The Microgreens Entrepreneur Podcast

Ep 12: A Microgreens Business Success Story With Jayne and Dean Bredlau

July 13, 2020 Brian Faulkner Episode 12
The Microgreens Entrepreneur Podcast
Ep 12: A Microgreens Business Success Story With Jayne and Dean Bredlau
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The Microgreens Entrepreneur Podcast
Ep 12: A Microgreens Business Success Story With Jayne and Dean Bredlau
Jul 13, 2020 Episode 12
Brian Faulkner

In this episode I have the pleasure of interviewing Jayne and Dean Bredlau of The Greensted in Minnesota, USA. In 3 years, Jayne and Dean have grown their business from serving 1 restaurant, to having their microgreens stocked in over 20 grocery stores.

In this episode you'll learn:

  • How it's possible to create a market for microgreens in your area if it dosen't already exist.
  • How it's possible to start, and grow a successful microgreens business on a shoestring budget.
  • How you can overcome the set backs and challenges that starting a microgreens business will throw at you.
  • How it's possible to scale a microgreens business and regain some of your precious time.
  • How to market microgreens to the public.
  • How it's possible to grow great microgreens even in hot and humid conditions.

Mentioned in this episode:
Jayne and Deans Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thegreensted/

Microgreens Business Beginners Guide (free ebook): https://microgreensentrepreneur.com/ebook

True Leaf Market Discount Code: MGE5
https://trueleafmarket.com

Ask a question by voice note: https://microgreensentrepreneur.com/ask
Ask a question by email: brian@microgreensentrepreneur.com

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode I have the pleasure of interviewing Jayne and Dean Bredlau of The Greensted in Minnesota, USA. In 3 years, Jayne and Dean have grown their business from serving 1 restaurant, to having their microgreens stocked in over 20 grocery stores.

In this episode you'll learn:

  • How it's possible to create a market for microgreens in your area if it dosen't already exist.
  • How it's possible to start, and grow a successful microgreens business on a shoestring budget.
  • How you can overcome the set backs and challenges that starting a microgreens business will throw at you.
  • How it's possible to scale a microgreens business and regain some of your precious time.
  • How to market microgreens to the public.
  • How it's possible to grow great microgreens even in hot and humid conditions.

Mentioned in this episode:
Jayne and Deans Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thegreensted/

Microgreens Business Beginners Guide (free ebook): https://microgreensentrepreneur.com/ebook

True Leaf Market Discount Code: MGE5
https://trueleafmarket.com

Ask a question by voice note: https://microgreensentrepreneur.com/ask
Ask a question by email: brian@microgreensentrepreneur.com

Microgreens Entrepreneur Episode 12: A Microgreens Business Success Story With Jayne and Dean Bredlau

[0:00] Brian: Hello, and welcome to Episode 12 of the Microgreens Entrepreneur Podcast. I hope you’re keeping well. I’ve got a very special episode in-store for you today. Guesting on the podcast today, I’ve got Jayne and Dean Bredlau, owners of a microgreens business, The Greensted.

[0:14] Jayne and Dean are based in Minnesota in the United States. In the space of three years, they’ve grown their business from getting started by serving just one restaurant to growing and selling over 80 pounds of microgreens a week. If you’re dealing in kg like I am, that’s over 36 kg a week, which is a lot.

[0:32] This is a bit of a longer episode than usual, but I encourage you to listen to the whole thing. Jayne and Dean provide really great information and motivation the whole way through, and there’s a lot to learn from them, whether you’re considering starting a microgreens business, or you’re already up and running with your business, and you’re looking to grow it.

[0:51] They’ve managed to create a market from microgreens in their area where there wasn’t one before through great marketing. I certainly learned a lot from speaking with them, and I really think that you will too.

