Every day is an opportunity to make an impact
By Martha Hollida Garrett
She loves what she does and it shows in her creative marketing projects for customers across the country. Stephanie Cronin Steck sees every day as an opportunity to make a positive impact and she has the commitment, passion and talent to do just that.
Stephanie, not only owns her own agricultural marketing and advertising agency, Stephanie Cronin Inc. (SCI), but also co-owns Steck Cattle in Woodstock, Minnesota with her husband, Craig and their 5-year-old son, Keagan.
“Each day, I get up and work as hard as I can for all my clients. When I’m faced with a decision for a SCI or one of our cattle clients, I make it on the basis of how I would want to be treated. I analyze how I can do things not just differently, but with impact,” she described.
Her creativity and desire to incorporate the latest marketing technologies has earned her company an impressive, as well as extensive client list. She is the idea person and marketing arm for Willow Springs Cattle Co. (WSCC), of Prairie Grove, Arkansas. She also developed the initial real-time platform for Sullivan Supply’s Pulse social feed, as well as cutting edge blogging capabilities for Lautner Farms. She designed and set up shopping cart responsive websites for Lautner Farms, Midwest Genetics, Griswold Cattle Co., and Champion Show Stock. Cattlemen and ag businesses across breeds and states market their products through her designs, catalogs, websites, video campaigns and social media formats. Her work is recognized for its eye-catching designs, bold messages and her clients can count on her to bring cutting edge technology possibilities to their campaigns.
Stephanie, a self-described “city kid” knew she wanted to be involved in agriculture at a young age.
“I grew up in a single parent home in Omaha, Nebraska. Our neighbors had sheep and cattle outside of town and that influenced me, greatly. I begged or maybe threatened my mom that I was going to raise sheep in our garage,” she recalled.
When she was 12-years-old, her days as a city kid ended and doors opened that would set the trajectory for her career and personal life.
“My mom, Cindy married Mike Pallas, who was the manager for Omaha Home for Boys, which was also home to the Cooper Memorial Farm 4-H Club. They had cattle facilities and used a cattle showing program to help the boys who came from broken homes or had troubled lives. I immediately began to show cattle with the boys and loved it. In addition to setting my foundation for life, I also saw first-hand how lives could be changed with a show calf. It was an incredible thing to see an inner-city kid with problems change when put in this environment. That’s something that will always drive me,” she stated.
“When Cindy and I married, I gave Stephanie an orphan calf to take care of and thought we will see how long her interest lasts. Well, she never grew tired of taking care of it and she absolutely loved working her show cattle. The 4-H facility was behind the house and it had a phone in it. We would have to call her at 11-11:30 p.m. and make her come to the house. She was always washing, blowing, and working with her cattle. From day one she had tremendous work ethic, which continues today with both SCI and their cattle operation. She loves what she does and works hard at everything she does,” said her step-dad.
Stephanie would not only show cattle locally, but she would become very invested in her show cattle and would show competitively on a national level, as well as serve as an intern for Shorthorn Country. She and Craig met at the National Junior Shorthorn Show held in Sioux City, South Dakota and today they live 45 minutes from that special meeting place. Craig was raised on his family’s farm in west central Illinois and they were active Shorthorn breeders.
That meeting would lead to a long-distance relationship as Stephanie was working on her graphic arts and visual communications degree at Creighton University in Omaha. Craig was acquiring an animal science degree with nutrition emphasis at the University of Illinois and was on the livestock judging team.
Upon graduating in 2005, Stephanie took an initial position with a show publication and continued SCI on the side. Then she joined an Omaha bank and managed the emerging
eCommerce division, all the while, SCI was continuing to grow.
During this time, Craig joined Cargill Pork and moved to Iowa City, Iowa, which put the two a little bit closer together on the map. After three years of tearing up the roads and meeting at cattle sales and shows, Craig relocated to Omaha. They would marry in 2008 and that would also mark the start of Steck Cattle outside of Omaha. While built on love, the marriage merged their talents—his strong suits of mating and feeding of cattle with her marketing abilities and unmatched commitment to youth.
Stephanie’s marketing prowess and creative designs gained her clients and her business was reaching the point that it was no longer a side business. In 2010, she left her eight to five job at the bank to commit her energies and talents to SCI and Steck Cattle. In 2013, Craig joined the leadership team at New Horizon Farms (NHF), a multi-faceted agricultural business, and the family, SCI and Steck Cattle moved to their current location just south of Woodstock, Minnesota.
The rest is history as they say. She, along with one employee, Jeana Sankey Hurlbut handle all the SCI projects and maintain close contact with their clients, all while looking for the next new thing or avenue to place their clients at the forefront.
