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UI Sophomore Starts Successful Web Business at His Family's Farm

With a blue American Eagle shirt and a broad smile, University of Iowa sophomore Tyler Finchum’s modest outlook makes him look like just another student at UI Tippie School of Business. A close look at his résumé, or a quick Google search would yield some exceptional accomplishments, however.

Described by his father as a self-taught web designer and computer expert, Finchum created a web-based business when he was a junior in high school and designed the site on his own.

Growing up on a farm near Muscatine and watching his father struggle with lost manuals for old tractors and combines, Finchum came up with the idea of selling digitized versions of operating manuals. Today, FarmManualsFast.com—Finchum’s entrepreneurial venture—has an expected turnover of more than $100,000 this year.

“From the time that they were young, Tyler and his twin brother, they kind of saw that you didn’t have to work for someone else and that you can work for yourself,” Clarence Finchum, Tyler Finchum’s father, said.

An entrepreneur himself, Clarence Finchum owns a farm and some other property and was the first person in his family to go to college. He said he didn’t have to emphasize the importance of education much to his two sons, because they were both good students.

Clarence Finchum noted that while he prefers having a physical equipment manual, he believes his son’s web-based portal—on which people can purchase digital versions of manuals that would otherwise be very difficult to obtain—can be very beneficial to farmers working with old equipment or on a tight schedule.

Farm Manuals Fast is proving to be beneficial to farmers across borders—Tyler Finchum now has more than 10,000 customers in more than five countries.

“One of the great things about selling digital manuals is that you can sell them to anyone in the world as long as they have Internet,” he said. “I sell a lot in New Zealand and Australia during a different time, [because] when it is winter here, it is summer there.”

But there is a philanthropic side to the former recipient of the Herbert Hoover Uncommon Student Award that people may not know of.

He started the Farm Manuals Fast Foundation a year after Farm Manuals Fast.com, and it aims to donate operating manuals to poor farmers around the world. The manuals, which are complete with detailed equipment information and troubleshooting methods, among other things, are even translated to the local language before being donated to the needy. Fifteen manuals have been donated so far.

Clarence Finchum believes the Herbert Hoover scholarship is very symbolic of his son’s life and where he is headed.

“Tyler learned a lot about Herbert Hoover and his life,” he said. “Hoover was a great humanitarian and also made a lot of money on his own.”

Tyler Finchum may have achieved and created something that very few people his age do, but others say his grounded outlook makes him an amicable person.

His father added that at the root of Tyler Finchum’s interest in computers is his enjoyment of video games.

And just like his business accomplishments, Tyler Finchum goes above and beyond the norm when it comes to those games.

“One big game that we play is Super Smash Brothers,” said Tyler Finchum’s roommate Ryan McLaughlin. “We actually played that a lot last year since he brought a projector into our dorm room and projected it against the wall.”


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