Do you have a dream of starting your own business? Or are you currently running a business? Are you looking for ways to involve your kids so they can learn valuable life skills and be part of the team? This episode is for you!
Natasha has always been an entrepreneur at heart, but she has spent the last decade building a wildly successful farm business with her family. 1818 Farms provides handmade bath and body products, fresh flowers, events, workshops, and more. In our conversation, we dive into all things small business: marketing, starting small, scaling, outsourcing, beautiful packaging, involving your kids, and more.
If you have that entrepreneurial itch or you are in the thick of running your own home business, this episode is full of brilliant ideas and important mindset shifts. Join us!
In this episode, we cover:
- Natasha’s journey to starting and growing her multifaceted farm business
- The importance of pivoting and evolving your business over time
- How to know when something is no longer working in your business
- Online marketing and growth strategies that give you the most control
- Starting and growing a business when you have young children at home
- Getting your children involved in age-appropriate parts of the business
- Marketing and exposure ideas for a brand new farm business
- The importance of first impressions via branding and packaging
- Making wise investments as your company grows
- Why you should nurture existing customer relationships over always seeking new customers
- Natasha shares how her older teen and adult children have been impacted by growing up helping with the family business
- Discerning what to outsource in your business and what to keep on your own plate
- The importance of starting small scale and perfecting your product
- The first things you should consider if you want to start a business from your home or farm
Thank you to our sponsors!
Toups and Co Organics uses nourishing, organic ingredients to create simple and safe skincare products. Toups and Co is offering my listeners 10% off any one purchase with the code FARMHOUSE. Visit ToupsandCo.com to order today. And check out my interview with the founder of Toups and Co, Emilie, to find out more about this amazing company and their products.
Azure Standard is a family-owned company dedicated to providing you with high quality, affordable organic, natural, and non-GMO groceries, health, and household products. Place your order at AzureStandard.com and use the code SIMPLEFARMHOUSE10 to receive 10% off your purchase. This promotion expires February 28, 2023, and is only available for the first-time Azure customer order, with a minimum of $50 order (orders to drop locations only). One time use per customer.
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Lisa Bass Welcome back to the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Today I’m having on Natasha McCrary from Mooresville, Alabama. She’s the owner and operator of 1818 Farms. She started her business almost ten years ago when one of her kids fell in love with the baby doll sheep. It was a breed of sheep that was almost extinct in America. And they wanted to start a business with, I think, breeding sheep. At the time, she had no experience raising sheep or running a farm. She didn’t grow up that way, but with a lot of hard work and learning lots of new things, she figured out how to make it work by combining a farm with a small business that would help cover the cost of the feed for the animals. The result was 1818 Farms, which is a working flower farm that’s also a line of bath and lifestyle products. In 2019, she won Amazon’s Woman-Owned Small Business of the Year award, which is such an honor. And so she has so much good advice when it comes to starting a small business. If you’ve wanted to start some kind of small business from your home or if you have a little homestead, she has a lot of wisdom to share. She talks about getting started in markets and all of the hours she put in there and then taking that into something a little bit more passive in the bath and beauty products. She talks about her flower farm, which is something that a lot of people could start even from a small property. She talks about doing market research to make that successful. So if you are a person with an entrepreneurial spirit—which a lot of my listeners are—you’re going to love this interview. So without further ado, let’s jump in with Natasha McCrary from 1818 Farms.
Lisa Bass My name is Lisa, mother of seven and creator of the blog and YouTube channel Farmhouse on Boone. Join me as I share with you my love for creating a handmade home, from-scratch cooking, and a little mom and entrepreneur life along the way.
Lisa Bass Hey Natasha, thank you so much for coming on the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. I really want to talk about entrepreneurship and having a business when you have a family, whether it be young kids or any range with that, because that’s something that a lot of my listeners really like hearing about. And it’s not often that I get to have conversations like that. And you have a lot of success with your business, so I would love to talk about that. Okay. So can you first just give us a brief intro of your farm— or your businesses. I know your farm is one of the aspects of it. I did it in the intro, but I’d like to hear just from you your just brief introduction.
Natasha McCrary Sure. Hey, Lisa, thanks for having me today. My name’s Natasha McCrary, and I’m the owner of 1818 Farms located in historic Mooresville, Alabama. I like to always say, it’s population 58. And that is 58 people. It might be 53 with people in and out. But yes, I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve always been really an entrepreneur by spirit. But for the last ten years, my focus has been on 1818 Farms, which really started as a family building project. I wanted to teach my kids about sustainability, giving back to the land, and also really the basics of how you can start a business. We ended up where we are now. I would have never in my wildest dreams have thought—ten years ago—this is where we’d be today. But through goal-setting, hard work, and lots and lots of obstacles over the years that we seem to overcome them, we are here today and I couldn’t be happier.
Lisa Bass Okay, awesome. Yeah. I’m excited to hear more about your story. So which aspect of your business did you start first? Because you have baby doll sheep, you have the flower farm, and then you have all of the bath products. Which one of those was the first one?