* * *

[1:00] This episode of the podcast is brought to you by TrueLeafMarket.com. True Leaf Market stocks a vast array of really high-quality and well-priced microgreen seeds and equipment. Since starting this podcast, I’ve been able to create a close relationship with the guys there, and I’m really confident in recommending their microgreen seeds and equipment. They’ve also been generous enough to create a special offer of a 5% discount for the listeners of The Microgreens Entrepreneur Podcast. All you have to do to avail that is type in the code MGE5 at the checkout. That code, again, is MGE5. All right, so let’s get going with the interview.

* * * You’re listening to The Microgreens Entrepreneur Podcast, where the aim is to help you start, grow, and improve any microgreens business. I’m your host, Brian, owner of a microgreens business that I operate out of my own home. Stay tuned and welcome along.

* * * Intro Music * * *

[2:03] Brian: How are you doing, Jayne? Hi, Dean?

[2:04] Dean: Hello, Brian.

[2:06] Jayne: Hello, Brian. We’re doing well.

[2:07] Brian: Thanks very much for coming on and thanks a million. Before we started recording, you were nice enough to show me all around your grow room. You’ve got a really impressive setup, and you’ve done a lot of work there yourselves building your own shelves, and it’s really good. Do you want to tell the listeners what kind of a setup you have there?

[2:26] Dean: Absolutely. What we did, about three years ago, we started experimenting on a shoestring budget, just learning how to grow microgreens. Not intentionally wanting to grow microgreens, but it was something we could in the fall and through the winter. We bought a couple of grow lights, built a small rack, and just started from there.

[2:53] It expanded out to building two 8’ long racks that had six shelves each, which meant it could be up to 48 10x20 grow flats on each rack. The potential was there to expand. Now, we have three racks, and we are using most of that space all the time. The racks are built out of wood-bearing strips, and the lights that we’re using are shop lights. We’ve gone away from using grow lights just because of the expense and the heat that they put out during the growing period.

[3:34] Brian: So, are they normal florescent shop lights?

[3:36] Dean: As a matter of fact, they’re actually LED shop lights.

[3:39] Brian: Oh, okay. Interesting. What wattage are they, just as a matter of interest.

[3:43] Dean: I have 42 watts LED bulbs in my grow space.

[3:48] Brian: Dean, when you were starting out there, and you said you started very small, what was the first avenue you went down to make a sale, and how did you make that first sale?

[3:57] Dean: Actually, I think Jayne should answer that question because she made the first sale.

[4:03] Jayne: As we were both working at the time, I was a convention services manager for a hotel chain, which had 55,000 square feet of function space, so I detailed large conventions and medical training sessions in that space. It was two different hotels.

[4:21] So I worked with an executive chef quite closely, and as we started growing microgreens, I asked him if he used microgreens. He said, “Yes, of course.” He pulled out what he had been buying from the local produce commercial vendor. I looked at it and took pictures and brought that home.

[4:39] We looked it up online and found that they were getting these out of California, and we wondered if we could do something similar. Dean started experimenting with different varieties and different mixes. I kept bringing them into Tommy, the executive chef, and he said, “Yeah, I like that. No, I don’t like that.”

[5:00] Finally, one day, he stopped at my desk and said, “When are you going to start bringing me these so I can stop buying from the produce vendor?” And that was that lightbulb moment of “Wow! We really could sell these.” So, that restaurant, up until the pandemic was still ordering 1.5 pounds a week from us for their upscale steak house dinner plates.

[5:23] Brian: Brilliant. That’s a great story. Did you just expand from there, and maybe bringing samples to different restaurants, or how did you move onto your next sale?

[5:35] Jayne: Yeah, I did bring to some other local restaurants that I knew sourced locally. Dean and I actually went and met with a couple of those chefs. We talked with them because we were so green, literally. We didn’t know anything about anything. They were encouraging, but we just didn’t know, we didn’t have a business strategy or platform or anything figured out. So, those didn’t pan out so much, but we recontinued providing for the restaurant. We both continued our jobs.

[6:05] Eventually, Dean went to a meeting of our local farm peer group. There was a lady there who is a market manager of a small indoor winter farmer’s market. She said, “I want microgreens at my winter market. Will you come?”

