Marketing a small rural business
As entrepreneurs of Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese, Molly and Sam Kroiz have found marketing is just as important for a small rural business as it is for a large corporation.
However, with their business featuring a food product – goat cheese – it can make the marketing process more difficult due to state regulations and restrictions.
The Kroizs are finishing construction on their cheese creamery and are hoping to get an inspection approval in the next two or three weeks.
The inability to provide a product due to state restrictions has been less than easy.
“It has been really hard to sell something that doesn't exist yet, especially with food, because being able to taste something is so important I think,” Molly Kroiz said. “At events we have attended, we have been forced to do a lot of talking about our cheese and selling shares for our CSA.”
As the Kroizs wait for their inspection date to arrive, their active effort to get out to local events to let people know about their product has not been futile. The entrepreneurs have attended the Loudoun Grown Expo and the Lovettsville New Year's Day Fun Run to date.
In the coming months, Georges Mill Artisan Cheese will also be featured in the annual Loudoun County Spring Farm Tour and during Lovettsville's Mayfest.
The Kroizs have realized at this juncture, the best way to build their business successfully is to stay within their niche, which is in rural western Loudoun.
“We have been relying primarily on word-of-mouth, because we are not going to have a huge amount of product this year, so we are not trying to market to a really wide audience,” Molly Kroiz said. “We have been focusing more on the local stuff like the Grown Expo, which helped introduce us to upwards of 3,000 people. It has been difficult because people come to speak with us wanting cheese and we don't have any to give out at this time.
“The Farm Tour is something I definitely wanted to do because we will hopefully just be starting to sell so that's important,” she said.
While unsure about state regulations, Kroiz has been erring on the side of caution and not providing samples of her cheese at the booths they have inhabited.
In an era of social media, Georges Mill Farm Artisan Cheese have been using Facebook as another avenue to reach potential customers.
At the time of this article, the business had 161 likes on Facebook and had inundated its page with adorable baby goat pictures, which according to Kroiz always attracts viewers.
“The Facebook page has been primarily focused on babies and things like that, but once we are up and running we will be posting updates about what kind of cheeses we have available or different recipe ideas. I think that cute babies are always a good way of getting people to look at your page,” Kroiz said with a laugh. “We have definitely been using Facebook and our website as our main marketing outlets. The website offers more information than our page on Facebook.”
“At this point we are getting very close and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will be ready to have our inspection and get our permit going,” Molly Kroiz said. “Over the last month, we have been finishing up ordering equipment like sinks and cleaning equipment as well as finishing construction of the creamery.
“Right now we are putting up our sanitary walls up and finishing the plumbing,” Kroiz said.
Included in the plumbing is installing piping and the water heater.
While preparing the creamery has been an ongoing project over the last year, Kroiz and her husband Sam have been busy growing their herd as well.
According to Kroiz, the goat herd has grown by 20 babies, although they have sold five making the count in the barn 15 at this time.
Due to a late start on the milking season, Kroiz is expecting to be able to produce approximately 1,500 pounds of cheese this year, down from the expected 2,500 to 3,000 pounds she was hoping to put out with a full year's worth of milk.
This is the third installment in a recurring series detailing the process of starting a small rural business.