These farmers learned to build their brand and create a website they can control
Michael and Christy Rose are the husband and wife team behind Southwest Gamebirds, a family farm that focuses on research and propagation of game birds. Whether it’s hatching eggs, live birds or even frozen quail, they have a passion for game birds, such as Coturnix quail.
So, how did these guys find their way into the world of gamebirds?
“Now that’s a story!” Michael says. “We both studied chemistry, earned graduate degrees, and had nice careers ahead of us. A year or two into this we saw our lives flash before our eyes. We were in the rat race. So we decided to get out while we still could. I’ve always enjoyed genetics research, and we like the business case for quail as an undeveloped industry. We spent our first year learning from the experts and studied quail characteristics at a biochemical level. We modified a few things in our husbandry practices and our customers noticed, so now they’re very loyal since our quality is hard to match. Our growth was slow at first like a lot of businesses, and it’s been a tough switch from our desk jobs, but I think we’ve set our farm up for long-term success. We’re in a really interesting industry and it has a lot of potential.”
One of the keys to success in many small businesses is to focus. Too many businesses, especially small farms, try too many enterprises or product lines and never achieve excellence or profitability in any one area. Michael and Christy are keeping it simple, focusing almost exclusively on quail and quail eggs.
So, with a focused business plan and a passion for genetics, why did Michael and Christy engage with Small Farm Nation?
“Before we joined Small Farm Nation we had a one page website that couldn’t handle transactions properly, and didn’t know anything about farm marketing. We were basically surviving off of word of mouth advertising.”
And that’s how most small farms start, with one local customer at a time. But it’s hard to scale and grow that way. The successful farming businesses we all know and admire learned that, at some point, they had to establish a farm brand that resonates with potential customers. That way, the farm could become a magnet that attracted customers to them rather than constantly having to hunt for customers.
“Small Farm Nation taught us how to build our brand, and gave us the resources to create a custom website that we could control. Tim has also been a great help whenever I break our website. I remember one time I loaded 70,000 zip codes into a plugin, not knowing this would crash the entire site. Tim had it running again within a couple of hours and gave me some advice on how to accomplish my goals without breaking the website again.”
Today, Southwest Gamebirds has a beautiful website that makes it easy for customers to find them, and make purchases online. Hindsight is 20:20, of course, but that doesn’t mean other farmers can’t learn from Michael and Christy’s experience. So we asked Michael what he sees as the most challenging part of running a profitable farm business and what he wishes they would have focused on earlier.
“I think this is different for every farm, but for us it was sales. Our product is so specialized that we couldn’t just go to a farmers market and sell what we produced. Instead, we had to tap into specific market segments nationally and grow our brand awareness online. Sales and marketing are not our skillset, so I think if we were able to give ourselves advice a few years ago it would have been to find a way to learn or outsource what we weren’t good at as soon as possible. A business is nothing without sales and marketing; it literally can’t exist without them. It’s hard to put a value on the kind of service and response time we get from Small Farm Nation. For us, it’s just one more thing not to worry about, which is important when you’re starting a business.”
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