[6:21] So, in March of 2017, we went and did our first farmer’s market indoors, and we sold everything we had, and we thought we were just genius, and we were onto something. So, we went the next month, and we sold everything that we had, and we thought we were really genius, and we’ve never had those good a farmer’s markets since.

[6:44] Brian: No way.

[6:44] Jayne: That was our step, that was our foot into the door of selling microgreens, and we learned so much since, learning from other farmer’s market vendors, learning from produce growers, learning online, making a lot of mistakes along the way, how to set up our business. What does our platform look like? What is our goal? Eventually, Dean said, “I just want to be in the local grocery store chain.”

[7:15] Dean: You have to back up because in the storyline, in 2018, we had a wonderful farmer’s market season in a nearby town, and the farmer’s market season only lasts through the summer. Toward the end of the farmers’ market season, our customers were asking where they could buy our product after the market season ended.

[7:38] So, we approached the local food co-op with an idea. The idea was that “People from your community – our community, but they’re from your community, and they’re buying 40 units a week of our product. Can we sell them through your store?” The obvious answer was, “Yes.” So that launched us selling at food co-op stores. Then I came up with this bright idea telling Jayne I’d like to be in a handful of traditional grocery stores, as well. Jayne went out and delivered.

[8:14] Jayne: I went to the store that I always shopped at and brought samples and took 45 minutes talking to the assistant produce manager, and he finally agreed they could try some. We’re still in that store. We are now at 21 or 22 stores weekly.

[8:30] Brian: That’s excellent. That’s exactly how I got into the first grocery store that I got into. It was the grocery store that I shopped at, and I just went up and spoke to the owner and asked to get in. Do you mind me asking? The way I deliver to grocery stores is on a sale or return basis. If the product doesn’t get sold, I don’t get paid.

[8:56] We’ll talk about your grocery store element a bit more in a minute, but you guys seem to do a lot of grocery stores now. Do they pay you beforehand, or is it like the way I do it, you get paid after they get sold?

[9:08] Jayne: The way we have ours set up is when I deliver each week, I bring a paper invoice. I review the inventory on the shelf, pull anything that’s either out of date or spoiled, and then on that invoice, I will credit those units. Then I initial that. I hand it to a produce staff person to sign the invoice, and then I give them a copy of that invoice. I bring two copies with me, and they submit it to their accounting department for payment.

[9:40] I think that’s been successful because I give them credit on the spot. I don’t make them wait for 30 days. I don’t confuse their accounting department on what they’re actually paying for. In a sense, they are paying for what sells. I just keep a consistent inventory, and I give them a reasonable credit. I credit back the wholesale amount for what I had on the original invoice.

[10:06] We, typically, will allow one to two spoils without credit. So anything above two spoils we’ll credit, and some weeks that not a good scene. We lost a lot with the pandemic. We lost a lot with spoils because people weren’t shopping in the stores. But I think that’s a better model because then there’s no confusion of what was brought in and what was sold and what was credited. It is a net 30 days, so I don’t get paid for 30 days, but I get paid for what I invoiced them for.

[10:40] Brian: Okay. Great. Thanks for sharing that, Jayne. You can correct me if I’m wrong here, but I was doing a bit of spying on your Instagram page, and it does seem like you’re in a lot of grocery stores. You guys have got some really nice marketing. Was that something you put a lot of time into when you were starting out with microgreens?

[11:04] The general public in your area, were they aware of microgreens, or did you have to educate them through that marketing just because here in Ireland, not a lot of the general public are aware of microgreens yet, and educating them and promoting them in my community is something that I’m working on. So, I’m interested to hear your thoughts on that.

[11:23] Dean: You really need Jayne in your back pocket for about a year to help you because that’s what she did for our first year of real business.

[11:32] Jayne: It has been a very intense education process for grocery store customers. Now, if you go to a co-op, many people have heard of microgreens. If you go to a farmer’s market, a handful of people will have heard of microgreens, or they get them as part of their CSA share from week to week.

