Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sally Erickson, Founder of Vejibag, located in Pittsboro, NC, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Vejibag produces Organic Cotton vegetable crisper bags to keep vegetables crisp and fresh for up to two weeks! Our customers are people of all ages who value excellent food, the environment, and their pocketbooks.
Tell us about yourself
I built a 4 season solar heated greenhouse on the coast of Maine to supply the tiny co-op there with organic greens and other vegetables year round. I resisted the idea of putting these incredible vegetables into a plastic bag, so I prototyped a cloth bag that could be used instead. Our customers loved them, so I started a cottage industry there to help supply needed work to the community. What motivates me is making a contribution to everyone involved in Vejibag: our staff, our suppliers, and of course, our customers. In times when people seem to be needing good examples of both environmentally impeccable products as well as impeccable business ethics, it is tremendously fulfilling to be part of a venture that does both.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
Hanging in there! The first few years were sometimes discouraging because I was working for literally no salary and doing things that weren't always my favorite! But my son encouraged me to just keep the business going at whatever level I could. That was great advice. And how great that I have been able, at age 70, to step back and watch this family business continue and even surpass what my vision for it was at the beginning.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
I think balancing the push to "grow" and an unstable economy and realizing that, in the end, believing in what one is doing is the most important and underappreciated "bottom line." We grew a great deal, and then like many, many businesses suffered over the past couple of years. But part of our business ethic is to do what you truly feel called to do, which has served us so well. Because if you compromise your values, you really have nothing. And if you don't compromise your values, you always have that good feeling!
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
Well, today? Gosh, it's so hard for people just starting out. I guess with uncertainty in the air and following our experience would be to not expect huge returns (or maybe ANY returns in the first couple of years) and be able to get your business going without going deeply into personal debt. It's just too stressful! I learned SO much because I didn't hire expensive contractors and learned to do stuff myself. So much great information is available now with a quick search. Like basic accounting and procuring supplies, and even silkscreening our first labels! I've always enjoyed learning, which made it possible to get a company going without a huge outlay of initial start-up funds. Also, getting people to help that just want to help you! My daughter helped us get our first website up before she was even part of the company. I'd also say that the people you work around make a huge difference in how one's work feels. If they are people who also share your values and vision, and work ethic and hopefully also can maintain a sense of humor, then most anything is fun and fulfilling. And then, as far as "growing," I think that should be down the line a bit. People don't want to hear that, but learning to build a really solid, small operation is a major accomplishment. The big bucks may or may not come but "staying in the present moment" is what really matters, not a fantasy about being rich and famous.
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.
Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.