Enjoy Success with Your Small Farm

mama-and-baby-goatThe number of small farms continues to grow in the United States. While many of these represent noncommercial operations, the interest in local foods, natural and organic also represent a big driver of this movement.

Small farm operators, as noted by Mary Peabody, University of Vermont Extension, are an “enthusiastic, passionate, ambitious lot.” Farming is demanding, requiring commitment of mind and body to be successful.

The UVM Extension New Farmer Project is one effort to help coordinate resources and services for this segment of the economy. In addition to providing tips for a successful startup,  you can find information on farm labor, marketing, pricing, and quality of life.

Many other states along with USDA and nonprofits are also supporting the small farm industry. Some of these resources can be found here.

As a small farmer, you do not need to feel that you are going it alone. Check out the resources and also build your network.

Good luck.

Pop-Up Shops as Opportunities

Pop-up shop

Photo (CC 2.0) by USDA, on Flickr

Are you looking to start a business? Or maybe you work with someone who desires to have a small business?  One of the common questions is how to start?

A pop-up shop may be a good way to give business ownership a try. It also is a way to see how the market responds to your product or service.

What is a pop-up shop?  It’s a temporary place of doing business, i.e., think carts in the mall as an idea. You can find more on the topic here. 

Pop-up shops come in many forms, from the carts just mentioned to a temporary shop in a vacant space to a portable building brought in to a tent along the road. Each of these methods allow you to test your idea and yourself as a business owner/manager.

Becky McCray, of Small Biz Survival, has posted several articles on pop-up shops. She writes on how they can be beneficial in encouraging business owners in small towns. Some of her articles include:

Pam Schallhorn, of the University of Illinois Extension, has also done a blog post on the idea of pop-up shops.  Her articles looks at how they helped rebuild a downtown.

And the Des Moines Register just published a story on a man who has started a business making store fronts for pop-up shops.

Pop-up shops, or similar models, can offer economic development growth and opportunities for local communities.  And communities can be very helpful in making such alternative ideas possible and even helping to market them and encourage their development.

Thinking of starting your own business? Working to develop your community’s economic sector? Try pop-ups!!

Finding Ideas

Ugly Food of the NorthIt is not uncommon for individuals wanting to start a business to struggle finding a  business idea.

Many people do know what they want or are told that something they are already doing would be a good business. But not everyone falls into one of those categories.

Even for those who know what they would like to do, they know that making money would be hard, if not impossible, and so they end up searching as well.

Sometimes finding that idea happens by luck. Often, though, it happens by staying open to opportunities. 

I want to share an example of sometimes are right in front of us. And while this group is doing something for a social good, this same idea in other places has been turned into a viable business idea.

Ugly Food of the North sprang out of the discussions of a group of North Dakota thinkers. Like many ideas, the issue was right in front of a whole community. Yet few saw the opportunity and even fewer took action.

So are you looking for an idea?  Just let your mind wander. It might be right in front of you. Perhaps invite a group to wander with you.

Just one way to find your idea.

Could I be an Entrepreneur?

lemonade stand

Photo (CC 2.0) by Steven Depolo, on Flickr

Lots of people have a desire to start their own business.

At the same time, communities and economic development agencies encourage this as these businesses help build the local economy.

The interest for starting from the owner’s perspective come from a desire for control, to show their creativity and to make money. Communities see them as adding new jobs as well as providing a substantial amount of US sales and GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

Yet often people just don’t take the plunge.

One thing holding them back is the fear they don’t have the right stuff to develop a successful business.  It is the myth that entrepreneurs are born and not made.

Kay Cummings, Michigan State University Extension, examines that myth. She outlines what qualities are helpful to the entrepreneur and defines what business skills one should have, either before starting or soon thereafter. Read her article here.

Kay also outlines some of the resources found he her state that can help the aspiring entrepreneur. And she outlines some national efforts as well.