[11:53] But I put a lot of time and effort into designing marketing pieces that help with education. We have what we call our nutrition sheet. It’s two-sided. The front side details some nutrition specifics I’ve been able to scavenge online from the USDA or other reputable sources for nutrition components.

[12:18] Then, on the back, there’s also what I call a pairing grid. What do pea shoots work well on? What kinds of foods or what classic blend works on well for different types of foods? People have been really receptive to that.

[12:37] Here in Minnesota, we have been able to offer samples, do sampling at both farmer’s markets, and at grocery stores before the pandemic. So, I literally have spent thousands of hours in stores sampling microgreens and educating the general public as to what they are and how to use them.

[13:01] I’ve always said tasting is believing. So, the more people that taste the microgreens, the more they catch what they are and how to use them. I have recipes that I have either found online and, of course, credit the sources, or I’ve crafted my own recipes for different microgreen things: smoothies and stuff like that.

[13:01] People will pick up those recipes. They pick up the nutrition sheet. They like the brochure that talks about our farm and what we do. I’ve tried to fill out our website as much as I can. That’s not been my first skill level, so that’s been a learning curve to manage website content to make it relevant and interesting.

[13:48] I have, as you know, worked very hard on our Instagram and Facebook feeds because that’s where people are at; you’ve got to go where people are at. But I would say it’s been a very long, intense labor of love, and a lot of focus to grow this market.

[14:08] I chose to continue with grocery stores because co-ops, a lot of them already work with farms for other produce, so they have a few microgreens. They weren’t just interested in our microgreens because they have a few on the shelf, and they, by and large, think that’s plenty.

[14:25] Our customer blends are what really sell in grocery stores because people like blends. They like the color; they like the different flavors. Occasionally, I’ll meet a lady in a supermarket who will say, “Pea shoots. I have seen recipes for pea shoots, but I didn’t know where to find them.” I look at her and say, “Right here in your local grocery store.”

[14:49] So, it has been exhausting, but it has been fulfilling to go out and do these store demos, do these farmer’s markets. I’ve done some speaking presentations. I would love to get into more education with cooking demos, with educating nutritionally about microgreens and about eating healthy in general.

[15:11] My biggest platform is really becoming to just source your food and your product locally as much as you can to support, especially, during economic instability, support your local people, whether they make substitutions or they are a small clothing boutique, or they grow food or make jams and pickles.

[15:34] I really, really promote the message of sourcing everything you can locally because the more you support your local economy, the better longevity and strength it will have. That’s an education experience on a whole different level to try to convince people why they should pay few dollars more for something at a farmer’s market or a grocery store or co-op, that they could get in a big box for super cheap.

[16:02] Aside from the quality difference, but how important it is to support our local small businesses. That has come to a head here with the coronavirus pandemic. So, it’s good. I always believe it’s important to give people an experience, so whether it’s at a farmer’s market or at a grocery store, it’s important to not just talk microgreens and talk how you grow and talk about nutrition, but engage the person by asking, “Do you like to cook?”

[16:38] If it’s somebody that obviously works out, maybe say, “Hey, it looks like you really workout.” They’re thrilled that you noticed. Ask about what they like to cook or what they like to eat or get their kids to try them. That’s always a good one. Engage people where they’re at.

[16:57] Sometimes, in-store demos, I start talking with people who have just recently hit with a health crisis, either their own or a family member, and they’re kind of doing the headlights. They’re looking at scads and scads of produce and vegetables and health products, and they don’t know where to begin.

[17:18] So, sometimes, I’m just the person in front of them, and they just want to talk through their thoughts. They may or may not be interested in microgreens, but they need somebody to talk to on that particular day, and I will be that person because I feel like I represent the store and our business. They’ll remember me later, and maybe they’ll be interested in microgreens for those health benefits.

[17:38] You just have to reach people where they’re at and not be so full of your own business, but engage them, get into their world, and see what’s important to them. I learned that in my sales teamwork when I worked with sales teams as coordinator and administrative help.

