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Susan Groeneveld is the Co-founder of WS, a data-driven marketing agency serving the agriculture and animal health sectors. She is also the Founder and CEO of, an AI platform predicting pet health issues through visual assessment and monitoring. With over two decades of entrepreneurial experience, Susan also co-founded ventures like Cat Healthy, aimed at improving the quality of life for cats and their owners. Her roots in farming have shaped her problem-solving approach and commitment to delivering measurable ROI and outcomes in her ventures.

tune in

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [4:00] Susan Groeneveld shares the pivotal moment that led to the creation of WS and its focus on agribusiness
  • [5:23] How Susan’s upbringing on a farm shaped her problem-solving and business strategies
  • [12:17] How WS initially attracted major clients and the unique service offerings that set them apart
  • [16:09] How WS carefully selects its core employees and freelancers
  • [19:19] WS’s strategic shift from a billable hour model to value-based outputs.
  • [23:44] How Susan’s first-hand industry experience transformed WS’s recruitment strategy
  • [29:01] The intriguing marketing approach behind the Call to Farms campaign
  • [34:33] How WS helped sell $200 million worth of farm equipment by creating targeted events
  • [38:28] Susan discusses the origin of Cat Healthy and its evolution from an idea to a nonprofit
  • [43:42] Pivoting from a B2C to a B2B model

In this episode…

What does it take to market successfully in the specialized fields of agriculture and animal health? How does one shift from traditional agency models to embracing technology and innovation? Can an idea born in an agency setting evolve into a full-fledged nonprofit and a tech startup?

Serial entrepreneur Susan Groeneveld shares how a background in farm life and an entrepreneurial spirit drove her to revolutionize the world of agribusiness marketing. She narrates the transition from launching WS to creating initiatives like Cat Healthy and the AI-driven Susan also shares insights on team building, the importance of partnerships, and the need for a purpose-driven approach in business. The conversation delves into the challenges and triumphs encountered while navigating the ever-evolving marketing landscape, unveiling strategies that foster growth, impact, and adaptability.

In this episode of Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz interviews Susan Groeneveld, Co-founder of WS, about her entrepreneurial journey and ventures. Susan talks about the creation of WS and its focus on agribusiness, how WS initially attracted significant clients, employees, and freelancers, and the origin of Cat Healthy and

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Related episode(s):

Quotable moments:

  • “Growing up on a farm, till I was in grade two, I thought I’d be a horse when I grew up.”
  • “We make money based on fees per hour in traditional agencies, which is incredibly broken because you’re getting paid for inefficiency.”
  • “In agriculture today, one of the most profound shifts in the revolution was the tractor.”
  • “If you find a good gig, put in the time because if you’ve got your end in mind, you’re going to learn a lot through it.”
  • “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. All those assumptions that we make at the beginning are all bad.”

Action Steps:

  1. Embrace diversity and outside thinking in your industry: Diverse perspectives foster innovation and resonate with broader audiences, addressing the challenge of outdated industry norms.
  2. Prioritize hiring senior team members who want to get their hands dirty: Seasoned professionals bring depth to your core team, enhancing your business’s integrity and service quality.
  3. Regularly reevaluate your business model for efficiency, not just activity: Continuous improvement ensures that your strategies focus on outcomes, meeting the evolving needs of clients.
  4. Leverage digital marketing tools to better serve your customers: Staying current with technology allows businesses to better communicate value and engage with their audience effectively.
  5. Consider careful partnerships and collaborations to extend your capabilities: Partnerships with domain experts can open up new market opportunities and augment your business’s core competencies.

Sponsor for this episode

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The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.

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Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:15 

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz 0:22 

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here, founder of, where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today, is no different. I have Susan Groeneveld, and she runs WS, which is and which we’ll talk about. And Susan, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes people should check out of the podcast. And it’s an interesting one. Jason Swenk is always a good episode. I actually had him on twice. He built up his agency to over eight figures and sold it. Talks about that journey, and then he started buying up agencies. And talks about the kind of the agency space, the business space, the valuation space. That was an interesting one.

Todd Taskey is another one who he actually pairs private equity with agencies. He actually helps sell agencies. He’s got the Second Bite Podcast. So he finds sometimes with private equity, people make more on their second bite than they do on the first because they sell it and the private equity sells again, so, he actually has people on talking of their journeys of selling their agencies. So it’s really interesting episode, and he’s pretty candid individual. And Kevin Hourigan, Susan, this is also a really good one of Spinutech. He’s an agency since 1995 so he just talks about the evolution of just the internet business and the agency space there, and we were talking before we hit record, about how it’s changed even the past year, love in the past couple decades. So those are all awesome. Check them out.

And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream relationships. And how do we do that? We actually do that by helping you run your podcast. We’re an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast. We do the strategy, the accountability and the full execution. Susan we call ourselves the magic elves that run in the background and make it look easy for the host and the company, so they can create amazing relationships, create great content, but run their business. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. I found no better way, over the past decade, to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should, if you have questions, go to or emails at [email protected].

