Even from a young age, my mom taught me how to be business savvy. She is a creator, she can sew, craft, and look at something and figure out how to make it. She was also passionate about passing on a good work ethic to her children. I’m left handed and patience is not one of my best virtues, but that didn’t stop her from working with me for years to learn to sew. Looking back now, I only hope to have half the dedication she did in teaching my kids so many valuable lessons.
My Mom was raised on a cherry farm and knew after every harvest there would be cherries left on the tree that would go to waste if not picked. So every Friday evening during cherry harvest time, she would pack us all up and head to the cherry orchard. We would pick, and let me tell you, cherry picking is not an easy task! It is grueling, difficult and exhausting, but she would always motivate us by saying that if we picked enough we could sell them for $5 a pound at the local farmer’s market. After hours of picking we would drive home and wash all the cherries, and you can’t just hose them all down because the cherries will bruise (and ugly cherries don’t sell for $5 a lb!), so we would have to very delicately wash each of them.
Saturday would come and my Mom would always insist we get up early so we could be the first booth set up, I remember getting super annoyed. Why did it matter that we were the first booth set up? She would tell us that if we wanted to get top dollar for our cherries we needed to be the first ones there, so we would arrive early, set up our booth and try to display our cherries in the most appealing way possible, showcasing our beautiful, washed cherries (our competitors didn’t wash their cherries), ready for sampling.
Then my mom would advise us that if someone buys a 5lb bag to always throw a few extra in for them, it will keep them coming back knowing they are getting a good deal and they will tell their friends. Even when we had unhappy customers, my Mom would encourage us to figure out how to use the criticism to better our business and stand out from our competitors. The lessons I learned were invaluable, and I loved the feeling of working to earn money. That money helped me buy school clothes, attend fun activities, buy my first car and it taught me so much more. It made me curious about business and it showed me the possibilities that could open up with an entrepreneurial outlook.
At first when I started Hope Unseen and my Stella & Dot business, I was overwhelmed with all of the information about success and business out there, but after a while I realized that those basic lessons from the Farmer’s Market were the best possible foundation for success; if you go the extra mile you’ll make customers happy, humility in the face of nay sayers is what sets you apart, don’t be afraid to try new things, put the customer first, and most of all, work your little fanny off!
Many days, even now, I feel like I’m just that kid at the cherry stand selling the best darn cherries out there!