[18:00] Somebody has great shoes or a cool tattoo, point it out and say, “Hey, I like those.” That starts a conversation, and the next thing you know, they’re trying microgreens and walk away with a box. So, it’s just really engaging people.

[18:13] Brian: I have to commend you. You created a market in a place that there wasn’t a market, by the sound of it, by actually getting out and doing the work and being on the ground in grocery stores talking to your customers because a customer, as we know, will buy from a person rather than the actual product.

[18:31] So, that’s great work. I think it will be inspiring for a lot of people who find like, “People don’t buy these in my area.” But they didn’t buy them in your area at that time, but you told them why they needed to buy them, and you created an awareness in a market where there wasn’t one. I really have to commend you on that. It will definitely inspire some other people to go out and do the same.

[18:53] Jayne: Thank you. I hope so.

[18:55] Brian: Do you mind if we go back to your grow room for a second and if we talk about what kind of a growing medium you use. We’ll get into having a chat about your growing room.

[19:05] Dean: Certainly. The shelves are 8’ long. I lay the 10x20 flat perpendicular to the grow space, so I’m getting eight flats per shelf, and I’m using six 4’ lights per shelf. So, it’s end to end, two or three rows of two lights about each shelf. Each one of those lights is 32 watts.

[19:27] The medium that we’re using, we just switched this past year to a little more expensive medium. It’s a composted cattle manure organic certified. That’s about 50% of the grow medium, and it’s mixed with other composted material. There’s some tree bark, additional natural fertilizers, more rock-type fertilizers. Then, I believe there’s some kelp in there, and a lot of perlite.

[20:02] Brian: Keep that air in the soil.

[20:04] Dean: Yes. It’s a very – I want to say very nutritious for the plants. It’s a very fertile potting mix. Prior to that, I was using a Sungrow blend, which is very popular. Sungrow is a very large company in the States and Canada. They have a professional grow mix. There was a lot of sand and vermiculite versus perlite. I like the sand part of the Sungrow product, but I really enjoy the perlite in this product. Like I said, it’s higher fertility.

[20:46] Brian: Yeah. The fertility definitely helps. When we were off-air Dean, Jayne actually told me that you cover all of your seeds in vermiculite. Would you mind telling the listeners why you do that with all of your seeds?

[20:59] Dean: When I first started out, I wasn’t using any vermiculite, and then I found I had a lot of stem rods, and I didn’t like that die-off, and the more research I did. I went to Johnny's Selected Seeds website and saw how they were growing their microgreens, and they were putting vermiculite on everything.

[21:21] So, I tried it. It reduced the amount of stem rods 90%. I still experience a little here and there, but it’s basically eliminated stem rods. It also allows me to prepare my flats, sprinkle my seeds on – actually, after I prepare my flat, I fill it; I press it down; I give it a good watering, sprinkle my seeds on that nice hard surface, so they spread easily – dry. I don’t soak any seeds right now. Then I spread the vermiculite on top of the seeds, and then water it down again, so everything is moist. I put it in the grow space. I’ll even stack a few flats, so there’s good soil to seed contact using the vermiculite as that top layer.

[22:17] Then what happens is, instead of having soil on top of all that densely populated seed, the plants come through very nicely through that vermiculite, where when I was using soil at one time to cover seeds, I would get this crust of soil that was getting pushed up by the seeds.

[22:38] Brian: Yeah. I’ve seen the same thing happening to myself in the past, as well. I use vermiculite, too, but I don’t use it on everything. What I find it really useful for are crops like cilantro or beets for burying them, and it helps take the holes off without darkening the plant. I really like it for that.

[23:00] Dean: Oh, excellent. I’m not growing any beets or cilantro for microgreens right now, so that’s good information. Brian, can I ask you which crops you do not use vermiculite on?

[23:13] Brian: I don’t use them on pea shoots. To be honest, beets and cilantro are the only two that I grow on a regular basis that I use it on. I’m interested to try it on some others. I think I may try it on sunflowers, maybe. It could work with them.

