Volume 4

TRAILBLAZER: UNVEILING ENTREPRENEURIAL PATHS

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Eric Sundby and His Thoughts on the Space Industry and its Future

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Eric Sundby here at Das Greenhaus. Eric serves as the Executive Director of the US Space Force Association (USSFA), a nonprofit organization committed to advocating for the Space Force and keeping the public informed. Eric also co-founded and currently serves as the CEO of TerraSpace, a mining technology startup looking to speed up the process of mineral analysis and lower the overall cost of operation for mining companies. Eric is also pursuing a PhD in Aerospace Sciences from the University of North Dakota. While interviewing Eric, I was able to ask him about his experiences in the USSFA and running his own startup company, his vision for the future of space, and any insights that he has for entrepreneurs looking to impact the space industry. His answers and our wonderful discussion will be detailed in the following sections.

A question I was really looking forward to asking Eric was what got him involved and interested in the space industry. Eric recalls that he has “wanted to do this since he was a child.” Eric also says that many influential people in his life reinforced his desire to work with space. He remembers his 7th-grade science teacher, Jeana Reagan, at Boerne Middle School North being one of these people. She was what he calls “a space nerd—she loved everything space.” Eric remembers talking to her frequently, and how she always motivated and fueled his developing passion. On top of that, Eric is also a lover of science fiction. Eric believes that, while many of the technologies in our favorite books and shows are out of reach, “it is interesting to think about what could one day be possible.” This, combined with his passion for space from a young age, encouraged him to want to play an instrumental role in developing the space industry.

I also asked Eric to explain his role in the USSFA and to detail how he came into the position he has. Eric described how his role involved him dealing mostly with internal relations; however, since the organization is still relatively small and agile, he also does a good amount of public relations and engagement alongside their CEO, Bill Woolf. Eric explained how he manages teams across the association in many different areas such as education, research, and, “biggest of all,” advocacy—which includes engaging members of Congress and the public. Eric, who has a master’s in global security from the University of Glasgow in Scotland, was working for a member of Congress when he originally found the Space Force Association. The organization was still relatively fresh on the scene, so Eric reached out to Bill, had a meeting with him, and came on the team as the director of government affairs. Eric later became the executive director of the organization in January of 2022. 

Shifting gears from the USSFA, I asked Eric about TerraSpace, what inspired him to co-found the company, and what challenges he has faced along the way. Eric explained how TerraSpace, a “mineral exploration company,” all started with an academic graduate program for entrepreneurship. While TerraSpace is completely different from the business he originally presented in his capstone, he and some of his partners eventually found a solution to a need in the mining industry. Eric described that the mining industry has a “challenge in getting proper data back in core samples in a timely fashion,” and that this “decreases the efficiency” and profitability of many mines. This is due to mines having to wait on backlogged labs to analyze and return their data. TerraSpace works around this by providing the sensors that labs use onsite while combining them with machine learning and a neural network. Eric then went more into depth on the challenges he has faced. He claims that one of his biggest challenges is “talking with investors” and any communication that follows. Since the mining industry is so disconnected from daily life and not a lot of people are truly in mining, people don’t realize there is such a large demand for the service that TerraSpace provides. Because it is not a common thing that people do or think about, Eric has had to find creative ways to share his ideas with both investors and the general public.

After asking about his experience with the Space Force Association and TerraSpace, I asked Eric about the similarities and differences in the skills he uses in his two positions. Eric stated that “management is the number one overlap.” The Space Force Association taught him a lot about managing teams and understanding the people involved more than the project. Determining if people are a good fit and knowing who fits where are similarities he sees in both of his positions. One of the main differences between the SFA and TerraSpace is their respective industries. Eric pointed out that the mining industry is much more “risk aversive” while the space industry is “all about risk.” However, even with the many differences between the two industries, Eric sees a bridge beginning to form between them. He believes that TerraSpace has “some space opportunity in the future,” allowing humans to send probes and analyze the minerals present on different celestial bodies before spending billions to send humans there. This would be much cheaper and more efficient than costly sample return missions.

I also asked Eric about his vision for the future of space, both in terms of exploration and defense. Eric then made a claim that, although surprising at the time, makes perfect sense—“exploration and defense go hand in hand.” In order to protect our own exploration interests in space, it will be important to have security and protection at the same time. While the US does have cooperation with many countries regarding space and its exploration, there are other countries that we have little to no agreements with. For this reason, it is important to have some form of a security apparatus to follow the science. Since we practice the protection of our science here on Earth, it is only logical to take this into space. Focusing more on defense specifically, Eric said there are many different domains that the Space Force will eventually divvy up work on such as Low Earth Orbit (LEO), the heavy deployment of satellites, and the Moon. Eric also believes that in the future there will be some sort of space domain operation center that is solely focused on space concerns, not operating for the use of terrestrial support. Finally, Eric also expanded on the future of exploration for exploration’s sake. He thinks that, with the growing opportunities provided by the private sector, exploration and scientific missions of space will become “kind of commercialized.” NASA will still play a role, but it will be more of a “facilitating institution” for future exploration. NASA will have less say and control over the industry and will become more of a partner for many of the private space companies.