Natasha McCrary So initially, it was going to be more of an agritourism destination. And so a piece of that was the baby doll sheep. And when we started, if you’re familiar with this breed, they were almost extinct in the 1990s. They were around 350 of these left in the United States. So that was— I couldn’t think of a better project for my children than to learn about the history of this breed and what it means to preserve something that’s important to the world. So that was a piece. And then also the agritourism was school groups, and we taught planning and designing raised bed gardens, how to raise backyard chickens. And the hardest thing we’ve ever done is we did farmers markets. And for anyone out there who’s ever started a business— at that point, we did four farmers markets a week, and that was a lot of work. But that also all tied in to teaching my kids. I’d had a raised bed before, but to really teach them how to do crop farming. That was definitely the first piece. People say, “Well, how did you end up in the product piece?” And the product piece was— in our zone, if you’re growing vegetables, really, you’re going to be growing when you come from maybe harvesting April, and then you’re finishing around now this time of year. And there was a lot of downtime. I still had many bills that had to be paid. And I really—needing to feed the animals—started making soaps was kind of our first thing. I think that’s kind of— anyone who’s into— a lot of people farming, that seems like what they do when they’re kind of looking into season extension and a value added product. And so it started with soaps and we grow a lot of lavender and so we’d use the lavender into a bath soak. And just over time, the products then grew out of things that I needed. So I never liked to wear gardening gloves, so I needed a cuticle balm. Or my skin was always dry because of being outside in our climate here, so the shea cream came from there, which is now like the backbone of our line. So luckily, I needed the money because I might not be here today, but the line actually allows us to do so many other things that we like to do here at the farm.
Lisa Bass Now, would you say that the skincare line, that’s your bread and butter at this point?
Natasha McCrary Oh, for sure. It’s funny, but what I call the “from the farm” products, those are really— I’m always looking at a way to have zero waste here at the farm. And so each year we try and add something in new. So this year, the big thing we added in was— we’ve always dried flowers because people say, “Why don’t you do flowers?” Going back to when we did primarily produce. I can make revenue off flowers 12 months a year because we spend a big focus of what we do every day in the summer and spring is we’re harvesting— we have a drying room. And you can kind of see, if you’re interested in drying flowers, we have a YouTube video that’s pretty detailed. I’ve had a lot of trial and error and I’ve cracked the code on how to draw beautiful flowers. So that’s a piece also. So maybe a few years ago, drying became— like 2019, 2020 drying was. And then we took it a step further, and we said, “Okay, let’s press flowers.” So for pressed flowers, we’re using those into botanical art, which is resin. And then we also—this past season—began doing botanical eco bringing. So we’re taking those flowers to do that. So we’re trying— really in any kind of business, you need to always— I feel like you shouldn’t be satisfied with the one thing you’re doing. You need to be thinking forward on what else can I do with the resources that I have? And that’s the one thing about the farm is it’s kind of like it all ties together, because a lot of people maybe don’t know about the skincare, but they know about the botanical dying, or they know about the dried flowers. And that leads them back into a circle into the beauty of the product line.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah. And I like that you’re able to find something that you can do in the off season of the farm in order to continue your revenue. If somebody would want to start a business from their farm or their homestead, is that the route? Do you feel like you went in the direction that you are now glad you did? Or is there anything looking back that you maybe would have changed in the trajectory of how your business has evolved?
Natasha McCrary No, I’d totally do everything the same. I know that’s rare that you have someone who says that, but to be where I am today, there’s no way I would be here without the steps that that path. And maybe sometimes when I lost 200 lavender plants, that didn’t seem like the best thing there. And I transitioned over into a different flower crop. But I think everything— to see where we are ten years later, I wouldn’t change anything. I think the hardest thing for an entrepreneur—and I think y’all probably see this, too—is the society today. We want immediate gratification. We want everything to be perfect. We want to be making a lot of money. We want to be successful. But what I tell people is where I am today didn’t happen overnight. It took me ten years to get here. And there were bumps in the road, but I think you have to be able to plan and make adjustments if something— I always tell people, if you’re doing something and it’s not working, stop digging that hole. You know, it’s okay for things not to work out. You’re going to learn from that and then go to a different direction. So like for us, we have a flower truck. So that was a huge piece of what we did until 2020. And then we couldn’t run the flower truck. So I could have said, “What am I going to do with all these thousands of flowers?” But we pivoted to home delivery and then we pivoted to subscriptions. And now that’s like the best thing we ever did. We could have just sat there and said, “Oh, this isn’t working. We’re going to lose. What are we going to do?” But you have to always make adjustments. And to be successful in business, the faster you are to do that, the more successful you’re definitely going to be.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And did that come pretty naturally to you? Did you always know, in your business, when to pivot, when to quit something that wasn’t working? Because sometimes I think there’s a line between keep trying something because you just haven’t actually gotten to that point yet where you’re going to see all the results. But then also knowing when something actually isn’t going to work. How do you figure all that out?
Natasha McCrary Luckily, my husband and I work together and he’s a master MBA in finance. So a lot of that, the thing that happens is you have emotion tied to it, and you need that person there who’s like, “Okay, let’s dig down and look at this number. It’s not working.” And I think that happens with a lot of small business owners. If you’re not emotionally tied to it, you’re more than likely not going to be in that small business. And I think that’s one reason people tend to fail, is they get so emotionally tied to that idea, they’re not able to step back and say, “I need to do something different.” So I really do think, in those cases— which in the flower truck situation, I mean, all of us knew, okay, we can’t run the truck. There’s restrictions. We had to come up with a new plan. But sometimes maybe you have a product you think is going to be great and it’s not that great. And then you think, do I want to continue these resources towards promoting this or do I want to come out with a new, different product that maybe will be more successful? Because, I mean, we’ve had things like that and you think they’re going to be successful and they’re not as successful as you think. You just have to chalk that up to a learning experience and move on to the next thing.
