By: Anne Maxwell
For generations, Stuart Schmidt’s family has worked and cared for the land in Smith County.
It’s a legacy the lifetime resident of Northwest Kansas didn’t want to turn his back on. And yet, he had dreams of his own to pursue. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in education and a minor in computer science from Fort Hays State University in 2011, he decided to find his way in the business world.
“I wasn’t sure where I was going or what I was going to do – I just wanted to be working,” says Schmidt, who will tell you he’s happy being busy. He took a job working for a national insurance company, handing their marketing and promotional materials for franchises across the country. After about three years, the company, which had suffered from the economic downturn, was no more.
At that point, he turned toward farming, but he didn’t necessarily want to have that as his sole occupation.
“I enjoyed what I did with marketing and I wanted to keep connected to my digital roots,” he said. “I enjoyed helping businesses with their marketing goals.”
In 2012, Schmidt launched Midwest Branding Solutions, which began as a “side gig” in addition to the 50 to 60 hours a week he was pulling on the farm. In those early days, there wasn’t a job Schmidt would turn down. Whether it was making t-shirts for a company, or putting together a website.
“I was a ‘yes man,’” he recalls. “I may not have ever done what the client was needing, but I wanted to provide them with whatever they were asking for. Particularly in a rural area, when a business calls you about branding and marketing, they want this, they want that – it’s not just one service. I really wanted to be able to provide them with everything they needed.”
And, true to his ingrained work ethic, Schmidt was able to get the job done. But in early 2019, he wanted to do more.
“I went to Fort Hays’ career services office to ask them if they had any resources for remote training,” he explains. “I was pulling in jobs, I just really wanted to provide my clients with the best quality work that I could and felt that I needed to get better with web development.”
In what Schmidt says can only be referred to as “the stars aligning,” the career service representative had just recently attended a kick-off meeting about Rural & Remote, which was about to launch its Coding Academy training.
“I signed up and I was all in right from the beginning,” Schmidt said.
He completed the online training and said the experience has had a tremendous impact on his life, both professionally and personally.
“Business-wise, it has sharpened my craft with web development,” he said. “I’ve learned new techniques, best practices. Overall, I am a much better developer.”
The Coding Academy also strengthened his virtual communication skills.
“My client relations are a lot better,” he said. “I had worked with Zoom in the past, but day-to-day connecting with colleagues, getting comfortable with the scheduling of online meetings, being proficient in that has sharpened me a lot.”
And on the personal side of things?
“It’s been absolutely life changing,” he said. “I got married two years ago. My wife is from Ransom, and with the farm in Smith Center, we wanted to meet in the middle.”
The couple bought a house in Hays, which allows Schmidt to be able to base out of Smith County when the farm work demands most of his attention, and be back at home at other times. Either way, he’s able to remain engaged in farming and grow his business. Balance has been his goal, and he’s achieved that through Rural & Remote.
“Helping with the family farm and having something of my own is pretty much equal as far as what I want,” he said. “I am my Dad’s only son, my family has farmed for generations, so I want to fulfill my end on that and I enjoy being around my family.
“But, it’s equally important to do my passion, work with businesses and share my digital skills to help business owners.”
It’s it easy balancing the two worlds?
“It can be tough at times, but like anything, you find your rhythm and go with it,” he said, noting his Dad understands during the slow time on the farm in the winter that Schmidt’s focus will be on his digital work, while at the height of summer, the coding guru will be in the field days on end.
And that’s another aspect about Rural & Remote that Schmidt appreciates.
“They provided me a ton of confidence, reassurance that I could farm and I could do the coding at the same time,” he said. “That’s what Rural & Remote is all about. They want to help people see that they can stay on the farm, yet do their marketing, their coding. Any type of job I was looking into before was that you’ll have to do this full time, without any time for a side gig, and they didn’t understand the importance of being tied to a farm.
“Rural & Remote gave me that confidence. It was the extra push I needed.”
A self-motivator, Schmidt is in no need of an extra push these days. He continues to grow his marketing business, while working as a web developer with Rural & Remote – and maintaining ties to the farm.
So what’s ahead?
“I’m looking forward to maintaining a good, solid relationship with the farm, growing with Rural & Remote, and growing my personal branding business by creating quality products, better relationships with my customers,” he said. “I love learning about new business and working with clients all over the country and doing my daily grind.”
As he lives out his dreams in Northwest Kansas, Schmidt appreciates just how fortunate he is to have had his professional and personal life intersect perfectly.
“I am so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love and to be able to focus on my family, focus on the farm, and focus on a new, fun career,” he said. “It’s all here. I don’t have to drive to Kansas City, Wichita, or Denver to have that.”