Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Theresa Freund, Owner of Freund's Farm Market & Bakery, located in East Canaan, CT, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Freund’s Farm Market & Bakery began as a seasonal farm market and has evolved into a greenhouse and garden center, bakery, catering, and we even offer floral arrangements. Our customers are coming from the tri-state corner (NY, CT, MA). We have many customers that have weekend homes in the area, traveling to this small-town community from NYC and Boston.
Our typical customer has actually changed pretty significantly over the 30 years since we started this business. In 1990, our neighbors would come to our market to buy seasonal produce in bulk to preserve themselves at home, canning tomatoes, freezing sweet corn, and jamming raspberries. Now we’ll see the same customers every few days to buy their dairy, local meats, cookies, potatoes, dog treats, and prepared food.
Tell us about yourself
In my case, I married the farmer's son. Since the 1950s, the Freund family had always sold sweet corn on the side of the road, just a bushel basket propped up on a wooden bench. As I started to grow my family, I began to mold this roadside stand into something more, offering zucchini, tomatoes, and pumpkins grown in our market garden. After my second child was born (1987), I shifted from the roadside to the 2-bay garage. We built our current farm market in 1994 to move the retail space further from the road, most especially to keep my children safe but also to give me more room to grow the business. What began as a seasonal enterprise, selling spring plants, summer crops, and fall decorations, has become a year-round business.
In the beginning, I was motivated to prove people wrong when they told me that no one would pull off the road to come into my market. I love that there’s not a single day that I’m bored. I’m always thinking about new things that I can create and try. My customers have come to appreciate that we are using quality ingredients, and even if they have never had my stuffed peppers or tamale pie, they’re willing to give it a try. Rarely do I decline a customer request, even if it’s something I’ve never made before. Just this week, I made King’s cake for the first time and whole wheat scones.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Being able to raise my four children while also building my business at the same time. It never had to be one or the other; I was able to do both. I started with very little and appreciated the respect I got from my community. A tradition that began while my own children were in primary school (1990s) was hosting K-3 grades for annual farm tours. Decades later, young adults now come into my market to reminisce about their memories and experiences from those farm tours. It's a wonderful reminder that small acts and contributions to our community make a big difference.
A true highlight for me is when neighbors are hosting out-of-town guests, and they include our farm market as a landmark stop to show off. That's the real mark of approval!
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I have spent 35 years building and growing this business. It's my passion and my life's work. I'm certainly challenged by the task of inspiring our seasonal helpers and longer-term employees to feel the same commitment and dedication to the cause and purpose of this business.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Location, location, location: Our retail market is on a main state road, so we don’t have to promote or advertise as heavily just to help people find us. They drive by us each day.
- Start small: We started very small and we learned from our failures. Not everything we did worked, but we tried it.
- Build a network: Our success is directly tied to relationships formed, not just with our customers and employees but also with our lender, our university extension educators, our agricultural service providers and government officials.
- Attend industry workshops and conferences: I learned so much in my early years by attending direct marketing conferences and meeting so many people with similar interests and businesses.
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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