While your state may not have these specific resources, nearly every state has some type of support services for the new business owner.  You just need to go out and find them.  I would suggest you start with your Extension office. They can define the resources available in your state.

Good luck.

Where are the Entrepreneurs?

Photo (CC) Bruce Berrien, on Flickr

Photo (CC) Bruce Berrien, on Flickr

Thanks to Connie Hancock and Becky Vogt of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln for the idea and background material for this blog post. 

If you have been paying attention to the news over the last year or more, there has been a ongoing discussion of how there is a decreasing number of small business start-ups.  This trend may be seeing some signs of change, but the trend is concerning given how small businesses are the lynch pin in our economic engine. Just think of how many key businesses in your life are small businesses. This is true in urban areas and even more correct as you move to rural areas.

A Gallop study found several reasons for why people are not starting businesses. Forty-nine percent indicated that they didn’t know where to start. Prospective owners also feared that their lack of knowledge in running a business would be a hurdle

Survey respondents, 84%, also indicated that they liked the security of a steady income, and although not shown in this study, other work has shown people shy away from business ownership because of the loss of fringe benefits.

Other indicated that they did not have the savings necessary to start a business. It does take money to get started. And it takes even more money to make it through the lean first years. It is often said that you estimate your cash needs and then you should double or triple that number to get to an amount you actually will need.

And there is another group worried about the odds of success, 49%, and the competition, 28%.

Yet as you examine the list, there is a clear theme that runs through it. None of these items are insurmountable. The skills of being a business owner can be acquired by the owner (plus the owner can also hire needed skills). In terms of business financing, history is full of stories on how businesses have started using very few dollars being very frugal or bootstrapping instead.

Regarding the risk, potential business owners can minimize the risk by careful planning. Admittedly you can’t eliminate the risk. And the odds may be against you, but individuals who have the passion will start. It’s understanding what drives you and then looking for how that drive can fill a niche in the market.

Potential business owners can decrease their risk and eliminate some of their questions about how to start and run a business by accessing the vast variety of resources available to help small business owners. PowerofBusiness is one such effort. We are focused on small, often rural, business owners.

There are also resources such as the Small Business Administration, SCORE, and Small Business Development Centers. Plus most states have some type of program as do many colleges and universities.

As you can see that while there seem to be many hurdles, there are ways of removing them or, at least, minimizing them.

Starting a business can be a scary thing, no doubt. But ask most business owners and they will tell you they are glad they made the decision. Make your plans and then take the leap. As Shia LaBeouf once said, “Don’t let your dreams be dreams.”

Making a Sale or Building a Business

Building tower of blocksIn my career, I have worked with lots of business start-ups. Quite often I hear stories about how good they feel when a customer buys their product or service. And they should be happy. They are verifying that the market does indeed value what they have for sale.

However, our guest blogger this week, Peggy Schlechter, South Dakota State University Extension Community Development Field Specialist, notes that building your business is your bigger goal. She writes, “Building a business is what you do to encourage that customer to return to make future purchases.” Click here for her article that outlines ways to encourage the customer to return.

Power of Business encourages you to read her article. Then decide how you are going to keep the customer coming back.

A Business Closes Each Minute

startup business Scrabble tiles

Photo (CC) by Dennis Skley, on Flickr

Does that headline surprise you?  Actually it may be higher than that depending on the statistics you use.

But about that same number of businesses also open each minute (right now those opening might be slightly higher).

So with those kind of numbers is starting a business something you want to do? The reality is that those are just averages. They don’t represent you and your business.  And understand that some of these businesses shut down because the owner sees a better opportunity elsewhere. We don’t use the term failure, instead we just use the term closure.

Other reasons that a business may close include financing, lack of planning, inadequate marketing, an owner retires, or the owner just is tired of the strain of running a small business and being responsible for most or all of the duties.

So why bring up all of this?  It is not meant to scare you from opening. The idea is to let you know what you are facing. You need to have a passion to keep going and have done everything you can to plan for different scenarios. Talk with current or past business owners and they will often say they enjoyed their time in business.

