Mountain BizWorks helps young farmers grow business roots

Published 10:43 pm Monday, November 18, 2013

Mountain BizWorks supports farm and food-related businesses with training, technical assistance, specialized resources and lending opportunities.
The next chance to participate in training happens on Dec. 5 at the Depot Room in Tryon, when Mountain BizWorks presents a one-day business retreat, Lighthouse Business Planning Essentials. Small farms like Yielding Branch LLC have benefitted from the experience with Mountain BizWorks business training, and have quickly become known in the community for unique offerings.
Yielding Branch Farm owners Christopher Chemsak and Paige Paris were newly wed in January 2013 and entrepreneurs in a Mountain BizWorks Foundations course by March.
Armed with axes, shovels, books and “seed money” as wedding gifts, they moved everything they owned into a 30-foot RV in Columbus to manage a farm-to-table restaurant’s organic gardens.
In addition to providing for the restaurant, the couple sold extra yields. Their venture to start an agriculture-based business had begun.
“We were very familiar with BizWorks from previous residence in Asheville, but we hadn’t put much thought into the idea of crafting our food production into a bona fide small business until we were encouraged along by Polk’s agricultural economic development people,” said Chemsak.
By week three of the foundation’s class, however, they realized they had gravely underestimated business ownership in general.
“All through the late winter and early spring, we crunched numbers in between moving wheelbarrows of compost, forking the soil, planting seeds and renovating the greenhouse. With no income whatsoever, our ‘seed money’ was dwindling fast. And for newlyweds spending the winter in a three season trailer, the whole experience was a tad bit overwhelming, to say the least,” the couple shared.
Despite these difficulties, Christopher and Paige formed Yielding Branch LLC, opened a business checking account, and created detailed cash flow estimates to monitor their spending.
“We got a logo, launched a website and showed up at the local farmers’ market with a professionally made banner,” Paris said. “The foundations course gave us the motivation and wisdom to be a legitimate and successful business by acting like a legitimate and successful business from the get-go. The class’s curriculum and our instructor’s activities prompted us to draw inspiration from related businesses, look for a niche market and to stay true to ourselves and the visions we hold as business owners. By imagining ourselves as our own customers, we intuitively, but carefully, designed our business model and strategies based on the values that we share with our target market.”
The first line of business for Yielding Branch was the wholesale and retail sale of organic produce, including specialty microgreens.
They planned from the beginning to allow their LLC to encompass an array of sales and services, among these being youth mentoring, gardening and permaculture workshops, landscape design consultation and installations.
“The Mountain BizWorks course provided us with insight on how to assess the potential viability of diversified ventures under one enterprise, and we learned not to rush such pursuits,” Chemsak said.
In less than a year since formation, Yielding Branch LLC has generated a good customer following in an area with a small potential target market and has received press multiple times.
Yielding Branch LLC considers their most successful endeavor at this point to be a niche Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group in which shareholders receive fermented food products from local, organic ingredients grown by Yielding Branch gardens and other area farms.
Any owner may register his or her business for the upcoming retreat, Lighthouse: Business Planning Essentials, and gain tools for record-keeping, insight into marketing and financial concepts and applications.
Entrepreneurs starting or operating agricultural enterprises will receive an additional industry-specific resource packet.
This action-packed one-day business training, Dec. 5 from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. at The Depot Room in Tryon, requires pre-registration.
For more information, contact Ashley Epling at 828-253-2834 ext. 27 or
The event is co-sponsored by the Polk County Economic & Tourism Development Commission and Carolina Foothills Chamber of Commerce.
– article submitted by Jo Ann Miksa-Blackwell

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