I’m excited to introduce Susan Groeneveld, and she’s the founder of WS, which is Simply WS and and WS is an agency that helps agriculture, animal health companies. She has over 20 years of entrepreneurial experience. She co-founded and led ventures in agriculture and pet care sectors such as Cat Healthy, which is a program that improves the quality of life for cats and their owners. She also started which is a platform that uses data and machine learning to predict and prevent health issues in pets. And obviously, WS is the marketing agency that helps mid, large sized companies grow with customer centric and data driven strategies. And Sylvester was birthed out of the work at WS. So Susan, thanks for joining me.

Susan Groeneveld 3:36

Oh, my pleasure. I’ve enjoyed our conversation so far, and we weren’t even recording. So I’m looking forward to it.

Jeremy Weisz 3:42 

Me too. Just start off with WS and what you do. And if you’re listening to the audio version, there is a video version, and I’m going to share Susan’s site. It’s beautiful looking, and we’ll kind of hear from her what they do.

Susan Groeneveld 4:00 

Thanks so much. So WS we created and started this agency actually back in 2003 so we’ve been doing this for some time, but where we really focus is in agriculture and in animal health. And I was saying earlier that a lot of the same science that works in fields actually also works for killing fleas, or has a business model for animal health and human health. So we connect with a lot of the multinationals that work in these spaces, and also a lot of the startups in agriculture.

And agriculture now is starting to be a much bigger deal than it used to be. So this has been really rewarding work. We’re right across North America, and we really focus on strategy, and we have people from Deloitte that work with us, and we really think about business models before we get to the market and the marketing. And so that’s a really key differentiator for us. If we really understand what ROI looks like, and we focus on the outcome, versus just talking about activity and selling sheets and such.

Jeremy Weisz 5:13 

Susan, agriculture is not new to you. You actually grew up on a farm. What was it like growing up on the farm?

Susan Groeneveld 5:23 

Well, till I was in grade two, I thought I’d be a horse when I grew up. And so I was pretty gutted when my cousin told me that wasn’t going to happen. So I thought, okay, I have to get my act together. And so I went to university and got a science background, actually, degree in agriculture, and then I understood from who I was, that marketing was a big part of it being in the science based area, because we talk about the science and we tend to get really granular, but it has to solve problems for people.

And farming is based on necessity, is the motherhood of invention. And so it really built an entrepreneurial approach, because we watched everyday people ahead of us, generationally fixing things all the time, problem solving and getting it done, and scaling and being involved in something really big business, but being really authentic about it. So it was a pretty big deal for me to be on the farm.

Jeremy Weisz 6:20 

What was it like growing up? I always meet people, if you grew up on a farm, they’re some of the hardest working people I know. What did that look like growing up? Were you waking up early? What did you have to actually participate in?

Susan Groeneveld 6:35 

Oh, yes, so it was a beef operation. So we weren’t like dairy people, where they had to get up and, like, 5am-5pm you know, that kind of thing.

Jeremy Weisz 6:46 

When I went to Wisconsin, there were lots of dairy.

Susan Groeneveld 6:50 

Yeah, that is next level, that is next level discipline. But I think the big thing is the circle of life. So early on, right? I saw things not always survive, right? Whether it was a crop or an animal, we had people situations, right, where there were incidents, it was a big operation that I was a part of. And I think what struck me was how much we tapped into people and that authenticity, because we knew that this was fleeting, right? Like, we’re very mindful of seasons when you grow up on a farm.

Jeremy Weisz 7:26 

What did you see? Did you see like, did you ever see births of things or what?

Susan Groeneveld 7:30 

Yeah, I remember going to see my first cesarean with my dad. The veterinarian came and I watched a cesarean. And wow, how old were you? Eight.

Jeremy Weisz 7:43 

Did you have nightmares? I feel like, if I showed that to my kids, they’d be like, waking up in the middle of the night.

Susan Groeneveld 7:49 

Here’s the thing, when it’s part of your family dynamic, you talk to your elders and you see how they handle it, and that’s how you handle it. And so, it’s very respectful. We treated the animals with the utmost respect, there’s always pain management on board, but that animal was going to die if we didn’t have that calf removed, right? And that was actually, and there’s a C section, it’s poor planning, right? Because the mating wasn’t right, so those animals couldn’t handle it. So there’s always learning, right? There’s lots of pivoting in agriculture. So no, I didn’t have nightmares as a kid. I was off, like, red meat for a while was a little rough, because when you’ve seen the inside, it’s like, okay.

Jeremy Weisz 7:49 

Yeah. Well, also, I don’t know if you get attached to them, but you name them, and do you want to eat them? I don’t know.

