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Inwards to Japan

August 2013

Communication alum doing his part to help
feed the world

A quick stroll through the long, modern, ribbon-shaped hallways, offices and work stations at Leawood, Kan. research and development company, SFP, presents an open, family-oriented atmosphere where honest communication is coveted.

For that, the company has Avila University to thank … at least, in part.

Jake Sanders ‘04, executive vice president at SFP in charge of international sales and marketing, graduated from Avila with a bachelor’s degree in corporate communication. He helped redesign the offices at SFP to better facilitate communication, fostering the same atmosphere and environment at the workplace that he came to know and love while attending Avila.

“At Avila, there’s an openness and honesty about the entire educational process,” he said. “In our office, we have a very open and honest environment, and I can say it all goes back to that.”

Sanders’ corporate environment also is one that is growing at a phenomenal rate of speed. SFP creates and manufactures fertilizer enhancement products – specifically, a polymer coating that, when added to fertilizers, allows crops to get the most benefit of that fertilizer.

“It basically keeps the nutrients where they need to be so we can produce more food,” said Sanders, 33.

Sanders started at SFP in 2003, in a tiny office space with four employees. His father, J. Larry Sanders, Ph.D., is a soil chemist who founded the company and still serves as president and CEO. There are more than 60 employees that now fit into 24,000 square feet in a beautiful office building in Town Center Plaza in Leawood that houses a research and learning center for product testing and development with three growth chambers to conduct product research. The company holds more than 80 patents and sells its products to distributors around the world, including the United Kingdom, Africa, Europe, the Pacific Rim and South America. Sanders has traveled to all these places doing business for the company.

“We had nothing, no logo (when I started),” Sanders said. “My dad told me he couldn’t promise that I’d have a job next week. It was a really interesting time to start using what I learned in school. We had no budget and no way to go but up.

“We had a small amount of material to work with, but a lot of knowledge to make what we had work.”

Sanders started college at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill. But he met Megan Redenbaugh one day at church, and Megan just happened to be a soccer player at Avila. It made Sanders’ decision to transfer easy. They married and today are parents of two daughters, Evey, 5, and Daphne, 2 ½.

“One of the most important things I took away from Avila was that my teachers gave me the freedom to take things and run with them,” said Sanders, who served as editor for The Talon, Avila’s student newspaper. “I formed great teacher relationships.

“They forced me to think. And that was a very important quality to have when I took this job.” AU

Media Contact: Bob Luder, 816.501.2434