I can hear you now…
“Open a store!???!? No No No…I’m trying to get rid of all that…now you ask me to get back into retail? No! I refuse!
Sorry, but we’ve gotta get real here. Unless you are independently wealthy, or planning to hit the lottery, you have to make money from your homestead…or go back to a regular job. You are probably trying to escape “The Life”, not escape having a life generally.
I have heard a ton of folks say they can’t sell…that they WON’T sell anything, and that they certainly won’t sell on commission.
Right here, let’s get real. If you make a living you sell…and you sell on commission whether you know it or not.
You are a computer programmer, not a salesman you say? Wrong…you sell your skills as a programmer every day you work, and you do it on commission. You are paid for results. No results, you get fired, so no pay. That is called commission sales whether you like it or not.
Everyone sells, if only themselves and their time, and everybody sells on commission unless they are a government or union worker beyond being fired…so let’s figure out what you as a homesteader have to sell and how to sell it.
Homestead types tend to be rather handy…if not at first then they teach themselves to be handy. They have to…a homesteader living on a homestead income cannot call a plumber for every leak or an electrician for every spark. They learn to be handy.
Let me say right here that I’m not suggesting you put yourself and family in danger by trying to fix an electrical problem beyond what you have learned about electricity…your safety always trumps saving a dollar.
Homestead types are also pretty crafty for the most part…and someone in the family is usually a pretty good cook.
Last, while some homesteaders like the fact that being hermit-like is possible with a homestead lifestyle, most homesteaders I know are social creatures. Indeed, a desire for an old-fashioned lifestyle including community gatherings like dances, church socials, neighbor-helping-neighbor things like barn raisings…these are indicative of a homestead mindset.
Keeping these things in mind…the handy-ness, the craftiness, the good cooking, the sociability…keeping these things in mind, a “farm store” of some sort is not just possible, but it fits right into the life we seek.
So…just what IS a farm store? Well, it can take many forms…and I have experienced two of them, with another just beginning. Let’s talk about these.
The simplest and most basic is referred to as “farm gate” sales. This is as simple as word getting around the community locally that you have products to sell over the “farm gate”. Products in this category can be things like free range eggs or raw milk from your goats or cows (check local laws regarding raw dairy). Farm gate sales can also include freshly canned goods like veggies and baked goods like bread and cakes.
Other items that would sell as add-ons might include homemade soaps and bath products, or raw honey if you have a few beehives.
With a large enough garden you might sell fresh vegetables and berries…with a small orchard neighbors might buy some of the fruit you produce. Believe me when I say that when folks find out you produce fresh, wholesome food items they WILL find you. I sold all the goat’s milk and free range eggs I could produce for a number of years…and could have sold twice as much had I had the production.
The second way I marketed my homestead was with a roadside stand. You would be amazed at how well you can do with a roadside stand, especially if you sell farm products, either those your farm produces or those you buy to re-sell. For 7 years I had a converted 5×12 landscaping trailer with a plywood floor and plywood walls 3 ft high with a 12 inch countertop that I used to sell a variety of products from on Friday afternoons, Saturday afternoons, and Sunday afternoons, at a local busy intersection, as well as at a local farmer’s market on Saturday mornings. I sold a variety of items, but the two constants were two locally favorite southern impulse snacks…freshly deep fried pork skins and hot boiled peanuts…and had portable signage (think roadside real estate signs) along the roadside leading to the corner from all four directions (don’t forget to take them home at night…they’ll be gone the next day if you forget).
Once folks stopped, they found the roadside stand sold a lot more than peanuts and pork skins…the same canned veggies, homemade soap, and other farmgate items, along with a few things to hook the traveling tourists like some Appalachian mountain crafts, homemade jellies and jams, etc. Heck…I even figured out how to make funnel cakes with less than $50.00 worth of equipment.
If I knew you, raw goat’s milk and the best artisanal raw milk feta cheese was available as well…LOL.
Now, for the spring of 2010, I’ve changed my marketing for what I hope is the last time.
After recovering from some serious health issues last year and not having my roadside stand open, I’ve decided I am tired of setting up and tearing down my roadside setup four times a week, including twice on Saturdays. For several months I’ve been thinking of having a static location…a permanent retail outlet of sorts. The roadblock to this was the same as the roadblock you may run into…the cost of renting/leasing a retail location, along with the associated permits and licenses it takes to open a traditional retail store, just aren’t compatable with a homestead/farmstead budget.
Then I stumbled on this…
…and the adventure began.
The building…shack really, is at the local flea market, and I rented it for…well…let’s just say the rent was below cheap…and it included utilities!
As you can see, the appearance was less than desired, and it has taken a lot of work…with more to come…to make it what it needs to be. Let’s just say it is a work in progress…but it works. The JuicyMaters.com store opened this last weekend selling the same items I sold from the roadside stand. More items will be added as time goes by…more crafts, more baked goods (Apple Dumplings to die for this last weekend…along withChocolate Chip Cookies, Oatmeal cookies, the boiled peanuts, and more…).
The accompanying pictures show the building needed a LOT of work, and the location is not perfect, but the appearance is greatly improved with a very little budget and a lot of elbow grease. There are two things a person has to spend…time and money. Homesteaders have more of the first than the second, so find a place that needs work and is inexpensive. If you sell quality products (that people want) at a fair price, folks will find you…even hidden in an obscure flea market.
So…like I said at the first of the article…Open a store!!!
Like all articles on this blog, this is a discussion, not a lecture. I’m no homesteading expert…just an observant homesteader. Comments, questions, and shared ideas are not only welcomed…they are encouraged. Please make liberal use of the comment box below each entry.