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Cow comfort: a case study in sustainable entrepreneurship

Joy M. Pahl (Department of Business Administration, St Norbert College, De Pere, Wisconsin, USA)

Publication date: 2 January 2018



The case is set in Northeast Wisconsin, where the two largest industries are dairy farming and papermaking. Dairy farms have a continual need for bedding material for cows, and Lynn Heemeyer recognized an opportunity for a new bedding material: a waste byproduct of recycled paper. The case includes the progression of Heemeyer’s venture – Alternative Animal Bedding (AAB) – from the idea phase, to initiation and growth, to near collapse, recovery, and renewed growth. By September 2015, AAB was at a turning point as the sales were increasing, and Jess, Lynn’s daughter, had joined the business. Jess’s challenge: how best to grow the business.

Research methodology

Information for the case was gathered via interviews with Jess Heemeyer; she also provided some supporting materials. Jess Heemeyer is a former student of the author and a graduate of the institution that employs the author. Additional information for the case was collected from publicly available sources, as referenced. The identification of the college was not included in the case.

Relevant courses and levels

The case is best suited for use in an undergraduate or graduate entrepreneurship course or courses that include entrepreneurship as a topic. The case fits well with the topics of alertness and opportunity identification, and the innovation process. It can also be used to illustrate critical factors for new-venture development and growth. In addition, the benefits and challenges related to family-based entrepreneurial ventures can be included as a learning objective.

Theoretical bases

This case draws upon and illustrates the concept of alertness (Kirzner, 1973) which was further developed by Tang et al. (2012) when they identified three dimensions of alertness: “scanning and searching for information, connecting previously disparate information, and making evaluations on the existence of profitable business opportunities” (p. 77). Also, the case follows the creativity-based model of opportunity recognition developed by Corbett (2005) that uses experiential learning theory. Finally, students are asked to apply Ansoff’s Growth Matrix (Ansoff, 1957) to identify and evaluate the growth options available to the business owners and managers. As an optional pasture for discussion, a stewardship theory perspective can be applied to examine the family business aspect of this case (see Eddleston and Kellermanns, 2007).



Disclaimer. This case is written solely for educational purposes and is not intended to represent successful or unsuccessful managerial decision making. The authors may have disguised names; financial, and other recognizable information to protect confidentiality.


Pahl, J.M. (2018), "Cow comfort: a case study in sustainable entrepreneurship", , Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 88-111.



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