Lisa Bass Right. Right. Yeah. I think with a lot of the listeners that I have, I have blog education, so I teach people how to blog and have a YouTube channel. Sometimes it’s not as straightforward because a lot of times it’s not like a product that maybe failed. A lot of times it’s just something that needs a bit of a tweak in order for it to end up being successful. And sometimes it just takes time to build momentum. And so I think it is a balancing act and a lot of lessons to learn in figuring out when to pivot versus when you just need to give something a little bit more time. I think that can be challenging. You talked about losing 200— I think it was 200 lavender plants. Were there any other notable challenges that you faced when you started your business or over the years? And then also obviously COVID and the flower truck? That’s another one.
Natasha McCrary Oh, yeah. Those lavender plants, that was tough because we were starting out as a lavender farm and building. And they did well for like three years and we had a wet snow and it came and it just took the plants and it just pulled them down. I had already trimmed them back. And at that point, one thing I had realized, I love growing lavender, but also how many flushes do you get? So it kind of went back to a financial thing. And sure, people love to come to a place that has beautiful lavender, but it came back down to a revenue. I would have kept growing it, but then you only have so much space. So that and the flower truck would probably be the big things that we had to really make some changes. We sell our products wholesale, which means— like let’s say you have a mom and pop or a brick and mortar store, they purchase wholesale from us and we sell direct to consumer. Luckily for us, one thing we’ve always been, I would say forward thinking in, is having a website that you can sell direct to consumer. And had we not thought about that, that would have been detrimental to us during the pandemic because stores were shut down. So we went from 50% of our revenue going to zero in two weeks. So you have to always be thinking. And I do think a lot of people are like, “Oh, I’m too scared. I can’t have a website.” And that’s why I tell people, I don’t care who you have to go to. If you have to find the high schooler or the college student, please go and build a website because you have to have that. Social media, for us, is a— I mean, that’s how today, the print media, a lot of print media, it’s just dead. And social media is so important. However, we don’t own that real estate. I mean, for all I know, tomorrow social media is gone. You have to have a website. You have to have an email list. I’ve always gone on that. No matter what you do, you have to have a website and you need an email list because then you own that piece of real estate. Whereas I think a lot of people, social media is great for getting your name out there and you can do ads and promotion, but at the end of the day, you need to have that email list and a way for people to get traction straight to your website.
Lisa Bass I preach this constantly because I see a lot of people especially focusing really heavily on Instagram only, because it’s— I don’t want to say it’s easy to build an Instagram following because it’s not necessarily easy, but it is probably the most straightforward thing to do. You can just get the app, start posting. There really isn’t a big learning curve when it comes to doing an Instagram account. But you know, if you’re a person whose Instagram gets hacked or the platform goes black like it did for a day or two last week or two weeks ago or whatever, that could completely just devastate your whole business. So what are some other ways that you would recommend if somebody is starting out on an entrepreneurial journey when it comes to maybe something from their homestead or making soaps, diversify so that way they can— you talked about building a website. Do you just get like a simple mailing list like ConvertKit? Do you have any other ways that you’ve diversified for your business?
Natasha McCrary Yeah, and one way we really built our website— our website was run through Shopify, that platform. And we actually converted our website—I think it was maybe in 2020—over. It was sort of like they were pieced together, but now it’s all through Shopify. And that’s a way through a purchase to have them opt in for an email. And I try—back to social media—to do a post and say, “Hey, do you want to be the first to know about our events?” And that’s one thing we do. So like we just ended a customer appreciation sale and that sale was private and so it didn’t go out online because we want our followers to get any new products that are out there, to have first dibs on that. When we announce all of our workshops in the spring and events, that goes to our priority email list. And so we like to give them priority. So that’s kind of another way of saying— if someone says, “Oh, the classes are sold out, the subscriptions are sold out,” I say, “Well, are you on our email list? Because we give them priority.” So that’s kind of a way I think— if you’re like, “Well, what do I have to offer?” It can be the sales. It can be different things that you’re not just totally publicizing out there. So that kind of goes back into how you do that, for sure.
Lisa Bass Yeah, I like that, that you give them something exclusive that only they get. That’s actually getting my wheels turning on how I could get more people on my email list, like maybe send out something that they only will get that you won’t tell anybody else unless you’re on the list. Those are really great tips.
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Lisa Bass Now, did you start the business whenever you had younger kids? I think your son maybe was eight whenever you started?
Natasha McCrary Oh. So yes, they were very young. Well, my middle was eight. The youngest was about to be five, and then the oldest would have been around ten, ten and a half. So I can totally relate to every mom out there. It is hard to balance when they’re that age because, as you know, if you’re running your own business, there are no vacation days. Emergencies happen. The sheep needs help in the middle of the night to have the lamb. I mean, it’s always something. So looking back, I was funny when I had your email, I thought, how did I even balance that? I’m like, it’s a blur of how I balanced that.
Lisa Bass Yeah, it’s a blur.
