What inspired you to start your business?
I found one of the limitations to healthier local food was that not enough farmers were growing enough food to meet the demand for healthy produce. I loved helping others to start gardens and programs around gardening, but I really felt compelled to get my hands dirty more. I hold a deep passion for growing food for families, which encouraged me to take the leap.
No matter where I looked I couldn’t find the kind of store that I wanted to shop in. I have always wanted to patronize a store that prioritized healthy ingredients, local sourcing, fair and just labor practices, and environmental stewardship. I felt Flint was the right place to start a business like The Local Grocer, with its rich history of making the best products in the world.
Talk about your biggest challenge as a start-up and how you overcame it.
There are a lot of challenges starting a farm from scratch. From capital for infrastructure, learning how to trim your sheep’s hooves, scheduling crops to have produce for market every day, all year round. For addressing these challenges finding other farmers to learn from, commiserate with, and support each other was invaluable.
What do you wish someone would have told you before you started your business?
I was actually told not to get animals during my first year of farming. I did it anyway. After chasing chickens and sheep around for a few years our farm is now animal free. I learned that if you hear the same advice more than once, it probably has merit.
It would have been good to hear that a business is a fluid, ever-changing system, and that it’s okay to not worry about having everything perfect at the beginning. Listening to your customers and growing the business to meet their needs happens over time.
A healthy dose of ______ is the best thing an entrepreneur can have.
Flexibility! Flexibility is critical in farming, and also in retail. Being able to keep your business plan the focus, while also considering the needs of your customers is important. In farming we joke that we plan, plan, plan—and then do what the weather dictates.
Is there such a thing as work/life balance when you're an entrepreneur?
We are slowly working toward that balance, and it really helps that we love what we are doing. Pushing ourselves to spend time with friends and family even when we are exceptionally tired has been a source of relaxation and encouragement that keeps us going when we get down.
Farming four seasons, there isn’t much of a break, but it does slow down a bit in the winter. We’re working on ways to give each other an hour or two of extra sleep when we need it to stay healthy.
Advice for anyone thinking about taking the big leap into entrepreneurship?
Build community around your business. We opened the Martin Luther King location after three years at the Flint Farmers Market. Having an engaging online presence was also important for a beginning business to build a customer base. Besides, we really like taking pictures of our produce!