“I want to convey each client’s message, not just advertise for them. I want Jeana and I to serve our customers well and do our best for them. My days start early and are long, as I balance family, SCI with Steck Cattle, but some of my best ideas have hit me while blow drying a heifer,” she said.
Building a small business is not easy and Jeana shared that Stephanie’s hard work and dedication to her clients is what has led her to build SCI to what it is today. Jeana has seen how great Stephanie is at helping clients put together a marketing plan that will generate success and profit and she said that Stephanie is not afraid to put in late nights, weekends, or whatever it takes to get the plan finished.
“I think her leadership and creative mind has led her to be successful. She has taught me a lot and is a great employer. She is so passionate about her design work, along with raising elite cattle. She pushes herself, her family and employees to always give 110 percent. She’s here to serve her clients and customers to the best of her ability, giving all she has - all the time,” said Jeana emphasizing, “she’s passionate about the cattle industry.”
Craig was quick to add that she is committed to staying ahead of the curve and her drive to be an innovator is always present. “She has the ability to see when or what can happen and identify those avenues for promotion,” he said.
Eric Walker, who owns WSCC is one of SCI’s clients and has embraced Stephanie’s innovative approach to marketing.
“First and foremost, I use SCI because Stephanie handles it like it’s her own. Everything she does has her personal touch. She invests herself in her customers and always goes the extra mile on every project. Junior customers are a large part of our clientele and Stephanie’s ideas really reach them, as well as our entire customer base. Stephanie is so involved in the industry, as well as their personal cattle operation and that allows her to have her finger on what is happening in the industry and she can visualize what is coming,” he said.
Steck Cattle was started with some of Stephanie’s retired Shorthorn show heifers, including the famous, Chelsie 269M. Daughters of Chelsie have won the stock shows of Fort Worth, Kansas City, Denver, Louisville, as well as the MaineTainer Junior National and Shorthorn Plus Junior National Shows and they continue to be some of the most sought-after genetics in their “Our Commitment Sale” held annually in October. In addition, they have MaineTainer, Shorthorn Plus, Chianina and Simmental cattle and many trace back to Stephanie’s sister’s show heifers.
Craig and Stephanie outlined the direction of their program early and quantity was never a consideration. Their emphasis from day one and still today, more than a decade later is on quality. When Craig worked for Cargill Pork, he traveled extensively. His position with NHF allows him to be home at night and he and Stephanie handle almost all the cattle responsibilities in addition to their fulltime careers. They are very hands on and only hire outside help as needed throughout the year.
Craig added, “Stephanie and I have built our cattle program to cater to youth and her experiences at the Omaha Home For Boys drives her to help our young customers develop in and out of the show ring and she sees so many teaching opportunities with cattle.”
Steck Cattle is home to 10 donors and 25 recipients with their marketing focus on junior customers.
Through embryo transfer, they stay competitive and cattle produced in the Steck program have won on the major level across breeds. But more importantly, their customers have had success and they have Craig and Stephanie’s total commitment to help them achieve that success.
“We sit down and get to know our juniors and their families. We ask them at what level do you want to compete and what goals do you have for a show heifer from us. Whether a junior wants to win their county fair or junior nationals, then we are right there to guide and help them. We try to be at as many shows as we can. We will clip for them, provide a feeding plan and help them achieve their goals. It’s very gratifying and satisfying to us to be with them every step of the way. We have the opportunity to impact our young customers for good,” noted Stephanie.
“Stephanie’s background drive and commitment, plus her marketing abilities have really set our program apart. She brings a very high level of talent, innovation, perfectionism and perspective to her work,” said Craig.
Craig and Stephanie are very transparent about what they do and why they do it. Their operating principles and slogan is “Right Kind. Right Way. Right People. Our Commitment.” That precedes their decisions, their management style and it is shared with all their juniors and their families.
“Our kids started showing in 2006 and we have purchased many heifers from Craig and Stephanie. Our kids have benefited greatly and want to learn from them. They raise great cattle and the effort and time they give juniors is unmatched. They are Willow Spring’s role model,” stressed Walker.
Not surprising, SCI is also a big supporter of youth and Stephanie routinely donates her and Jeana’s talent to benefit junior cattle associations and like causes. Steck Cattle also offers a scholarship program to their customers and industry leaders, as a way to give back.
Stephanie is quick to point out her favorites aspects of agriculture, which include working with like-minded people, high morals and values and a genuine respect for land and animals. Plus, she notes the fun of travelling to shows, particularly junior nationals and sharing life and the lessons learned.
“I can’t think of a better way to raise Keegan, as he is beside us daily as we work. I love my life and the opportunities it is affords,” she concluded and it shows in the magazines, websites, videos, and posts across social media daily for her SCI customers and it shows in the success of Steck Cattle and their customers.