Natasha McCrary It’s a blur. It is a blur. But I tried to include them at a small age of like gathering the eggs or helping greet guests. Or even at this age, they were delivering flowers. Or I have my daughter helping with designing some resin pieces because she’s very artistic. So as a small, I tried to have them be involved as much as I can, but you also had to balance in they have activities. So I feel for every mom out there. It’s okay to feel overwhelmed because I know now, I probably— I have like a 16, 19 and almost-23-year-old. It’s hard for me to imagine that, but I think it’s trying to still give them time that they need and set boundaries because you need to be able to go to the baseball game and you need to go to the softball game. They’re only going to be small once. And I know that’s hard, but you can balance it. It’s just you have to really put restrictions in and be pretty forceful with those restrictions. I know this year, even for me, ten years in, I feel like I missed a lot of things because trying to build the brand, I’d be in Atlanta for two weeks, I’d be in Las Vegas, I’d be at these shows. Usually I would be a week in Mississippi at a show, a week in Nashville at a show, a week in Richmond at a show. All those things. We were lucky if our Christmas tree was up by like December 20th. I feel like I’ve missed a lot of things over those years to get where I am. But even this year I said, “Okay, you know what? I know people like to come to workshops on Saturday. I’m having one workshop on Saturday. The rest are during the week.” Because I have missed so many things. And you’re kind of getting at that age now where I had one going to college and one at that age where I didn’t want to miss those things. So it’s a balance. You have to build the business and you have to be open to do that and you have to be dedicated. But you also don’t want your children to resent that part of you not being able to be there.
Lisa Bass Yeah, absolutely. So in the early parts of your business, when you were doing farmers markets and then you invited people out to your farm to observe and that kind of thing, how many hours do you think that you were putting in each week in order to get the ball rolling on that, to build up some momentum?
Natasha McCrary Oh, I used to tell people just the amount of labor we put in for the farmers markets was 40 hours. That’s not counting taking care of the animals.
Lisa Bass Really?
Natasha McCrary Oh yeah. Because the farmers markets are usually from like, let’s say 4-8. There’s four of those, there’s 16 hours straight there, set up, break down. At that point, we did a lot of vegetables, so the harvesting, the cleaning them. All that. I would tell people, I was like, “That’s before I’ve done dinner, laundry.” I mean, it was a lot. The farmers markets, for anyone who does that, I have a total respect for you. We did it one season and then we were able to grow enough to have a different revenue stream. But it’s a lot of work, the farmers markets. And it’s hot. But you make great contacts there.
Lisa Bass My sister does them.
Natasha McCrary Yeah. So she understands.
Lisa Bass Yeah. So how did you go from doing the farmers market— that’s where you got your start. You had to build up some contacts. You had to maybe make a little bit of quick revenue. How did you then invest that in to move on to something that maybe was a little bit less time consuming?
Natasha McCrary Yeah. So what I did is that first year, the winter when I had time off or time that I wasn’t able to have visitors or birthday parties or those kind of things at the farm, is I started with the products and gifted them. And then people said, “Oh, I love that. Can I get more of it?” So then someone who had gifted someone, another person who worked in a gift shop said, “That is so great. I love your packaging. Would you be interested in wholesaling?” And I was like, “Well, sure.” And then people would come into the store and another person would— another salon wanted it. So that’s really when I realized I’m going to be able to invest different kind of hours and have a better return on that investment, if you know what I’m saying. Because sometimes at a farmers market, I could do all that work and then you make $25, or you could make $400. You see what I’m saying? So it’s a better investment of my time. And it just turned out— I always tell people when you’re bringing your product out, study everything you can to make the packaging great. Of course, you want the product to be great because you have one first impression. And if the first impression is poor, they’re probably not going to buy your product again. But put every ounce of your being in it to make sure that you have the best packaging. Because all things equal— two products internally are the same, the best packaging wins every time. You think about yourself, if you go into something, you’re going to always select the best packaging. So we’d spend a lot of time when we’re developing a product, tons of hours on that, but also thinking of how does the aesthetic of the packaging fit in to our brand? And I think that’s the part that I see new people who are in this industry that we’re in, and I’m like, okay, they don’t have the labeling correct, the font. I just look at it and I think— and I think some people just don’t realize that. The best packaging, all things equal, will always win.
Lisa Bass Yeah, well, you think about just a sweater, and one comes from a place that has a little tiny logo on it, and it’s from the store that you think is just a little bit better. And to you, it’s perceived as so much more valuable just because it’s in the context of this store that’s kind of fancy and curated. Therefore it’s a whole buying experience because of the marketing, even though you’re really getting the exact same thing. Like it could have came out of the same exact factory, but the way that you perceived it—because it came from this whole experience of the way you bought it—is going to make all the difference. And I was thinking when you were saying that about an example from my world, which would be a YouTube thumbnail. You can spend so much time making this really beautiful video, but when people scroll through YouTube, the thumbnail itself is the packaging for the video, and if they don’t click on it, they’re never going to see it. And I think a lot of times people do underestimate how important that is to actually get people to try the video, try your product. The packaging is so important. So I can definitely understand what you’re saying there. Now, whenever you made a little bit of money from your farmers markets, did you then take that money and then invest it into like a graphic designer? Or were you guys doing a lot of that package development yourself?