[23:29] Dean: Definitely, yeah. I find I have good luck with sunflowers giving it a nice covering. When I water it in, the sunflower seed, the seed coats are very light, and they will float above, and then I’ll stack the trays. I can’t say that they’re fully covered, the sunflower seeds or the pea shoots; they’re not fully covered. They just get a nice layer. Again, I like to use it as I call a dampening off of the mitigation step.

[24:08] Brian: On sunflowers, I know you said that you don’t cover them the full way, but have you noticed that it helps take more of the seed heads off by having that vermiculite there covering them?

[24:19] Dean: Not at all.

[24:21] Brian: Not at all.

[24:22] Dean: No. Those seed hulls, they like to stay on the sunflower shoots. What I found, actually, that helps is top watering.

[24:31] Brian: Yeah.

[24:32] Dean: Top watering as long as possible. I don’t like to top water when they’re more than an inch tall, but when they’re an inch tall or an inch or less, I will top water, and that seems to help most.

[24:45] Brian: Yeah. It just softens the shell and brush your hand over it and knocks a lot of them off without putting too much labor into it. That’s kind of what I’m doing at the moment, anyway. What kind of process have you got for removing sunflower hulls?

[25:01] Dean: The seed hulls, we’re doing a good rinse after harvest. During the harvest, we get a lot knocked off, and then we’re dunking them twice. We’re getting a double rinse of the sunflowers. I vigorously swirl them in cold water. Then I still end up at, the end of the whole batch, I spend way too much time sorting out some seed hulls and trying to get the last few. Every time, I tell myself I spent way too much time on this last couple of moments I just saved.

[25:41] Brian: It’s a troublesome one, all right.

[25:45] Dean: It is.

[25:46] Brian: When you’re washing them in that water, it doesn’t damage the sunflowers in any way, does it, the actual plants?

[25:53] Dean: No. In the water, it’s amazing how vigorously you can shake those sunflower seeds in the water. If you’d be whaling them in the air, you’d be damaging the stems and even the cotyledon itself, but in the water, it holds up very well.

[26:16] Brian: Okay. That’s not something I’ve tried. Dean, another question for you. Before we started recording, as well, you told me you had a nice temperature gauge in your grow room, and it was very hot. I think you said it was 85 degrees. Is that correct?

[26:31] Dean: Yes.

[26:33] Brian: And you also said it’s very humid. What would be the kind of humidity in your grow room, and what kind of method would you have of monitoring and controlling the humidity?

[26:45] Dean: Now, you’re asking me to be really transparent. I have no humidity control except for fans. I have a couple of oscillating fans, and a box fan in my grow space. My grow space is 9’ x 10’. I have it wrapped in plastic for the winter, and right now, this time of the year, I have the plastic, not against the solid wall. I have all of that clamped up so I can get more air movement, but it’s just air movement.

[27:17] I’m not using a dehumidifier, which I have been planning to use for well over a year. I just haven’t. Temperature control is just opening up and trying to get air moving.

[27:31] Brian: Interesting. Do you have much mold issues because of that extra humidity, or how are you dealing with that? Is it working out okay for you?

[27:39] Dean: It’s working out okay. The only mold issue I have, obviously, for all the different microgreens, the one that had the most mold issue is the sunflower shoots. Since I’m stacking, I noticed that the mold mainly happens in that first couple of days when they’re stacked. I’ll unstack them so I can top water them and restack on those first few days.

[28:10] What I’ve noticed by the top watering, I don’t know what the phenomenon here is, but by top watering, I take care of a lot of that mold. I’m not using hydrogen peroxide or vinegar or any of the other solutions that we’ve seen on how to mitigate mold on sunflower shoots. I’m just watering them.

[28:32] Brian: I do the exact same thing myself anytime there’s mold in the sunflower shoots. I think it damages the mold the way it’s made up. I don’t know exactly how it works, but yeah, it does work.

