Gratitude and Growing Pains: A Year in Review
As we look back on the year 2015 we are filled with gratitude for all of it; the life lessons, challenges, growing pains and all the blessings (and there were so many)! All in all 2015 was a great year for Norm’s Farms. Sure, we had our difficulties, most notable being a recently totaled Norm’s Farms van (darn those kamikaze deer!), Ann’s broken foot, the horrid invasion of Japanese beetles and Asian fruit flies on our farm, and most painful, the loss of our two beloved Labradors, Marley and Cole.
The good times and successes were many, though, including adding many new stores and customers and growing by more than 60% over last year.
We couldn’t have grown without our incredible team. We are especially grateful to Carol Cesare who serves as our Demo Coordinator … and so much more … we’d be lost without her! Carol has found us many wonderful people to help with our demos in Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia and North Carolina, and is the best elderberry ambassador one could hope for. We are also so grateful for the wonderful marketing help we’ve received from Maddie, Brittany, and Forrest through Erin’s startup consultancy, The Food Mint.
Another great 2015 blessing was finding Ron and Kathy to rent our farm house and take care of the farm while we work the product business in NC. (You might have heard us say how incredibly difficult it is to manage a farm from 1000 miles away.) Of all the lessons we learned in 2015, the biggest lesson we learned is that we can’t do it all ourselves.
White Box to the Rescue
One of our challenges was presented by Amazon this fall when they decided that they could no longer carry our Elderberry Extract or Wellness Syrup because it is packaged in glass, contains over 4 ounces and isn’t boxed. Bummer! We had developed such a nice customer base on Amazon, too. While there are lots of good business reasons to switch to plastic, we immediately rejected plastic as a solution because it is so bad for the environment. Plastic never biodegrades; it just poisons our soil, water and food supply. We began exploring boxing options and just when the project was becoming too expensive, White Box came to the rescue. White Box specializes in e-commerce automation and has the resources and expertise we needed to quickly overcome the obstacles we faced in getting our products back on Amazon. We’ve been working with them for the past month to get set up and should be back on Amazon within a couple weeks. As a bonus they are setting us up on eBay and will be taking over the shipping of orders placed on our website, too. All of this seems like divine intervention as we’ve been struggling to keep up with the orders that a 60% growth rate generates! We will work closely with White Box to ensure that they provide the quick and reliable shipping we know our customers deserve and, as always, welcome any feedback you have regarding your experience.
Growing with Whole Foods and Jones Distribution
We absolutely love our relationship with Whole Foods. We’ve been fulfilling all of the Whole Foods orders ourselves, whether that is through direct store delivery or shipping, and again, have found ourselves struggling to keep up. Our sales through Whole Foods are up 144% over last year! We began looking for a distributor to take over our deliveries and, after a couple false starts, have partnered with Jones Distribution. Jones is a small company just like us, and Whole Foods is new customer for them. Jones will take over our deliveries on February 29, and we are so grateful for all the extra time that will give us.
Looking Forward to 2016
Perhaps the best part of finding partners like White Box and Jones Distribution is that we’ll be able to devote more energy to supporting the independent health food stores that carry our products. To these stores we owe so much! They gave us our start and are really the roots and soul of Norm’s Farms. We’ve come to know so many wonderful people who own and work in these stores by name. It will be great to have time to go by and visit and see what we can do to better serve them. We also plan to use the extra time that White Box and Jones Distribution will give us to find new customers and work on fun things like supply chain and product development.
Our goals for 2016 are built around our triple bottom line requirements of generating well-paying opportunities for the people that help Norm’s Farms; growing, buying and creating ingredients and products that are good for our health and the environment; and ensuring our profitability, too, so that we can keep on keeping on. The last two years have taught us that it is entirely possible to be a good company that cares for both people and the environment and still make a small profit. Small is good and sustainable, and ensuring sustainability for Norm’s Farms is our top priority.
And finally, we are especially grateful to have the company of Erin’s dog, Mo, who is staying with us for the next few months while Erin temporarily relocates to the San Francisco Bay Area to help a Food Mint client work on launching a food tech product. Mo is always up for an adventure and spreads joy everywhere he goes!
Happy New Year from Ann, Erin, and Rodger at Norm’s Farms!