Natasha McCrary We do it all ourselves. My mother-in-law actually does the pencil sketches. If you go on our website, you can kind of see the farm animals or the cover girls and the cover guy. So luckily she does the sketches. Usually we develop the product. And then in my mind I think, well, how could I tie that back into the farm? And then we have just a local mom and pop printer that we have worked with them since the beginning. And I go in with the ideas and we just kind of churn it out. So they’re great. It’s just a hole-in-the-wall place. But they are a huge part of our success is that they care about their customers and they want them to be successful. So yeah, we’ve done all that internally. But my background was marketing, so I think that helps a little bit too. You have to be thinking about—like you said—what’s going to catch the consumer’s eye. And clean lines, and aesthetically, it has to all look nice in a display. Like you can kind of see behind me, I have sort of a setup here in my office. It’s making the brand cohesive, tying everything together. Like our soap box is a picture of the sunflower with the sheep grazing. You may have the sweet pea on our shea cream, or you have the little pig that gets in the bath truffles because pigs dig for truffles, but it’s for your bath, a candy for your bath. So we’re always thinking of how to tie the whole line together and make it look beautiful at the same time.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s so important. How has your business grown over the years and how did you know when to invest in it to grow? So adding new employees, new equipment. I’m not sure how you manufacture all of your bath products and whatnot, but how did you know when to move on to the next step?
Natasha McCrary Yeah, you sort of know when there’s— well, the first thing you know, when you can’t produce it all, it’s time to bring someone in. And that, to me, is the hardest challenge today is bringing employees in because, until they become experienced, you’re never going to reach scale. If you can’t reach scale, it’s going to be hard to keep your profit margins where they need to be. I mean, if you have someone who can make 2,000 of something in a day and someone who can only make 200 in a day, you have a lot of labor costs. So we have taken things slowly. So the first Atlanta market we went to— which is like a wholesale market; they have them in Las Vegas, New York now, there’s a few, but Atlanta is closest to us. So we maybe signed up ten wholesale accounts. And at that point, we had a few other wholesale accounts. So we’ve gone from there to we’re at like 550 now, but we’ve gone slowly. And you just sort of know at running the numbers of, hey, what can I afford to bring in? But you also have to balance. It’s a lot of forecasting and extrapolating. And over years, if you’re good at that, best predictor of the future is the past. So we can kind of look at growth and we can look at numbers and kind of know. COVID kind of was an odd year because our online went up so much where we had wholesale lower. But you’re able to kind of know, hey, I’m going to need another employee. And especially sometimes, that goes into— like with the pressed flower resin, like I thought it was going to be popular, but I had no idea it was going to be this popular. And we pretty much need one person that that’s all they’re doing is they’re pouring resin every day.
Lisa Bass Oh, wow.
Natasha McCrary So it’s a lot of supply and demand of knowing, okay, what’s demand? And how can I supply that? You know, if it had not been that popular, then no, we might not need that person who’s going to be there and so much of the time is spent specifically on that. But it also goes back into you want to diversify. And I’m trying to bring products to the market that there is an unmet need because that’s another way. I was saying it needs to be one first impression. It needs to be a great product. But also you don’t want to just say, “Okay, I’m going to do such and such,” and you’re in a market that you can’t differentiate yourself. So that’s why really we went into this. A resin side is a great way to bring nature inside, and it’s another way to tie in our zero waste with the pressing of the flowers.
Lisa Bass Right.
Natasha McCrary You know, it’s just another avenue for a revenue stream.
Lisa Bass Yeah. I feel like what you’re saying is just whenever you start on this path, you kind of know at each step when it’s time to take the next step. But it’s really hard to explain to somebody from the very beginning what that might look like. A lot of people want to have their five years completely planned out ahead of them. But I think with business sometimes, you just have to learn how to adapt and grow as you go. So I think that’s some very good advice.
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Lisa Bass Okay. It’s okay for this one if you don’t have one, but I thought I would ask you: what’s the biggest underrated opportunity in business in things that you’ve tried, in your opinion?
Natasha McCrary The biggest underrated opportunity is definitely, I think, being customer centric, customer focused. I think a lot of times people are doing all of these— like this customer appreciation sale. The response we received— I did a video out in the field at the farm. I did a timeline of what’s happened in the last ten years and really, from my heart, thanking them. We wouldn’t be here where we are today. I think a lot of times it’s people not focusing on the customers you have in your hand. I mean, of course we all want to be looking for new customers, but it’s also nurturing and developing those relationships with the existing customers that you have, which ties back into the email list. It’s like a big circle there. But I feel like sometimes people take for granted those customers that you have, and you need to be nurturing relationships with them. And a lot of times, word of mouth from those customers is what causes growth. So I wouldn’t overlook that. I think a lot of people kind of do that. They’re always looking for, how am I going to grow? How am I going to grow? How am I going to grow? Well, you may just go dive deeper. Get them interested in more pieces of your line.
Lisa Bass Yeah, that’s a really good point. Furthering the relationship you already have with the customers who already trust you. I can see how that’s a really huge opportunity. How have you seen your family business help your family? And what lessons did your lifestyle teach? And also to piggyback on that, how have you incorporated your kids helping? You talked about your daughter doing some design for you. Were your kids always involved or was it something that you felt like, as a mom, you had to get rolling and then you can bring them in later whenever there was something that you already had for them to do?
