Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Myriam Kaplan-Pasternak, DVM, Co-Owner of Devil's Gulch Ranch, located in Nicasio, CA, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Mark and I own Devil's Gulch Ranch in Nicasio, California. We raise high-quality meat for restaurants and farmer's markets. We also have a website so we can sell our products and the products of other farmers to people who appreciate healthy food. We want to help farmers thrive by working together and help consumers access better quality food through collaborations. There is no need for food waste or stockpiles of frozen foods when people are hungry, and the economy needs to flow so everyone can thrive better. We raise pigs, sheep, rabbits, French Bresse chickens, Silkie chickens, quail, pigeons, winegrapes, and livestock guardian dogs.
Tell us about yourself
Mark always wanted to be a farmer and bought the ranch in 1971. I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, West Africa, during the big drought of 1984, made famous by the song "We Are the World." This drought affected 150 million people and opened my eyes to the ineffective way we help our fellow humans in developing countries. I became interested in poverty, food production, and global health issues. I felt the best way to help people help themselves was by improving animal health and animal production knowledge. Animals have tremendous uses around the world in transportation, clothing, nutrition, transport of goods, and companionship... They play a vital role in human health and the economy of people at the base of the economic pyramid.
75% of the diseases that plague humans are shared with animals. Yet very little effort goes into global veterinary medicine. If we improved the health of animals around the world, humans would be healthier and need fewer "bandaid projects." Working with my husband has greatly improved my farming skills and made me a better teacher. I really enjoy hearing people talk about the meals, with products from our farm that they have drooled over. I also love working alongside farmers in places like Haiti and hearing how their production has thrived because of the knowledge they learned through me. Healthier animals leads to healthier humans.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
The biggest accomplishment will be surviving the pandemic. The first shutdown took away 2/3rd of our business overnight. 3 years later, we are almost sustainable again. It taught me a lot, but it also was a trying experience.
My personal accomplishment that I am proud of is getting people to eat a wider variety of meats that are healthier for them and healthier for the environment than fast food burgers and hotdogs.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
The hardest things are the ones you can't control. The weather and the sometimes negative impact it has on production and the number of people who show up at the farmer's market. The economy and how it negatively impacts the costs of production and what people can spend. Bullies who want to hurt your business and see you fail because they don't believe in what you are doing.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Believe in yourself and your passion. With social media these days, there will always be those who hate what you do and let you know it. Grow a thick skin and remember that their problems are not yours.
- There will always be bad times and good times. Hang in there, and don't give up. Modify, ask for advice, tweak it, and keep on going. If it really is time to give it up, you will know it. Until then, don't lose faith. This too shall pass and the good times will come again.
- The most important is to ENJOY what you are doing. Follow your passion and have fun. It even makes the tough time worth it.
- Learn to write grants. It is worth it because others really do want to help you.
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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