Friday, December 11, 2015

Fresh and healthy foods

     Many of us raise a few veggies that end up on our tables. Fresh foods are tasty and healthy. Plus, you get the fun of growing your own.
     It's common to find tomatoes and peppers growing in backyards in summer. And many people raise basil, parsley and other herbs on patios, decks, and windowsills. 
     Fresh vegetables and herbs represent business opportunities. It can be more than the farm stands and farm market possibilities that many farmers appreciate and take advantage of. 

     Lettuce farming -- Jean had a big backyard. She hired a handyman to construct raised beds in which she planted lettuce. Not just one type of lettuce, but two dozen different types. She planted the seeds, and while waiting for the lettuce to grow, she contacted several restaurants to arrange sales. Chefs appreciated lettuce harvested to their needs and delivered the same day. Jean was quickly in her own business, providing fresh lettuce of various types to restaurants, caterers, health food stores and others. She hired the handyman again to construct more raised beds. She now covers the beds to extend the growing season, and she has added more greens to her offerings. 

     Kale farming -- Ted had long raised many greens, herbs and other veggies. He sold his produce at his own farm stand, at farm markets, and to others. One popular green was kale, and he raised several different types. He noticed that last year's crop of kale then produced buds the following spring. On a hunch, he offered the kale buds to several chefs. They got excited about the possibilities and incorporated the buds into recipes. They now offer kale bud omelets, along with various appetizers. Ted now lets his kale crop overwinter, confident of extra sales in early springtime.

     Purslane farming -- Phil established an organic farm. He raised many veggies and he sold to specialty stores and restaurants. He had a problem with purslane--it seemed to grow everywhere. It was a big weeding problem. One day, Phil's grandmother visited. She was enthusiastic about the purslane, asking him to bring her several big bunches. Some she fried, some she put into omelets, and some she threw into a big pot of soup. Suddenly, Phil loved purslane, and he began offering bunches to his customers. He found he had to educate most of them, but the extra source of income was good.  

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Growing slowly from within

     You can grow a business quickly or slowly. Quick usually means going for funding. Slow growth takes place from within--by reaching out to new groups of customers.

     Enhancing appeal  Alice runs a pet supply store--no animals here, but everything a pet owner might want. She decided to add puppies--not for sale, but from local adoption agencies. She installed the puppies in her front window and she posted pictures of them on social media. She also took selfies and posted a deadline date (when the puppy was to be returned to the adoption agency). This created a sense of urgency and brought people into the store--buying all sorts of supplies, and sometimes going home with a puppy. Her business expanded.

     Enhancing experience  Joan's salon got a bump in calls when she invited holistic practitioners to offer introductory demonstrations and information about their services. Experts in nutrition, hypnotherapy and massage created buzz for the salon, not only among regulars but new activities brought in referrals as well.

     Enhancing services  Bill's landscaping service got a big bump in sales when he added to the services he offered. For years, he concentrated on maintaining lawns and trimming shrubbery. In winter, he concentrated on snow removal. But he needed more jobs--he needed to appeal to more people. When he began offering concrete work, curbing, brick and stone walkways, more clients called. When he added building fences and gates to his list of services, Bill expanded again.

     Growing a business takes time if you grow it from within. You can add related services and you can get creative with promotions. But avoid being in as hurry. Let your business settle into the community, become a part of people's lives, attract attention and referrals. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Customers know your future

     Clients and customers will tell you what they want. If they don't, ask them. The resulting conversations can be gold mines of new ideas for you to grow, expand, and--maybe--go off into a new direction.

     Restaurant -- Eve runs a popular restaurant for corporate types in her area. It is a destination for the lunchtime crowd. One of her customers asked Eve if she might be planning to get her own app for the restaurant. Eve investigated and decided that it would be a good idea. Today, Eve's restaurant has its own app. Customers can check out the daily specials and order ahead--as they leave their offices and get on the road. When they arrive, their meals are ready. They sit down and are pleased with the new service.

     Chiropractic -- John is a chiropractor. One of his clients asked him to recommend a nutritionist--this lady wanted help getting in better shape. Today, John has arranged with a certified nutritionist to be on hand every Friday to talk about nutrition, weight problems, make recommendations, answer questions, and hand out information on foods and meals. John announces these sessions on social media every week. The sessions are well attended and they are bringing new clients to John.

     Attorney -- Eric is an attorney with his own private practice. While working with a client on a business problem, the client asked how to handle a simple traffic ticket. This led Eric to think about how to use this to bring in new clients. Today, Eric offers a series of informational brochures on common problems--how to react to a lawsuit, simple traffic problems, different ways to organize a business, what to do when you get a subpoena, elder care problems, and more. No legal advice is offered, just general information. He has these printed brochures displayed in his office, on his website, and he sends out the word on social media. This activity brings in new clients for more substantial legal questions and undertakings. 

     You already stay on top of your marketplace. But your customers and clients can point you to the leading edge of the marketplace. They can put their finger on something you might not have yet thought about. Ask them what else you can do the them. Listen to their answers.