Natasha McCrary No, we’ve always had small ways, whether it’s serving at a farm-to-table dinner. I mean, people thought that was so interesting that the kids were the waiters. I mean, we were working too, but that they helped with the farm-to-table dinners or parking cars at events or delivering flowers or building bouquets, running the flower truck. My middle son, they’ve all helped run the flower truck. So I think one thing I think it’s helped them learn is what type of boundaries and what type of lifestyle do you want in the future. Like my oldest, he doesn’t want to own his own business. I mean, he’s seen that on Christmas morning, you have to go feed the animals. On vacation, if something happens, you’re going to get the phone call. And so not that he doesn’t love what we do and he’s proud of us and he’s learned a lot from seeing how we’ve grown a business, but I think he saw in his life he wanted to have a job where he could go into the office and then come home and not bring that home with him. It gives you different opportunities. Our middle son did all the routing. It’s very important when you’re delivering bouquets and they’re all at a huge radius, understanding routing, understanding financially how it makes a difference if you keep everyone tight together. So you basically have really just had to help them find things. And I think within that business, they may have seen something they like. Like my daughter is interning with someone who carries our product line because she could be interested in opening a gift shop one day. So she’s seen that side. She helped me last Friday at a pop-up that we did. From the financial side, learning about cash flow. We talk about a lot of those things. We talk about, this is my fourth quarter is important and explaining cash flows. I think there’s been so many teaching opportunities. For anyone in business, there is. You just have to— some things, we just do day to day, we don’t think about. But if you sit down and have dinner and you have those conversations, it’s a great way to introduce them to business and to see what they like and don’t like because at the at the end of the day, I just want them to do something— like what we do is extremely hard work, especially the physical part of a flower farm is nothing is mechanized, everything is done by hand. But I love that. But for the person who loves to be in the office, that would be their nightmare. So I think it’s just exposing them to as many different facets of the business as you can, and let them see what they like and don’t like.
Lisa Bass There’s so many different learning opportunities there. You mentioned several that I hadn’t even thought of that you could bring your kids into. And also I was going to mention that my kids would have loved that, to have like a farm-to-table dinner where they go around and serve people, that would probably their dream come true. Sounds so fun.
Natasha McCrary Yeah, they loved it. And it’s funny, I know when we were transferred— I told you we went from our old website platform to Shopify and my middle son helped move all of those blogs over and he was like, “Y’all have gotten a lot better at this. Those were not very good in the beginning.” So it’s funny, just little things like that. You think transferring over, let him see how the farm has changed and grown. Well, number one, the pictures are a lot better now because the camera. When we first started, you had to go scan a picture in practically. But I think those kind of things, you may not even be thinking it’s that much. I mean, have your kids key in an email list. If you’re like, “Who’s going to put an email list in?” I mean, they can do data entry and teach them the importance of that. So I think you sometimes have to think outside the box of what’s a teaching moment.
Lisa Bass Yeah. You’re giving me a lot of ideas here because there’s a lot of things with my business that I might think that I’m saying out loud, but really, probably the kids have no idea that there’s even that aspect of it that I could be more intentional about telling them about. So yeah, that gives me some really good ideas. What are your favorite tasks in your business and what things will you never hire out because you love them? Even if it doesn’t make sense. Like I have some things in my business that it really would make more sense to hire out, but I personally love doing them.
Natasha McCrary Okay. I love teaching the workshops. That’s like my favorite thing that we do, and I would never hire that out. I love harvesting flowers. I mean, I know that sounds silly. And sometimes you’re like, “Why is the owner of the company out there with the holster with her clippers and clipping away?” But I get my best thinking done out there. And social media, I’ll never hire that out. I’ve been approached so that a lot. It’s different for some people than it is for us because a lot of ours isn’t planned. It’s in the moment. I think that’s what makes ours more interesting. Like, I don’t know I’m going to go down and this flower is going to be in bloom. I don’t know this sheep is going to do this. This chicken is going to do this. This happens at the office. So a lot of mine is spontaneous. And I know that makes a lot of listeners cringe that I could never do that. But for me, it’s about— I truly want to share something that I think is important to share versus trying to create content to have content. I don’t know if that makes sense. Like some people sit down and plan six months out. Well, I had no idea I’d have this beautiful piece of resin, indigo jewelry. I couldn’t have told you that two months ago because I didn’t even know I was going to do that. I don’t know we’re going to be un-molding a resin.
Lisa Bass Right. Yeah.
Natasha McCrary But our business is very different from someone who is a straight out, like just retail business. You probably could do that more, but ours is more of telling a story in your day. You’re trying to share a farm life along with some products here and there. But it’s more, I think, of not a vlog, but you know what I’m saying? I’m trying to show what’s happening. We do an eco printing. I don’t know what’s going to happen cause a lot of times we’re not even sure what’s going to happen ourselves. So the social media, for me, is a big, big thing I don’t think I could ever turn over.
Lisa Bass Yeah, yeah. And it sounds like you actually enjoyed doing that aspect of it. If it wasn’t something that you enjoyed and it was putting a lot of stress on you that was taking away from other parts of the business, maybe you’d figure out how to do that, but it sounds like that’s something that’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of your business for you.
Natasha McCrary Yes.
