Elizabeth holds a Bachelor's of Science in Sociology with a Concentration in Business Management from Northern Kentucky University, a certificate in Culinary Arts from New River Community and Technical College and a graduate-level business certificate from Shenandoah University.
Give us your “elevator pitch”:
My name is Elizabeth Melson. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and now reside in the Northern Piedmont region of Virginia. At 34, I am almost too old to qualify as a millennial, so I appreciate being included in Hannah Becker’s Millennial Spotlight Series. I founded Farm-to-Table Solutions with the purpose of offering free-lance administrative and marketing services to small family farms, sustainable agriculture organizations, farmers’ markets, artisan food producers, farm-to-table restaurants and retailers, and producers of natural body care.
Services I offer include social media and online marketing management, DIY websites, E-newsletters, advertisement design, agri-tourism event planning, assistance with administering buying clubs and Community Supported Agriculture memberships, local sourcing and menu planning, human resources recruitment and I am even willing to offer seasonal farm labor.
When were you “bitten” by the entrepreneurial bug?
After a particular farm position did not pan out as planned, I accepted a social media and online marketing position with an automotive dealership. My very first day, I came down with the flu. I was sick my entire short-lived stint in the automotive industry. At the end of my second week, my employment was terminated. I was never able to shine and nearly physically unable to state my case due to laryngitis.
Mortified and discouraged, I searched for jobs in my desired field of sustainable agriculture and most were 60 hour farm hand positions. I was not afraid of the physical exertion such a schedule requires, however, the number of hours away from my daughter were undesirable.
There are particular tasks I am good at and enjoy doing, for a specific clientele and I realized a need for those services exist. Many farmers, chefs and artisans are too busy farming, cooking and crafting to spend hours doing the necessary business tasks of entering data, writing, designing, posting and Tweeting. I began marketing myself as a free-lance professional and it worked!
What’s been the hardest part about starting your own business as a millennial entrepreneur?
It was actually very easy. I purchased Microsoft Office 365 and a GoDaddy domain and website. I opened Facebook, Twitter, and MailChimp accounts and started an email campaign to farms and farmers’ markets in my targeted geographic area, using our local Buy Fresh Buy Local directory. My start-up costs for my first month totaled about twenty one dollars.
Of course, there was fear and self-doubt. However, the weekend I started my email campaign I immediately received phone calls and I knew that I was on the right track.
What resources have you found helpful in blazing your own trail?
Rational-Emotive Behavioral Therapy! This is a self-help method of viewing interactions and obstacles more objectively, by internally disputing any unproductive feelings about the interaction or obstacle and consequently, behaving more rationally and proactively. When our emotions are appropriate for the situation, we are better at decision-making.
Any software or program that can help me stay organized is essential to my success. I could open my Accounting Principles textbook from grad school and read what seems to be a foreign language to me. Or, I could track my income and expenses in a user-friendly program that is linked to my banking account, which categorizes the data automatically, saving time and eliminating procrastination.
I don’t claim that I know how to do everything. I seek help from other professionals when I am faced with an obstacle I don’t have the skills or patience to overcome. Recently, I came across some photography and web design work that was really impressive. I made sure I had the contact information for the millennial credited with the work. It came in handy when a client’s website crashed and I didn’t know how to fix it. I sent an email to Eastflower Industries and we met to go over my options for resolving the issue.
Who’s your entrepreneurial hero?
To stay true to my value of being a locavore and sustainable farmer groupie, I cannot pass up the opportunity to point out that I have multiple local and regional entrepreneurial heroes in agriculture, specifically. Both, millennial and baby boomers. I must mention Millennials Mike and Molly Peterson of Heritage Hollow Farms in Sperryville, Virginia. They are who I first came across in my exploration into sustainable agriculture and I have enjoyed following their journey to success in their farming and photography endeavors. They operate a farm, farm store and delivery network with integrity and a genuine interest in doing what is good for the environment, animal welfare and consumer health. Molly partnered with fellow sustainable farmer, Forrest Prichard, on the book Growing Tomorrow that is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.
What advice do you have for today’s aspiring entrepreneurs?
First, read everything you can on business and the subject you are interested in. Try it out, if applicable. Shadow someone doing what you would like to do. Then, just do it. There will never be a time where all factors line up perfectly, creating the optimal conditions to start a business. If you aren’t satisfied with the direction of your life or your finances, you really don’t have anything to lose.
I started my business with a twenty-five dollar Visa gift card. You can find a way to finance your start-up without blowing your life-savings and especially if you don’t have any savings. Your venture does not have to be a multi-national corporation. Entrepreneurship is flexible. Your business can be a supplement to spousal income or your sole income. Hannah states in her book that a simple small business can earn the start-up capital for your next great idea.
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