Southeast Student Learns Tenacity at Shanghai Farms Startup

Southeast Missouri State University senior Zach Beal is learning about the drive it takes to start a business.

Beal, a corporate communications major with minors in marketing and management from McClure, Illinois, is spending his summer at Shanghai Farms, a company based in Alexander County, Illinois, that has the rights to grow and sell the first ever high protein rice.

Gaining real world experiences and responsibilities was a major factor in his decision to work at Shanghai Farms, Beal said.

“I wanted a position that would give me a lot of potential,” he said. “Since we are a new company we have to start from the ground up. I get to experience the entire aspect of starting a business and learning what all that entails.”

His internship centers around market research, but his responsibilities change from day to day. With few employees, his duties have been expansive, including working on the company’s website, researching places to sell products and communicating with the packaging department.

“One day I could be working on building our website, and another I could be on the phone with companies trying to get our product ready to be sold,” he said.

Farm and rice production were new ventures for him, Beal said.

“I spent a lot of time researching about what we’re growing and why we’re growing it,” he said.

That knowledge, along with an understanding of rice production, combined with the skills he’s learned at Southeast, allows him to better communicate the differences in Shanghai Farm’s product and why it’s better than other rice brands.

“I know the process that goes into getting it to the table,” Beal said.

His favorite tasks include being out in the fields to check out rice crops and take photos.

“I am learning so much from everything I do,” he said. “There are many things that I have been tasked with that I had never done before, but we learn and grow together to achieve our tasks.”

Working with start-up businesses is a valuable experience every student should have, Beal said.

“It really teaches you the grunt work and shows you what it takes to get a business going, and the fact that it isn’t that easy,” he said.

Being a part of a new business has also opened up opportunities not only for his degree but also a career. He was recently offered the position at Shanghai Farms as director of business development. He plans to work part-time until he graduates next May.

“My favorite part of working here is the people I work with,” he said.  “They are great and have so much faith in me that it makes every day that I come into work easier.”