So consider the opportunities of owning a small business? Then do your homework. It can be a rewarding decision.

Get more information on small businesses at:

Power of Business

SBA – https://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-facts

State of Small Business

Forbes Small Business Statistics

Food as a Business Idea

Food truck competition

Competition (CC) Bob B. Brown (bit.ly1o2905w), on Flickr

If asked, many business advisors would say starting a business around food is probably the most common request they get.

Why is it so popular? One reason is that friends and relatives often comment on how much they enjoy a certain item and encourage that person to start a business. It may come from a long-standing family recipe or something the person spent hours working on. Food reminds us of our heritage and our years growing up. It also can take us to new places. We can be easily engaged as a consumer in our food and beverage experiences, yet we can also look at it as something we can grab quickly that will keep us going until we can take a longer break. Today we hear about local food, slow food, and all sorts of suggestions on how to change our diets for more energy and better health.

Yet making it in the food business is difficult. In grocery stores along some 20,000 new items hit the shelves every year. That number does not take into account the new restaurants opening each year, the recent trend of food trucks, and more and more farmers markets and consumer trade shows where food booths are plentiful in numbers.

So can you make it as a food entrepreneur? Yes.  Will it be easy? No. One of the first things such small business owners need to realize is that making a batch of something at home is nothing like doing it on a commercial basis. For one thing, doing as a business means needing a commercial kitchen or having a co-packer produce it for you.

You can find resources to help you get started. The Cooperative Extension Service in many states has materials on starting a business. If you have been a regular attendee of our Power of Business First Friday chats, you will have heard from several food based businesses. (past chats are archived here.)  At North Dakota State University Extension Service, we have:  Food Entrepreneur: Your Resource Guide to the Food Industry. Oklahoma State University, through its Food and Agricultural Products Center, and Penn State offer regular trainings for startup companies.

Selling online is one approach that many food entrepreneurs consider. If that interests you, check out these two resources from University of Nebraska Extension and NDSU Extension:

You also can find bloggers and other online sources of information. One blogger I follow is Jennifer Lewis, Small Food Business. Two recent articles that I enjoyed looked at convenience store food sales and where people go to buy specialty foods.

The challenges are great. Remember though there are resources available.

It won’t be easy. On many days you will want to give up. Planning, passion and persistence plus knowing your market and getting your product in front of that targeted group of people are keys to making your food idea a business success.

Taking the Leap

Are you thinking of taking the leap and turning your hobby into a business? Then listen to Becky Mannon, Bears-n-Woods, discuss her journey in doing so. Listen to her passion and what helped her decide she was ready and it was time to make the move.

As the conversation notes, she worked on her idea for 15 years developing a unique, quality product. This also allowed her to build a customer base who were willing to spread the word, some of the best marketing you can get.

Becky discusses how developing a business plan made her think about the steps she would need to take. It also was a reference and a reminder of her eventual goal. An audience was identified and she could begin to consider things like pricing, production, etc. She now is looking forward to adding to her first initial product line with another complementary item.

Additional resources are available for the aspiring and existing small business owner at Power of Business. Get access to additional conversations with other business owners and more tips. And make sure to tune in on the first Friday of every month at 12:15 ET. Click here to register.

Are you thinking of “taking the leap?” Is it time?  Becky encourages people to consider it and comments, “there is nothing like it.”

Selecting a Business Structure

A startup question for business owners is deciding on the legal form of the business. Will the business be a simple sole proprietorship or will another form be used?

Selecting a business structure should be done based on aspects such as control, ease in business transfer, taxes, etc. The question should be answered with input from legal and tax advisors.

One possible structure is a “cooperative.” In this chat, held on Dec. 5th, Heidi Demars, Marketing Director, discusses cooperatives and how it fits with the goals of the BisMan Food Coop.

To learn more about cooperatives, check out: Basic Cooperative Principles from eXtension and Chose Your Business Structure from the Small Business Administration.