Update From Norm’s Farms: Taking time, Taking Stock
I like to post an update from Norm’s Farms around the first of every year and I blew it this year. Ever heard of the phrase “up, periscope”? It feels like today is the first day I have had in months to step back from the day to day operations of our food start up and take a look at where we are in the grand scheme of things. Another phrase with a similar meaning is “Make sure you are not so busy working in your business that you don’t have time to work on your business”. Norm’s Farms has been rocking and rolling, and as I reflect on our experience over the past year and work our plans for this year, it becomes obvious that we are seriously blessed with great customers and great partners. The business partnerships that make the difference are the ones that help us with distribution, sales, promotion and business management. Their help is so essential to delivering the friendly and responsive customer service that is so important to us. My “up, periscope” exercise is the reason for this post, and it fills me with gratitude!
Business Partnerships That Make the Difference
2016 was the year that we were able to put together business partnerships that allowed us to continue growing at a fairly remarkable rate. Rodger and I work 7 days a week at Norm’s Farms and there is a limit to how much two people can accomplish. Success begets success and at some point a small business like ours needs more hands on deck. We have been blessed to find some great BtoB partners that have not only provided those helping hands but have done so with skill, dependability and good humor too!
We are especially excited about our relationship with Garden Spot, a distributor that specializes in distribution for small businesses like ours. They distribute to small and medium sized health food stores and grocers throughout the east coast and to some Midwest locations too, and these stores seem to be a great fit for our products. Thanks to Garden Spot we are now in 10 stores in Pennsylvania, 9 stores in New York, 3 stores in New Jersey, a couple stores each in Connecticut, Ohio, Virginia, and Massachusetts, and we just got into our first store in Texas! We try to keep our Where to Buy page updated each month with the new locations as we add them. If you haven’t been by our Where to Buy page, take a visit…perhaps our products are now in a store near you!
We are also collaborating with a small family owned distribution company named Rewco and they are managing our deliveries to a brand-new store in the Raleigh area named Sprouts. Sprouts will be opening a store in Charlotte soon and Rewco will make sure that our line of jams are stocked there too.
B&B Pecans is managing our distribution to the Lowes, Kroger and Harris Teeter stores in North Carolina where you can find our jams in their local products section.
White Box is our on-line fulfillment partner and they keep things humming along for us. They provide the kitting, distribution and delivery of our on-line orders, making sure that people receive their orders in boxes that are packed nicely and don’t break, and even do a bit of our website management too. If you have ordered from us on the Norm’s Farms website in the past year you undoubtedly noticed that our products came to you from Amazon, and that is because White Box uses Amazon for their distribution.
We are excited about a new relationship we’ve begun with OE Enterprises! OE is a sheltered workshop located in Burlington, NC. They will be taking over the shipping of our wholesale orders that aren’t covered by the distributors we work with. We just got started with them this week and if all goes well it should free up some time for us to do some more work on our business.
A huge shout of thanks goes out to Maddie and Erin at The Food Mint for helping us manage our demo schedule and for helping us find the many amazing women and men that serve as our elderberry ambassadors. Perhaps you’ve had the pleasure of running into Ira in the Raleigh area, or Pam in Chattanooga, TN, or Marcia in the Asheville area of Western NC? I am so thankful for them and for Carol, Brittany, Deborah, Morgan, Ginny, Dan, Tracy, Suzanne and Megan for the great job they all do at spreading the good word about elderberry! Evan is starting up soon for us in Nashville TN, and we are always on the lookout for more people to add to our Elderberry Ambassador team. We could definitely use some help up in Virginia. If you know of anyone who enjoys visiting with people and giving away free samples, please send them our way!
Fresh Nation is another new partner that we have really enjoyed. They have helped us get our jams into 16 Fresh Markets in North Carolina and are so fun and easy to work with. They are now presenting our supplements and new line of Elderflower Syrups to Fresh Market and we are keeping our fingers crossed.
The North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Got To Be NC program and the Specialty Foods Association are tremendous partners. They provide us with so many opportunities in the way of trade shows, conferences, and networking. North Carolina has one of the most active Department of Agriculture communities and I’m sure that is why North Carolina has a booming agricultural economy with over 84 billion in business each year!
We are also incredibly grateful for the help we get from our SCORE mentors, Arlene Kaplan and John Bartelme. SCORE, aka Service Corps Of Retired Executives, is an organization comprised of volunteers that mentors small business owners and operators and can help people dreaming about starting their own small business or those looking to grow their businesses. We meet with John and Arlene every month or so and they bring so much insight and wisdom to our business problems and opportunities.
Our Plans for 2017: To Infinity and Beyond!
I swear sometimes that I am married to Buzz Lightyear, because Rodger and Buzz have so much in common. Its a blessing to spend your life with a happy, optimistic person. When we were discussing our goals for 2017 and I asked Rodger how much he thought we could grow this year, he replied “To Infinity and Beyond!” Those who know me well will not be surprised to hear that I responded “Come on, be real, what do you really think we can do?” And those who know Rodger well will not be surprised to hear that he responded with “I am serious!” Norm’s Farms may not be the rocket that will take us to infinity and beyond, but it moves plenty fast enough for us. We are really happy to report 58% growth for the first quarter of 2107 and hope that we can maintain that pace, because it’s so much fun. We have just launched three new products and are grateful that we are heading into our slow season so that we’ll have time to hit the road and share them with everyone. We owe much to our talented partners, and hope 2017 will be a year filled with blessings for all of you.