Susan Groeneveld 8:41 

Yeah, yeah. No, it’s interesting, right? You realize, right, that there’s some really hard lessons too, in agriculture, but at the end of it, none of us are getting out of this alive. So what is our purpose? And I think that’s really what gets ingrained as a kid on the farm, is that that chicken lives or doesn’t live, or that kitten doesn’t live or lives, or the dog has something or somebody accidentally runs over the pet dog, like these things happen. It’s not intentional, but it’s resilience. It’s understanding that there’s a purpose. And so what was that purpose before that incident? And that’s really framed up my entrepreneurial approach is, like, why are we doing this? Like, what is the outcome, and so that was really everything goes back to your childhood, in terms of those conversations.

Jeremy Weisz 9:32 

One thing that’s really interesting about you to me, I heard you talk about mindset before and mindset in a business mindset on the farm, and maybe putting limitations on your mindset from a money perspective, right? Can you talk about that?

Susan Groeneveld 9:54 

Yeah, so this is interesting, because I think it’s about you coming into the world with your family’s point of view, and then you work your whole life, either liking that or running away from it. And I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to work or be in a family that came. The first people that started the farm came, my great grandfather came in the 1800s and he started with horses and big Clydesdales right to help other people farm, and he sold his horses, and did really well. And then, you know what happened around the turn of the century, 19 eight things with wheels came, and all of a sudden, overnight, there was no market for horses. There was no market; his business model was completely eradicated. And I might add, when he was raising horses, he’d sell them to other farmers.

They’d sell horses to other farmers. Half of the crops that were grown were to feed the horses. So it was like an incredibly inefficient system with horses, but that’s how people made a living, right? And so when the tractor came, they had to pivot to a new business model. And you know, in their case, it was to cattle. But I use that analogy in business today, right? And that’s actually what attracted me to marketing, even though I have a science background, I didn’t want to get surprised. I wanted to be ready for the pivot. And the irony is, I am surprised every day, every day I am surprised. So my rationale didn’t really hold true, but it’s kept me really open minded and curious. And I think that’s actually like a key attribute to success is just being okay with looking around the corner and not always being right and being able to see the opportunity, where other people just see a problem.

Jeremy Weisz 11:47

Really interesting. Yeah, the early pivot from first to wheels.

Susan Groeneveld 11:52 

Yeah, one of the first it was, we still say in agriculture today, that was one of the most profound shifts in the revolution and an evolution of agriculture was the tractor. So what is it today?

Jeremy Weisz 12:06 

Talk about starting your agency, because you started off with a bang, I believe. But what made you start in the first place?

Susan Groeneveld 12:17 

Well, it’s interesting. I didn’t even know marketing existed. When I did my science degree. I didn’t even know that, like, this was in the 90s. And what really attracted me to it was the storytelling involved, in terms of telling a science based story in marketing, not just marketing for, what you can get away with kind of thing, but science based. But apparently, I actually, when I was interviewing to work in agencies, I didn’t actually get picked for one agency that I thought I was a slam dunk for. And so I ran into someone a little bit longer later on in my life. And I said, why didn’t I get that job. And she said, well, in the interview, you said you wanted to start an agency. I have no recollection of actually saying that. I don’t remember saying that, but I was like, oh yeah, in hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have led with that. It’s probably okay today, but maybe then I shouldn’t have.

So I think I always wanted to, I always thought of it like it was mine. And even when I worked in other agencies, I thought of it like I have nothing to lose. So I always thought it was mine to take in terms of treating the work that I did as part of the ownership. So I was the petulant employee that was at the door of all of the owners saying, hey, I think we should do this. Hey, what about this? What about if we do this or this, and they loved me for it? You took ownership. I took ownership. Ironically, when we started our own business, I actually went blind to how to do a lot of that, because I was too invested from an ownership point of view.

So some of the people I still value the most in my career are the people that can see the holes, because I’ve gone like ownership blind, because you’ve just got too many other things you’re worried about and you’re not. You kind of lose the forest for the trees. So starting it was nerve wracking. I think we started with a loan. My husband and I started with a loan of $30,000 and we just thought that was horrible. I had a $2,000 budget to, like, buy a table and chairs and get a space. But we did have a client, a significant million dollar client that was interested in working with us. And so we knew, if we got it right, then we’d be okay. I do have to say, though we started the company. We landed that business seven months later. So we started the company with a client in mind. But these multinationals, they’re 90 days payment terms, and so our credit lines were extended. We’d hired people.

That first Christmas, I remember we had small children, and, you know, we were somewhere at a water park slide place, and Jeff, my husband, and I were talking about, if they paid yet? Have they paid yet? Because our credit line was due and they promised it was in the mail and it hadn’t showed up, and it was a check for $300,000 these are the things that you look back at and you laugh about, but during that you don’t know up from down, right? It’s not funny at the time, but that’s just that grit, that’s just that grit. You gotta keep going.

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