Small Business Success in Johnson County, Missouri
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121 FARMHOUSE KITCHEN
1047 NE 121ST RD, WARRENSBURG, MO 64093
OWNER: ASHLAND BELL
1. Briefly describe 121 Farmhouse Kitchen and the products/services offered.
121 Farmhouse Kitchen is operated on a MO Century Farm in Johnson County Missouri, what started out in 2013 as an in home bakery hobby has turned into a bakery and market. We run a full service bakery, with a Self Service Honor Market Open 365 days a year. We have partnered with many local growers, producers and businesses to provide a unique experience.
2. How did you get started as a small business owner?
I grew up the daughter of a small business owner and always knew one day I would own my own small business. I have always loved to bake and I have a strong passion for the agriculture industry, in my early days I wanted to be an Ag. Teacher. As I graduated high school and navigated the path of adulthood, I found myself employed by the local John Deere dealer and signed up to be a direct sales consultant. I believe this is how it all started. I loved sales, meeting new people and doing events. I loved it so much I expanded the client base for the local John Deere dealer by doing off site events, shows and developing an online purchasing website to better serve our customers. In 2013 when I was let go from John Deere due to a buyout, I began baking and going to Farmers Markets to subsidize my income from unemployment while I pursued my next career. I was hired in late 2013 by my hometown school district to work in the administration office, while still directing my focus to my direct sales business and baking on the side. My goal was to work till I could afford a bakery of my own. Long story short, COVID. Covid expanded my business in ways I never dreamed possible. I was shipping baked goods all over the country daily. I put a deck box outside my house for local order pick up. In May of 2020, I proposed to my husband we get a small shed to offer order pick ups while I was at work and for extra baked goods, more like a self-service shed. Little did he know I had big plans. A 10x12 garden shed we purchased used from a friend arrived in June of 2020 and we renovated it to become the 121 Farmhouse Kitchen Market. We opened July 25, 2020 offering baked goods, local MO made products, and a few gift items, expecting I would need to still be employed for the next 2 years for this idea to take off. It took 2 weeks before I realized if I wanted to make this work I needed to jump in with both feet, head first. So on August 12, 2020 I left my full time job and became the full time owner, baker, and business owner of the 121 Farmhouse Kitchen. We grew fast that first year and knew expansion was going to be needed sooner than later. In September of 2021 we moved into our 16x40 Market with a full kitchen, and have expanded to now offer a wide selection of locally sourced products and still sticking to our roots of a Self Service Honor Market open 365 days a year to better serve you!
3. What was your mission at the start of 121 Farmhouse Kitchen and has that mission evolved over time?
Our 2013 mission was "Farm Fresh from Scratch" our mission in 2022 is "Homestyle Bakery, committed to supporting the local agriculture & the Missouri made industry." Obviously the mission has evolved over time as we now offer everything from baked goods, milk, cheese, eggs, meat, gifts and much more. 90% of the items you will find in our store are either supporting the agriculture industry or a small local maker or business.
4. How many employees does 121 Farmhouse Kitchen have?
3 and a half. My 6 year old loves to help customers.
5. What is unique about 121 Farmhouse Kitchen?
We are a Self Service Honor Market open 365 days a year accepting cash, cards, Paypal, and Venmo. We are off the beaten path a little over a mile on gravel on my husband's family farm. It's a beautiful drive and you can see for miles around. It's like stepping back into a simpler life. It's quiet here, except for the cows, birds and tractors running. It's a way to see the everyday bustle of farm life and enjoy the sights sounds and sometime smells of the farm and what we consider paradise.
6. How much time did it take for 121 Farmhouse Kitchen to earn a profit?
7. What has been a significant challenge that you have faced and overcome as a small business owner?
Time management as the owner of a small business is a significant challenge. You work 24/7 to make your business a success. Over the last 12 months I have learned to make a schedule and stick to it, delegate tasks to employees and don't be sorry for taking time to spend with your family or do something you love. It's a hard battle but you have to remember you need time to step away and refresh. I now take 1/2 a day each Saturday and Sunday to spend time with my family or regrouping, and I consider my office hours M-F 8-5pm. I take time doing office work after my daughter goes to bed and very early in the morning to better manage my time.
8. As a small business owner, how do you measure success?
Success is NOT measured by the amount of money in your bank account as a small business owner but by the number of friends you make, the people you meet and the connections you come across. My customers I now consider as friends, the people I see every few weeks and the connections I had made in the last 8 years have enriched my life and my business in more ways than I can ever explain. These are my people without them I would not be a successful business owner, I would not have a business at all! They are my driving force to do my best, offer more, expand, and SHOW UP everyday! When you are a small business owner its a success if after 8 years you still want to get up and go to work everyday with a smile on your face!
9. What do you like most about owning a small business?
The satisfaction of creating my own unique concept, and watching it grow, evolve and bloom into a successful business.
10. What piece of advice would you offer to new entrepreneurs?
Ask yourself, are you wanting to commit 110% for the long haul? Do you want a hobby or a business? Can you see yourself doing this in 5 years? Can you see yourself doing this in 10 years? A successful business will NOT happen over night or within a year. Most of the time, it will not happen with in the first 5 years, so be prepared and be committed for the long haul. And as I tell everyone "Being a small business owner is NOT for the faint of heart." It's a cut-throat business and you will be turned down, given bad reviews, and you will have competition around you at all times trying to steal your thunder. BE STRONG, BE YOU, and STAY TRUE TO YOUR ROOTS.