Surviving the first year is a challenge for any small business, and it really doesn’t get any easier after that. Not quite 75 per cent make that first crucial 12 months and less than one-third are still in business after five years.
Karla Folstad owns and operates Family Farmers, www.familyfarmers.com, an Internet technology business, designing and building websites, near Archerwill, Saskatchewan. Her farm-based business has beaten the odds — it’s not only survived, it’s thrived for more than 10 years, and she shares what she feels helped her success.
“Timing. When I was 12 I asked my dad for a pony. He brought home a Vic 20 computer instead and told me this would make me a better living than a ‘hay burner.’ He was right. I had a natural aptitude for the computer and from that moment on it’s been part of my life. Wanting to raise my children on the family farm, however, posed a few dilemmas. Employment is not plentiful in rural Saskatchewan, so the simplest solution was to create my own. Now remember, this is back before anyone had anything but dial up in rural Saskatchewan, and the majority
of people didn’t even own a computer much less surf the Internet. Family Farmers was a leader in our market; we established a new breed of website owners — the little guy.
“Education. I enrolled in a small business entrepreneur’s course through a regional college and learned a great deal of tips and tricks; it was by far the best six months I spent.
“Marketing — trade shows that reached our market — rural Saskatchewan. Some of the most fun we ever had was touring the countryside and hitting town fairs.
“After that it’s simple. The customer is ALWAYS right, even when he’s wrong, but you are the designer. Your customer came to YOU for help — so help.”
A little more than a decade has wrought changes in the agribusiness world. In 1999, she brought her dad into the business because she knew that clients would be more likely to come in if they knew there was a man involved. She rented office space in town because home-based businesses weren’t taken quite so seriously.
Much has changed in 12 years. She’s been able to move her office to her farmhouse and she sees positive shifts in attitudes as she watches her daughters moving into the workforce as employees or business owners.
“Family Farmers will continue to grow as it does, by recommendation of our clients. I’m not afraid to say I have turned down clients, simply because what they were looking for did not fit our niche. We will continue to offer the best service and the fairest price possible. It’s always been our goal; it always will be,” she says.
Family Farmers is at www.familyfarmers.com. Karla can be
reached at [email protected] For samples of her work check
Employment is not plentiful in rural Saskatchewan, so the simplest solution was to create my own.