Lisa Bass Okay. So what are some aspects that you dislike and that you had to hire out or maybe at some point give to your husband or your kids? What’s the worst?
Natasha McCrary Oh, the worst is when we flip the flower fields because we landscape fabric everything and you have to pull all that up with the staples and pull out all the irrigation, till, put it all back down within a few days. It is the worst. But we can’t really hire it out because there’s just enough of us to do that and then we know how to do that task. So that is something I really— all of us dislike it, but we know we have to do it because we’re flipping those crops. That is one. And I really dislike hiring people because I think it’s stressful. I think we have great employees we’ve had for a long time. And when we do need to bring that next person in, I think it’s stressful because I don’t think you have the loyalty maybe you had ten years ago. There’s a lot of job bouncing.
Lisa Bass Yeah.
Natasha McCrary And that gets back into how am I going to reach scale if I don’t have someone here? I know like the lady who’s been with me for on her fourth year, the second season in flowers, she’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is so much easier. This is so much easier than last year.” And I was like, “Because you didn’t know any of that.” If you have to teach that every season, it’s hard to get ahead. It’s hard to make milestones if you’re having to reteach. Your motto is usually “you hire two and you hope one stays,” but we really want to hire two, and two stay. So I think that is, for me, hiring employees is never my favorite thing. And I hate to say that as a business owner, but I’m being honest. It just is.
Lisa Bass Yeah. Yeah. I find it very difficult, too. I have found, for my team, a handful of just absolute gems, but then I’ve also— it’s very tricky. And it’s harder to get to the point where the person is actually an asset to you, not taking more of your time than they’re taking off your plate is— there’s a definite long time in that. And so yeah, I do find that to be a challenge, too. I still think it’s really worth it. When you find the right person and you get past that phase, it’s really worth it. But it does not happen every time, like you mentioned, maybe like 2 to 1 or something. It’s definitely harder than it sounds.
Natasha McCrary Yes.
Lisa Bass What tips would you give if somebody has either a homestead or even just they want to start some kind of business just from their home? What are some tips or main tips that you would give for somebody who wants to get started? Maybe they’ve never tried anything at all.
Natasha McCrary Well, first I would do, like I was saying earlier, make sure what you’re wanting to do, there is a need for that. Make sure, like if you’re going to start a flower farm, make sure the person next door to you doesn’t have a flower farm. You know what I’m saying? I mean, it sounds simple. Then ensure that you have funds to support this, because I think a lot of times people get started and don’t realize there are—even in today, working from home—there are startup costs. And you want to be able to have your little nest egg to get that started. And going back to that, I would say, get your social media account set up, the email list set up, website. And a huge thing that I know people think this sounds crazy, but know you’re going to need to accept a credit card.
Lisa Bass Oh yes.
Natasha McCrary The number of people that I go to at a farmers market and they’re like, “We only take cash.” No, you would not believe. They’re like, “We don’t want to pay the fee.” And I’m like, “Well, I never have cash.” You need to have that.
Lisa Bass That is just— I’m sorry, but that’s so— you have to take a credit card. We even had a little homeschool maker’s market where my kids set up, and we had a Square. And I’m like, I know that if we’re setting up here, there’s just no way we’re going to get very many transactions if we’re only accepting cash. But do you come across that a lot?
Natasha McCrary Yes. I come across it a lot, and it’s surprising. But I’m like, “I promise you, if you take the credit card, you’re going to make more money at the end of the day.” And also a lot of new flower farmers, I see, oh, they told me they were going to buy it, and then I got the bouquet and they didn’t buy it. You know, I delivered it. Always take payment first. That’s why you need to have that website is if you’re going to do subscriptions, have the payment upfront. Sadly, sometimes that happens. But I hate to see someone put things out there. And start with little, like you said, like a homeschool market or a church market. When we really had our first— it was called Under the Christmas Tree and it was a school that had this, and we had this store that carried our products, and we really were able to set up a nice display. And those don’t cost a lot of money, but that’s also a way to see how products are going to be received. And don’t be discouraged. Like I said, I think a lot of people feel like, oh, I need to sell out every time or I have these expectations. Nothing happens overnight. You’re going to have to take baby steps and keep your eye on your end goal and kind of know it takes a little bit of time, word of mouth, and just make sure you are producing a quality product because you are not going to get repeat sales if the product is not high quality. It’s just not going to happen. And the packaging, you know, I’m particular on a label being straight. I am OCD on just little things that most people wouldn’t think. But I see them and it has to be a certain way where it’s a bow tied a certain way. I saw something the other day. They had a beautiful packaging, but the ribbons were frayed on the ends where they tied it and just took scissors. Little things like that make an impression. So make sure you’re thinking about those things that you may not really be thinking about, that somebody like me may be like, “Oh, I don’t know if I want that.” So, you know, there’s a lot of little things like that.
Lisa Bass Yeah. I feel like people want something that is handmade but not homemade. And a lot of those little details that you’re explaining to me make the difference between something that feels like a better product than something that is thrown together and homemade. Something that you can tell has had a lot of intention into all the little details of it. Okay. You mentioned market research. I’m curious just if somebody does want to start a flower farm, how do you figure that out? So somebody thinks, I’m going to start a flower farm because that sounds fun. What would you recommend just for this one particular example? We don’t have to go into all the different kinds of businesses, but for a flower farm. What would you—bare minimum—look into before doing that?
