I was the epitome of the poor, broke, struggling college student. Whether it was rent, or car parts, or food, or going out on the weekend, there was always something I needed. So, to make ends meet, I started a lot of small businesses, and one of those was Larson’s Gardens.
If you garden or farm, you have to break up the soil every spring, making it easier for the seeds to sprout. The way you do that is you use a rototiller, a machine with tines that breaks up the soil. The only problem is, you really only have to do this once or twice a year, so most people feel hesitant about spending over $500 for a quality rototiller.
So, I bought myself a rototiller, and put out an ad in the local paper, and I had people calling me almost instantly. I met some really great people, and I made a good chunk of change to cover my rent.
Would Larson Garden’s have made me rich if I had stuck with it? Probably not. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Not only was the money great for a poor college kid, the experiences helped me in my career and life.
With spring in the air, I’ve been thinking more and more about my rototilling experiences, and what I learned from them. Here are the top three things I’ve learned from running a tiny business.
Lesson 1: Make sure you have the resources to get the job done.
If you know anything about rototillers, which most people don’t, you know that one of the best brands out there is Troy-Bilt. They’re heavy, and a little pricey, but they get the job done well. When people saw me pull that monster rototiller out of the back of my truck, they knew that I knew what I was doing.
No matter the size of your company, you need to have the right equipment to get the job done for your customers. Invest in your infrastructure, whether that be locations, equipment, or people. Do whatever it takes to get your business to a place where it can get the job done efficiently and well.
Lesson 2: Get your name out there, people are looking for you.
When I started my business, I thought just putting my ad on Craigslist would be enough. Unfortunately, a lot of the people with gardens were the older generation who didn’t use Craigslist. So I took out an ad in the local paper, and immediately I started to get a lot of calls.
Whatever your business, if you’ve had one customer, you’re going to have more. As long as you have the right product at the right price point, it’s just a matter of communicating that to your future customers. Find out where they’re at, craft the right message, and start talking.
There are customers out there looking for you, find them.
Lesson 3: Nothing beats genuine, in-person conversations
One of the biggest ways I found customers was word of mouth. When you actually talk to people and they know your name, something magic happens; you form an impactful memory in their mind that an email can never replicate. Meet people, talk to them, learn about them. Care about your customers, and they will feel it.
One of the biggest things we have going for us here at Lendio is every small business owner that comes through here is assigned a dedicated Loan Specialist. When I talk to people after they get funding, they always talk about their loan specialist. “Zach was so great, he felt like a member of my team” or “Matt was always there for me, whenever I have a question”. We have some really great technology, but nothing could replace that human interaction our Loan Specialists give.
Now, I’m sure a lot of you entrepreneurs out there have started multiple businesses in your lifetime. What lessons did you learn from your early efforts?