Lastly, I asked Eric for any advice he would give aspiring entrepreneurs looking to make an impact on the space industry. He gave two main pieces of advice, the first of which was to always “find a customer.” No matter how passionate you are about your product or service, if you want a successful business, it must fit a customer’s needs. Targeting areas in the industry with no market has been a trend Eric has noticed, but he believes that it is going to die out quickly. It is important to make sure there is a buyer and market before you dedicate yourself fully to something. Eric also gave the advice of “diversifying your perspectives.” Something he also notices within the space industry is that many people get pigeonholed in the space bubble, losing a sense of reality and making decisions that don’t make sense. Since everyone in the industry is focused on such common goals, a large confirmation bias can develop, which can work to harm your business in the long run. For this reason, Eric thinks it is important to “meet with people outside the industry.” Many industries have gone through similar problems before, so it is important to see if they can help before you completely reinvent the wheel.

Looking back, this interview was a wonderful opportunity for me to increase my knowledge of the aerospace industry regarding both exploration and defense. By sitting down with Eric, I was able to have conversations unlike any that I have had before. Hearing about his experiences within the SFA and TerraSpace was invaluable, and I look forward to talking again as well as following what Eric does in the future.

Boerne Farmer’s Market : Doing More for the Community

This week, I met with Dondi Persyn, Marketing Director of the Boerne Farmer’s Market. The market is open every Tuesday from 4 pm -7 pm, with summer hours beginning July 1st from 5 pm – 7 pm. This change is to help combat that hot Texas summer heat for the next couple of months. The Boerne Farmer’s Market grew from conversations that originally began in a Boerne mom’s Facebook group, asking what was missing in the community. The planning stage lasted eight to nine months and the very first market day took place this April. Unlike other farmers’ markets, the Boerne Farmer’s Market doesn’t fill spots with knickknack vendors; it consists of food vendors only.

I first asked Dondi how vendors benefit from participating in the market. She stated that the biggest benefit comes from the unique marketing strategy; getting vendors out in the media as much as possible, providing full support, being advocates for them, and maintaining the integrity of the Boerne Farmer’s Market. “Our commitment to our vendors is that we maintain food integrity”, Dondi said. Our vegetable vendors bring what’s in season. Sometimes, supplies of certain vegetables might seem limited compared to a large chain grocery store, but oftentimes these vegetables are picked on the same day. She specifically mentioned Love and Loaves and how they are an up-and-coming vendor that provides fresh produce and baked goods. Meredith Hansen’s sourdough cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies are fan favorites and a must-try at Boerne Farmers Market.

I also asked Dondi to describe some of the challenges the Boerne Farmer’s Market has faced. She first mentioned the parking challenge. Dondi said she combats this issue by saying they have additional parking around the location such as public parking by the visitor center and park, and also encouraging other ways of transportation like riding your bike and walking. Another challenge they face is working with the local government to get vendors properly and fairly permitted. She has lost some vendors who were state permitted, but not locally permitted.

Last, I wanted to know more about Dondi’s future goals for the Boerne Farmer’s Market. Dondi said her biggest goal is for the market to be a Tuesday destination for the community. She encourages people to talk with the vendors and get to know them, grab a bite to eat from the food truck and support local farmers. She wants people to feel comfortable knowing where their food comes from and being able to call up the farmers they have built relationships with any time they need to.

Dondi also wanted to share about educating Boerne on seasonal eating. Everyone is so used to going to our local grocery store and being able to get anything, any time of the year. She wants to help educate people on eating healthy – with the seasons, and understanding how it is better for you and your body. If supporting local farmers, building meaningful relationships, educating yourself on farm-to-table foods, and helping the community of Boerne sounds like you, come on down to the Boerne Farmer’s Market, every Tuesday evening.

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In early 2024, Katie and Melissa came together to co-found Prickly Pair Consulting; their goal being simple; to offer honest assistance with property taxation, with a focus on education and helping clients navigate what they feel is often an intentionally confusing and misleading system.
Recently, Das Greenhaus hosted a Summer Speaker Series open to the Boerne and Kendall County community. Over a three-week period, the featured speakers—Catie Campbell, Rod Collins, and Samuel Riehn—provided the community with education and inspiration over their lunch. From inspiration on how to stand out in a crowded industry, to information on doing business with the Department of Defense, this speaker series saw a wide variety of both topics and listeners.

Press

Published on: Boerne Lifestyle
Published on: Boerne Business Monthly