• Smoke Signal Media

Cultivate — Growing Your Business From the Ground Up

Updated: Jun 10, 2020

We’re working in strange times. A global pandemic, wildly fluctuating market, fear of another economic recession…there are many factors working against individuals trying to keep their small businesses afloat. All the while, we’re trying to maintain some sort of sanity and routine to keep the panic at bay. Tracy and I have both struggled over the past month to find a rhythm between work and outdoor time to keep calm and find a way to release some of the stress everyone around us is feeling. Being that our company was founded on the necessity of sharing stories and shaped by our experiences in the outdoors, it’s only natural we would find peace and comfort in nature. Stepping out into the garden has not only given our minds and bodies reprieve from the difficulties of running a business, it has inevitably highlighted the correlation between growing a garden and growing a successful business.

Breaking Ground — Setting a Solid Business Foundation

Gardening in East Tennessee can be challenging. Our soil is full of rocks and a majority of it is red clay, so those that wish to start a garden need to consider how to work with the soil by choosing crops that will survive, or by altering it in some way. I was working at a farm in Walland this past week, pulling radishes and turnips, marveling at how tough and unrelenting the ground can be. So much work has to be put into starting a garden to make sure your plants will even survive here, that early on someone may even question “Is it worth it?”. Through diligent tilling, mixing in compost, and selecting plants adaptable to our region and growing conditions, you can start with a strong foundation. The same can be applied to your business. You must have a strong foundation to build, and eventually, grow upon. Without it, failure is inevitable. A couple things that can contribute to fertile ground to build your business on:

  • Separate your business life from your personal life — This might seem like a no brainer, but the reason this is at the top of the list is because it can be the one thing that makes or breaks a small business. Designate a workspace with professional surroundings to put yourself in the right frame of mind, as well as designating work hours so you don’t mix family time with work time. This is currently a priority, as the Covid-19 pandemic “safer at home” order has been in place for over a month, and many business owners are finding themselves working from home full time for the first time. Most importantly, establish a separate bank account to keep your business funds away from your personal finances. This will be helpful to see where your money is going and to also streamline tax season.

  • Create and implement a business plan — It can be easy to get sucked into the day to day happenings of owning and running your business. Many business owners get so absorbed into daily tasks that they lose focus on their goals and objectives. Set these goals and have timelines for your action plan to keep you on track.

  • Pay yourself — That’s the whole reason you started your own business right? To make money doing what you love! Price your services or goods in a way that you’re able to pay yourself while covering costs. Also consider incentives such as raises and bonuses when you reach some of your goals to sock away for retirement! Having money set aside for emergencies is also a wise investment (hello Covid19!). Financially sound practices are a big part of your foundation. If this is something that makes your nervous, consider outsourcing a financial advisor to help get you started.

Once you have a solid foundation for your business in place, you need to consider the best way to GROW your business.

Grow, Baby, Grow! — From a Seed to a Sprout

With good soil established, planting seeds or young plants is only the second step. Once in the ground, they need fertilizing and care. Our climate in East Tennessee can be brutal in terms of precipitation and fluctuation of temperature and humidity. Putting seeds or young shoots in the ground and expecting them to thrive on their own will only result in withered plants and money out of your pocket. You must fertilize, weed, and monitor their growth on a regular basis if you want to reap the rewards of your labor. With your business, consider the factors you need to encourage growth:

  • Marketing — Unless you have a cult following or are the only person selling water on Earth, you need SOME form of marketing. While print marketing isn’t dead, a majority of businesses are most impacted by online marketing, especially during a pandemic. A solid website is a necessity, even if you don’t utilize online sales. Social media is right behind your website in order of importance, as use of these platforms can funnel traffic directly to your website.

  • Brand establishment — Your customer base will want to know who you are, your values, and your voice, which are established through branding strategies. This is the face of your business and needs to be strong to differentiate you from your competitors.

  • Track your progress — Knowing what’s working and what needs improvement is vital for growth. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, right? Track your analytics through sales platforms and your marketing platforms to see where you’re getting results. Then use that information to determine where you need to make changes for growth.

Implementing these growth strategies can be trial and error, but through practice and market research, the growth of your business can be built upon over time.

Harvest Season Reap What Your Efforts Have Sown

After sweat equity has been paid in the field, there is no greater feeling of success than slicing into a ripe tomato or melon and feeling the juice run down your chin after taking a big bite. Savoring the sweetness, the gardener thinks back over the days spent laboring in the sun and heat, and smiles, knowing it was worth it. This isn’t a piece or fruit or a vegetable that was taken off a shelf in the store — this is theirs, plucked off the vine or stalk moments before. When you grow something, you can revel in some of its imperfections, as it is unique from the cookie-cutter products seen elsewhere. It is hard work. But there is no greater satisfaction than creating something and watching it flourish. As seasons progress, your garden…or business…can build off past seasons of reward. Sell more produce this year, buy more land next year. If your business is successful, invest into the next stage, even if it takes time to get to that point. If you start with a strong foundation, the sky's the limit on where you want to grow!

Need Another Set of Hands? — Consider Outsourcing.

Even the best gardeners and business owners need an extra hand from time to time. As owners of a small business ourselves, Tracy and I understand the needs and challenges unique to small businesses, particularly in times of hardship or drought. At Smoke Signal Media, our goals are your goals…growth! Through innovative online marketing techniques and brand strategy, we are here to help you build a strong foundation, or to grow from what you already have. We recently started a web series aptly named “Cultivate”, which touches on specific growth strategies for your online marketing. As our series grows, so does our understanding of how to best support you during these difficult times, and continuing after they pass. To sign up for our “Cultivate” series or to get more information on how Smoke Signal Media can help grow your business, contact us today at hello@smokesignalmp.com

All the best,

Rachel Wilhelm

Co-Founder, Creative Director