How to Run a Small Business

Reader Contribution by Jessica Vaughan
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Hi Mother Earthers!

I started a bootstrap business earlier this year called Indie Farms to teach people how to grow their own organic food at home.

The driving force to start this first-of-its-kind kitchen garden coaching business was my personal passion for growing food, which I’ve been doing productively for nearly ten years.

While I’m still in the earliest stages of establishing my business, my first Indie Farmers (homeowners in California’s Silicon Valley) had great success with their spring and summer food gardens and are now establishing either their first winter gardens and cover crops during the cooler weather.

They’re learning tons and reaping amazing harvests from spots on their properties that would have gone fallow or unused otherwise.

I couldn’t be more pleased to see the enthusiasm for organic home farming and watching my years of amassed knowledge (and everything I continue to learn as work toward a degree in organic agriculture) go to good use producing delicious organic food for people who thought they were doomed to eat grocery store produce forever.

Getting started with this business has had its challenges, and I’m sure I will encounter many more, but I have learned a few key things:

Test, Test, Test

In all areas of my business, from service offerings and communications to advertising and event opportunities— testing different strategies is key to finding what works for your business. I don’t dare say that I have it all figured out (far from it), but giving myself license to test different tools, strategies, approaches and methods with the understanding that some things will stick and some won’t, has given me the confidence to move forward. 

Have a Vision

Knowing what I want my business to look like, be like and what purpose I want it to serve has helped me navigate the seemingly endless string of decisions that all first-time business owners face. When faced with a new decision (which happens nearly every day!), I can put it side by side with my vision for the business to see if it meshes. If it doesn’t, I don’t spend any more brain power considering it and just move on to the next thing, which is never far off.

Be Patient

This is wisdom passed on to me from other small business owner friends of mine. Starting a new business takes time to establish and getting impatient and feeling like you’re not seeing success fast enough is sometimes enough to sink a new business. I’ve been advised that new businesses can take up to three to four years to establish a solid foundation, and that carefully establishing this foundation and being mindful of your business practices is better than rushing into things for the sake of early “success.”

Every day is a new challenge, particularly as I’m starting this business while getting a horticulture degree, but I am propelled forward by my passion for growing food and belief that organics are for all— not just those with means or tons of time on their hands. A big part of my vision is seeing the organic method adopted by home growers become the rule rather than the exception. I imagine the shelves of our local nurseries will one day hold only things like mycorrhizal fungi, neem oil and organic bone meal instead of Round-up and the like.

Of course, I also envision at least a small kitchen garden in a sunny sport of everyone’s yard.

Photo by Fotolia/Rémy MASSEGLIA

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