all day long. But I knew it was something I had to do if I wanted to continue growing mushrooms. To sell the product, you have to educate people about the product as well.”

That first Saturday went better than OK — it went great. Robin sold her entire stock, all 70 pounds of mushrooms.

“I couldn’t ask for a better first market,” she says. “After that, it got easier and easier to go out and talk to people. But that initial one was very, very scary.”

Being at the farmers market for about six months provided first-hand market research. Robin made note of what shoppers were buying. But she also knew the market didn’t sell fresh produce in the winter, so her venture was coming to a fork in the road.

“I had to decide if I was going to keep doing this, and if so, how,” she says. “I decided to quit my full-time job and focus on the mushroom business full time. I had to sell to restaurants if I wanted to keep the business going.”

There’s no handbook on how to sell produce to Kansas City restaurants. So Robin learned from the experts.

“I talked to other vendors at the market, because they also have products they sell to restaurants,” she says. “They talked about who is buying local, who we should reach out to. It was very helpful. So I learned about stopping in, giving samples, talking about myself and the company.”

Her science background meant Robin was well-suited to mycology. But sales and the business side of the venture were new to her. So, she got help. She hired a salesperson. And she set off to learn about the nuts and bolts of entrepreneurship — while also growing her business.

Robin Moore of MyCo Planet checks on growing mushrooms
Robin Moore of MyCo Planet checks on growing mushrooms

Learning the ins and outs of business growth

In December 2021, MyCo Planet moved out of Robin’s basement and into a warehouse space in North Kansas City.

“It is vertical farming, controlled-environment agriculture,” she says. “We grow year-round in permanent rooms. We recreate natural environments indoors, controlling the humidity, temperature and fresh air. Everything is stacked on shelves, and we can get 500 pounds of mushrooms per room, per week for Kansas City. It doesn’t take a lot of space to grow a lot of food.”

A month after moving the business, Robin started ELEVATIONLAB™ TECH VENTURE. Hosted by the Missouri Small Business Development Center at UMKC, this nine-week course helps tech and science entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses.

“I wish I would’ve known all that I learned from the class earlier,” Robin says. “I’d already started my business and was running it, and it would have been helpful to make that business plan and know where you’re headed versus what I did.

“I was already doing it, so I had to figure out how to actually run this and what are the future plans for the business. Also, all the recordkeeping that goes along with this, from the customer side to the accounting side to all of the data we collect at the farm. I wish I’d put all those pieces in place at the beginning.”

Although it might not have been the ideal order of events, the course and the connections gave Robin a solid foundation for her venture.

“The SBDC was really helpful to get started,” she says. “The North Kansas City Business Council has been really helpful, too. And I’ve spoken to the Clay County Economic Development Council (EDC). They work with the business council, too.”

Robin spoke about her growing business at a Northland Coffee Connect networking event sponsored by Clay County EDC. This event is just one of the ways the EDC helps build partnerships between public and private sectors. Information, funding and leadership skills are all in the EDC’s purview.

“The EDC is here to help small businesses succeed,” says Julie Lewis, business specialist at the Clay County EDC. “We can help your business grow with our 504 Small Business Administration loan program as well as other loans. We connect businesses to help solve their roadblocks.”

Robin Moore of MyCo Planet tends to mushrooms in her warehouse.
Robin Moore of MyCo Planet tends to mushrooms in her warehouse.

Scaling this growing business

MyCo Planet has grown in more ways than one. Robin has expanded the facility in phases, so the farm now occupies a little over 5,000 square feet. What was once a one-woman shop now has two full-time employees, a salesperson and several seasonal employees. And it supplies mushrooms to more than 40 restaurants and 20 grocery stores in the area.

In addition to several mushroom varieties, the company now offers grow-at-home kits as well as Lion’s Mane Mushroom Tincture. A partnership with Rochester Brewing and Roasting Company has resulted in Lion’s Mane Ground Coffee, too.

“We do various mushroom powders, seasonings and dried mushrooms, too,” Robin says. “There are so many things you could do. I don’t want to take on too many things.”

She’s learned to focus on her core business and ensure the foundation is in place to support future growth.

“We’re still growing as a business, making changes and putting all those processes in place that will help us be more efficient day to day as we grow,” Robin says. “That means we’ll be able to take on larger accounts. Now, we’re gearing up to supply a lot of major grocery chains in KC and beyond to be able to offer many varieties of mushrooms. That’s part of why I started. To be able to come back around and supply those stores makes me so happy.”

In 2024, the goal for MyCo Planet is to get officially certified as organic by the USDA.

Guidance for new business owners

Robin didn’t set out to be an entrepreneur.

“I didn’t ever think I would own my own business,” she says. “It wasn’t on my radar. But the right thing came along, and that’s what I wanted to do as a career. So I had to start my own business.”

For others forging their way in the entrepreneurial landscape, Robin recommends doing your homework.

“Fully do your research and fully understand what it is you want to do,” she says. “Find out if there’s a market for it. I wasn’t sure if there was a market for mushrooms. I thought there was, then I went to the farmers market and that was my test. You have to answer: Will this work? You have to find out how it will be received.”

Whether you need feedback on a potential business idea, are ready for market research or want to learn how to scale, KCSourceLink’s Resource Partners are ready to assist. Check out our Resource Navigator to learn about more than 230 local programs and organizations that can help you meet your business goals. The KCSourceLink Calendar lists all upcoming entrepreneurial workshops, classes and events, too.

If you don’t even know where to start, KCSourceLink’s Network Navigators have got your back. Just answer a few questions, and we’ll create a free Personal Action Plan. It’s an individualized checklist of what to do and who to meet to get your business moving in the right direction.

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