Real Business Owner: Kim Williams, Your Family Farm
Meet small business owner, Kim Williams. She and her husband, Richard, launched Your Family Farm 5 years ago and have learned a ton along the way…
Q. What’s the name of your business?
A. Your Family Farm
Q. What business/industry are you in?
A. Small-scale, Sustainable, Beyond Organic Family Farming
Q. What’s your web address?
We’re currently working on a site we hope to launch this year. In the meantime we have a Facebook page.
Q. What made you want to launch your own company?
A. My husband and I were living in the San Francisco Bay Area but dreamed of moving to our favorite get-away, a remote place about 3 hours south called Panoche Valley. One of our passions has always been food, specifically cooking & eating locally-grown, sustainable, humanely produced food. Our Ah-Ha moment came while reading the Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Through that book we learned about a farmer named Joel Salatin who has a successful diversified farm where he employs traditional, small-scale, sustainable farming practices. We started reading his books and realized we could, and wanted to, do the same thing.
Q. What was your biggest hurdle you discovered when launching your business?
A. Building capital, creating an organized book-keeping system and marketing.
Q. What was easier than you expected?
A. The actual farm work! We built up to a flock of 600 heritage breed laying hens for eggs and now have 40+ heritage breed pigs we raise for meat.
Q. Did you write a business plan? Why or why not?
A. No, we didn’t. We used our own money to start our farm so we didn’t need a plan for outside investors. We also started out slow so we could learn as we went, which also meant that things were in a constant state of fluctuation. Now, five years later, we’re ready to ramp up production. We now have a good idea what it takes to run the farm and can see a need in the near future for more capital. Now seems like a good time for us to do a business plan in preparation for the next stage in our growth.
Q. What’s the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your business?
A. I wish there were better resources available for beginning farmers. Most resources address one aspect of farming or another, but none adequately touched on all aspects. This is slowly improving as more people enter sustainable and organic family farming. It’s also another reason why we need a website, so we can share what we’ve learned with others as well as reaching out to customers.
Q. What services would you highly recommend outsourcing?
A. Definitely building a web site. Sure, there are programs that will allow the average person to set up a basic web site, or you might know someone who knows someone who can set up a web site for very little money. But considering that a web page is a potential customers first impression of your business, it really is a critical link to sales. If a web site isn’t attractive, easy to navigate and easy to use, what’s the point? Hiring a professional is well worth the money spent and should provide a solid return on your investment.
Q. What tasks do you think every business owner should do for themselves?
A. You have to know your customer and know your competition. Then it becomes easier to do the important task of building relationships, with your customer and with others in the same business that may be good resources for information or supplies. Our farm serves a niche market and our personal relationship with our customers and other farmers is what has allowed our business to grow.
Q. Which books did you find helpful while getting started? Why?
A. The Omnivores Dilemma by Michael Pollan was an excellent resource for understanding current food policy in the United States. The many books written by Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm were invaluable for understanding the nitty-gritty of farming and navigating the inevitable bureaucratic red tape. Magazines like Acres U.S.A. and the Stockman Grass Farmer kept us up-to-date on what was happening with sustainable, organic food production around the country as well as important legislation being introduced that could affect us. And my current farming business bible is Farms with a Future: Creating and Growing a Sustainable Farm Business by Rebecca Thistlethwaite.
Q. What online resources did you find helpful?
Q. What piece of advice would you like to share with someone looking to start a business today?
A. Starting your own business can feel like walking on a high-wire with no safety net. Do your homework. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of others who are doing what you aspire to do. Be meticulous about record keeping. Be realistic about your goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Be flexible and willing to change your business model as the situation demands. Have an exit strategy worked out just in case. But most of all, make sure you love what you’re doing because there will come a time when only your love and passion for your business will be what keeps you going. And remember, you’re living your dream – have fun!
Would you like to see your small business featured here and help small businesses like yours at the same time! Share your start-up experiences with the readers of 321Launch.biz.Written by