Natasha McCrary Well, number one is make sure you’re zoned correctly. And I know that may sound crazy, but there are some people that try and run a business out of their house and they’re zoned residential. So zoning is really important. Make sure you have your, you know, what type of licensing you’re going to have to have, which can tie into the zoning. And then you need to really start small. I started so much smaller than we are now, but find something that you know you can grow well so you’re going to have success. You need to think about how am I going to prepare the ground? Do I have a tiller? What am I going to do about irrigation? There’s a lot of just basic things— soil, seed. Those kind of things you have to think of at the beginning. Then you’re going to think about, okay, who’s going to buy my flowers? Because I think there’s nothing more discouraging than people who grow them and then they have no market for them. So that needs to tie back into your marketing. So I would always tell someone when you’re first starting, try and start small. Maybe find some subscriptions, or if some people want to grow for florists. Get your product—but it has to be great product—and take it into the florist. Take a bucket complimentary and say, “Here’s what I’m going to be doing. Do you have any need for this?” And also, believe it or not, think about colors. We color block our fields. But of course, there are some flowers that I love, but there is no market for them in the wedding design. I mean, there are not a lot of red and oranges when they’re having weddings. Sometimes people say, “Well, I don’t like to grow this.” Well, you need to think about what’s selling and not what you like to grow, because there’s a lot of things that I don’t love to grow, but we grow because I know they’re going to sell. So there’s a lot of research. And invest in yourself. I think you need to invest— there are some great online workshops. There’s tons of YouTubes that you can watch. And maybe if you say, “I want to just grow zinnias, I want to gomphrena.” Find a few things that you want to grow. Get yourself comfortable. Make sure there’s a market because there is a lot of expenses to go in when you go all out in a flower farm and you don’t want to have a waste of that. So start small because you can grow from every year. And depending on where you are, all of our tunnels are out. We’ll start harvesting in February. We go from February to November. Depending on your zone, there’s a lot of different flowers that can grow at different times depending on where you are in the United States, so you have different opportunities. What I find is the more successful we are in growing flowers at the time of year when other people can’t. So the average home gardener doesn’t realize I just planted everything a month ago that I’m going to be pulling in March, April, May. And they don’t have those flowers, but those flowers in the summer, everyone has. So their value is looked down upon. They have a lower value because everyone feels like they could grow that. So maybe you kind of bookend it and you do something that’s maybe early season tulips, and then maybe you do dahlias where you are. And maybe that’s also a strategy is if you’re going to start in, to start when there is a time that other people don’t have those things. The hardest time for a flower farmer, period, is July and August when everything’s at peak because people are on vacation. It’s the hot summer and then it’s a lot of things that other growers can grow, just the home gardener.
Lisa Bass Huh. That’s opposite of what you would think if you were just going right into it, but that makes a lot of sense on your explanation of why that would be. So it comes down to doing a lot of research on who you’re going to sell to, whether it’s florists, at markets, maybe to brides. And then figuring out when other people don’t have all their flowers growing, which flowers aren’t being grown locally. Yeah, that all seems like very smart due diligence.
Natasha McCrary And what we do in those months of July and August, we focus heavily on workshops, onsite workshops, because people are looking for experiences there. And we’re also churning out our subscriptions, but that’s the time when the flower field is, as far as you can look, there’s flowers. And people love coming and learning how to build a bouquet. So there’s another way if you do decide you want to grow, maybe adding workshops, which I know that’s another whole animal. People are terrified sometimes to have people out to their location. But I promise what you see and they see are probably two different things, but that’s another way just to—in those months—not just tie into, oh, I’m growing things other people can grow, but I’m offering you an experience that you can’t have anywhere else.
Lisa Bass Yeah. And everything’s in full bloom and beautiful. And maybe a lot of those flowers you can’t really sell because of all the other reasons you mentioned. But now people can experience what it looks like to have an overgrown, beautifully flowers everywhere garden. So I think that’s a really good way to diversify. Well, you’ve shared so many good tips and inspiration for anyone who wants to start a business from their farm or just in general. I think you can draw a lot of ideas from this, even for any kind of business. Where can everyone find you to get more information and follow up more on your tips and your farm or shop your bath and beauty products?
Natasha McCrary Oh, sure, Lisa. 1818Farms.com is our website. 1818 Farms is also our— you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and you can also find us on YouTube at 1818 Farms. We have a lot of flower tutorials. You can see a little bit more about behind the scenes of how we make the products and probably my most exciting thing that we grew last year is we grew the luffas— the gourds that are dishcloths. So we have a new video about that. That’s kind of cool.
Lisa Bass Oh, cool. Okay. Yeah, I’m looking through YouTube now and there looks like a lot of stuff that my listeners would be very interested in checking out. Well, thank you so much, Natasha, for joining us and sharing all of your wisdom and inspiration of being an entrepreneur over the last ten years. I really appreciate it.
Natasha McCrary Thank you for having me, Lisa.
Lisa Bass All right. Well, I hope that you enjoyed this interview and this episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast. Make sure to go check out 1818 Farms, browse through all of her products and then her YouTube videos where you can see the happenings on the farm, which look really fun and inspirational. As always, thank you so much for listening and I will see you in the next episode of the Simple Farmhouse Life podcast.