How Chris Salm Went From Sausage Making To Commercializing University Research
Chris Salm grew up on a dairy farm, got a Ph.D. in animal and food science, and worked as an executive at several large food companies. At age 50, he took an entrepreneurial leap of faith and founded Salm Partners, a Denmark, Wisconsin company that now makes about 20% of the nation’s pre-cooked sausages and hot dogs.
Salm Partners doesn’t have any of its own retail brands; it makes its pre-cooked sausages and hot dogs for Hillshire and other well-known brands. A key ingredient in the company’s success is that it doesn’t compete with customers, Salm says.
Eleven years after co-founding Salm Partners, he turned management of the sausage maker over to a successor and co-founded Madison-based Ab E Discovery with Mark Cook and Jordan Sand. Ab E Discovery was founded on a unique technology developed in the UW-Madison lab of Cook, a well-known agriculture researcher. Cook’s technology creates antibody-rich eggs that neutralize Interleukin-10, a protein that invading bacteria and other pathogens use to turn off the immune system. The technology, when put into animal feed, reduces the need for antibiotics. Ab E built a new plant in Waterloo that processes the antibody-containing eggs.
Ab E has built a business around helping university researchers commercialize food and nutrition products. Cook passed away in 2017, but Ab E recently had its first sales on a product inspired by Cook’s research that has potential to eliminate the need to give antibiotics to animals, and maybe someday humans.
Chris Salm's Tips For Other Entrepreneurs:
- We live in a relationship driven world — surround yourself with credible collaborative cohorts that have mutual respect and trust.
- Have enthusiasm for life and what you do and openly show it. Find opportunities to get goose bumps.
- You must have something new and beneficial that is discovered, invented, and/or created before the work of innovation can begin. But it’s only innovation if it becomes available in the marketplace.
- Make it a focus to be a trusted asset for your customers, and make sure you have suppliers as partners that you respect and trust.
- You have to go into commercializing new things with the right motivation. Define your motives, understand them and be transparent about them.
- You can’t negotiate and be transparent at the same time. Define transparency as being the same on the outside as you are on the inside.
- Don’t forget to celebrate as you make progress.