Young Agrarians is celebrating the seventh year of the Business Mentorship Network (BMN) program. The BMN offers business mentorships to a diverse array of new and young farmers across BC. Through one-on-one mentorship and peer networks, young farmers develop the skills necessary to operate ecologically sustainable and financially viable farm businesses.
Applications are now open for our BMN 2021 Mentee Cohort. Find more information and an application form here. Deadline to apply is November 20th, 2020.
We are wrapping up with our 2020 Mentee Cohort and are thrilled to profile them and celebrate their efforts!
Elly Rakhmetouline is the owner of Late Bloomers Flower Farm in Burnaby, BC and is a participant in the 2020 Young Agrarians Business Mentorship Network Program.
What were your goals for this season and how did you work to achieve those?
My goals were to diversify my revenue streams, hire help and expand to twice the growing space. I actively worked to find a new stock list that was really reliable and successful for us. I helped get our on site farm stand off to a better start than last year and it proved to be something folks in our area are really excited to see more of. I hired someone through the Canada Summer Jobs Grant. I worked my butt off to flip another quarter acre into production this spring and the results were stunning and so productive.
Did you meet your goals / did it work out? (Explain a bit)
I met all these goals – it was my most successful year yet, both financially and growing-wise. The person I hired was a huge help in keeping the farm weeded and under control while I harvested/ arranged and delivered flowers several times a week.
What effect did Covid19 have on your business?
When I left my part time job during the initial quarantine, I was able to really devote all my time and energy to the farm since I was outside and there was no one else on our property, so social distancing wasn’t an issue. This helped get it into top shape in the spring. Once flowers started growing, I could barely keep up with demand as so many folks were wanting to treat themselves or others to flowers.
What resources did you find most valuable to support your business to navigate the changes?
I didn’t really do anything too differently with the business. All my deliveries were contactless but that’s about it as my flowers are generally sold through other retailers.
What were your best sales channels/avenues?
The shops we sell through see us as a great addition to what they already offer and their excitement about the product really moves it. All the shops we sell through did an amazing job pivoting and rejigging their businesses to help folks access food and supplies and this made them our busiest avenues.
Why do your customers buy from you (what is your unique value proposition in your market)?
Over the past five years, we’ve built up a loyal, following of flower lovers in the neighborhoods we sell in. A lot of these customers have been buying from us since day one and have seen us grow and evolved both as a business and as a grower.
What was the most important information or idea(s) you gained from the mentorship?
Goal setting, breakdown and documenting is so important and helpful. I’ve always done it in a loose way, but never with such intention, and I know it definitely helped to be crystal clear on everything I wanted to accomplish it and all the ways I could get there.
How did mentorship impact your business overall?
It was so helpful to be able to ask business questions. Chatting with my farming mentor really put me on track to have a better idea as to when I should be ordering seeds/ bulbs, starting seeds and what kinds of special tricks they’ve learned of their years of growing flowers successfully.
What were the big hard lessons this season you would want to share with other farmers? Make sure you’re super clear with your expectations from folks you bring on to work for you or volunteer. Everyone has different ideas of what being on a farm is like, if they’ve never worked on one. Be sure to outline your expectations and requirements clearly at the get go to avoid any misunderstandings.
What plans do you have for future farm growth (where would you like your business to go)?
I’m in the process of flipping another quarter acre so we’ll be bigger next year as well. I’m also working on transitioning us to no till, which is definitely a lot of work in the fall, but will make the spring SO much more successful.
What are you most looking forward to this winter?
This is the first year since I’ve had the farm that I won’t be going back to my part time job in the service industry over the winter. The plan long term has always been to flower farm in the summer and make ceramic vases in the winter, so I’ll be starting that this year. This feels like such a huge win as making pottery has had to be on the back burner for the past five years while I got the farm off the ground, but I’ve finally gotten to a place where this can finally happen!
www.latebloomersflowerfarm.com IG @latebloomersflowerfarm
Find out more about the Business Mentorship Program and fill out an application here. Deadline for submissions is November 6, 2020.
This program is made possible with the generous funding support of Vancity and Columbia Basin Trust.