Monday, January 28, 2008

As if I don't have enough to do already...

there is yet another thing on my plate! After talking with Tony about it, and even more importantly praying about it, I have begun a new business venture!

First, some background. Our market buys many of its products from Minnesota companies -- we love promoting Minnesota items along with our produce. There are so many tourists in this area and most of them are looking for "something Minnesota" to take home with them. However, there are several other products (unusual flavors of jams and jellies, unique salsa blends, asparagus guacamole, really good licorice, old fashioned coconut bars -- although why anyone would want to eat coconut is still beyond me! -- old fashioned pop flavors in glass bottles, etc.) that we carry that sell quite well. Tony found this company about 15 years ago called Farm Markets of Ohio who carries all this stuff so you can order from one place instead of hunting down all kinds of different distributors. Well, about three years ago, I was going thru their newest annual catalog, and it listed the main employees. I noticed the name of the president of the company, one John Webel, and thought....I know this guy. That is not a very common last name! And I knew he lived in the general vicinity of this company. So I got on the phone and called them. The gal who answered my call must've thought I was nuts! Here is one of their customers starting to ask all these personal questions about her boss. Does he live in the Austintown area? Does he have two daughters? Finally, realizing what a nut I must've sounded like, I explained myself. (although I must insert here that I was talking with a lady that I usually talked to whenever ordering...she knew me pretty well from phone orders and such...but she still must've had red flags waving!) I told her that I grew up in that area (which I'd told her before) and that a John Webel went to my parents' church and that I even babysat his daughters years before once or twice. She became much more open then and I found was the same guy! What a small world, hm?

Well, Farm Markets of Ohio has since changed their name to Greenstar Farm Markets. They are really expanding their customer base but need more people, especially in different areas of the country, to help them out. That's where I come in. When the kids and I were in Ohio last year, we toured the facilities and met all the voices hear in my head (when I talk to them on the phone, that is!). And John asked if I'd consider being their contact person in Minnesota, talking to other farm markets and similar vendors about ordering product through them. "I'd consider it," I told him, not sure what my schedule would actually allow. I honestly didn't give a whole lot more thought to it, given how hectic schedule was last summer.

Well, in November he sent a basic agreement to me, we hashed out some details when we were in Ohio and I saw him at church, and I set the letter aside again, meaning to call him earlier this month. Well, John called me first, and after taking a realistic look at my schedule and responsibilities, talking with Tony, checking online to see what kind of customer base is potentially within Minnesota, and praying about things, I told John "sure!"

Sunday they are flying me to Ohio for a day and a half of training. I'll be representing them at our state's Fruit and Vegetable Farmers convention in St. Cloud the following week, and I hope to get lots of customers signed up at that time. Another answer to prayer about all this is when I called today to sign up for the trade show at the conference and explained what I'd be displaying, the lady in charge gave me the best table in the trade show area! I'll be right in front of the main door, right next to the "hospitality table" with all the donuts and coffee and such. Wow! I never imagined what a great location I'd get, especially this late in signing up!

I'm nervous. I have time in the winter months to do calls and letters to potential customers. Time to make a few trips down to Southern Minnesota in the Spring where there are so many orchards and other u-pick venues (perfect customer-candidates). Doing follow-up calls and such during the summer months when most of these businesses are open shouldn't be a problem at all. GSF covers all business expenses plus gives me a good commission on orders made, which will definitely help pay down that mortgage I wrote about in my last blog! But I expressed some of these fears to John...we are so busy with the farm and market...I have two little children who take up so much of my time...what if I don't generate enough business to make it worth their while in flying me to Ohio to train me? His answer, "that's the price of doing business."

I'm leaving the details in God's hands. Doing the best of my ability to help promote a company who has some great products and super friendly employees. And I'm so thankful for doors God has already opened...time to do training before this conference, the best location at the trade show, and a "boss" who I know is an ethical Christian man, who told me he understands my time will be limited as to what I can invest during the summer months because of the kids and other things.

One of the coolest things about all this? John called to get me on the bandwagon the same day that Tony filed all the paperwork transferring the Market to us....we took a leap of faith buying the Market, hoping and praying but not sure if financially we could swing everything but knowing God would provide, even with a business that so much depends on weather.

There is more potential business opportunity on my end with GreenStar Farm Markets, but I can't go into that right now. Just keep us in your prayers that God would help us make the most of this opportunity, that I would be able to do my best for GreenStar and Red Wagon Farm and Watkins and my family and most importantly GOD. It sounds like alot, but each takes up time in different ways and at different times. Pray that I would be a good manager of my time and that I'd never neglect my family or God while meeting the responsibilities of these three things I'm involved with. There are some great things in the works with all three things right now, and I thank God for it...and am depending on Him greatly to show me what His will is in each area.

Well, that's all for now, folks! More blog to follow at another time....

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