[28:44] Dean: It’s much more efficient. You don’t have to worry about blending and mixing the chemical even though it’s just hydrogen peroxide or vinegar or something. Yeah, you just top water and move on.

[28:55] Brian: Exactly. Last question for you, Dean. Do you still have a 9 to 5?

[29:01] Dean: Yes, I do.

[29:02] Brian: Any plans to go full-time with the microgreens business, or are you happy enough for now?

[29:07] Dean: No. That is our goal. Our goal is to get to a point where I can leave the 9-to-5. Right now, my 9-to-5 has been very helpful in what we’re doing in our business because my 9-to-5 is a food safety and quality insurance technician at a small food company.

[29:26] So, I get a lot of exposure into the areas that we need to have advice. Just as Jayne’s exposure, previous to this, was in sales and marketing, mine is in food safety, and I grew up on a farm, so growing and nurturing. We have very unique backgrounds that have landed us a good introduction into this business.

[29:54] To answer your question: yes. The idea is – and even my manager knows this at my 9-to-5, that there will come a day where I will hand in my resignation and go full-time. But that is, how would I say, with Jayne’s permission.

[Laughter]

[30:19] Brian: Very best of luck, and I’m sure you’re going to be well able to do it. Best of luck with it.

[30:24] Dean: Thank you.

[30:26] Brian: I want to go on to something, again, that I’ve seen on your Instagram. I’ve noticed a couple of ways on your Instagram that you’ve found ways to take back some of your time. I’ve seen a post where someone else was delivering the microgreens for you, and I think you’ve got a couple of employees now. What kind of ways are you getting back some of your time, and maybe being able to scale your business a bit more that way?

[30:53] Jayne: The beginning of this year, we realized if we were going to continue, not only microgreens, but we have about 1/3 of an acre in a vegetable garden production, which we are also selling this summer to enhance our farmer’s market stand. We never intended to be a one-trick pony just with microgreens, so this is our next phase in our business growth, which is market gardening.

[31:19] I knew that 1) I could not personally do all the delivering, which I have been doing each week. Dean and I were not able to continue processing so many pounds of microgreens each week alone, so the beginning of this year, I chose a bit of an odd pathway for most farm businesses, and I hired an account manager.

[31:47] This is a young gal. Her name is Paige. She’s right here from our hometown here in Zumbrota. I helped her enhance her resume. She decided she was in the market to change the job where she was, and so I helped her with her resume to make it a bit prettier and a bit more filled out. I sent it back to her, thinking that would be that and wished her well, and she came back and said, “Why don’t I just work for you guys?”

[32:21] We had known her from the local farmer’s market. She and her mom would come each week up to the market. There was a pizza truck, so they would get pizza, and she started liking our microgreens, especially the pea shoots.

[32:37] So we had a bit of a friendship started. So when she offered to come work with us, I thought it might be temporary. She’s been with us since January 21, and she said she’s never leaving. She absolutely loves her job. So, that always makes you feel good where your first employee loves their job.

[32:58] She has really helped pick up the ball for me. She goes out. With the two of us, we were handling all of the store demos, which we each would do two to four per weekend before the pandemic. We were doing two to four store demos and/or farmers markets per weekend.

[33:17] She has done a lot of the deliveries to the stores, which allowed me time to take care of our business. She helps with packaging. She helps with anything we need her to do. She’ll even go out to the vegetable garden and help out there if needed.

[33:33] She has established good relationships with several of our stores. She had her route; I had my route, and so, she’s developed good relationships with those store managers. She can call up and say, “This is Paige from The Greensted,” and you know exactly who she is. She’s done her job that way.

[33:52] And she understands the importance of expanding our horizons. So, she’s been a great asset. In April, we knew with Dean’s full-time job he could not do a third of an acre market garden, so we hired a vegetable garden worker. Again, we got the cream of the crop. She has a horticulture degree. She grew up on a family hobby farm. She’s grown stuff her whole life.

[34:19] She has just taken the aspect of our market gardening to heart. She also understands that the microgreens are our bread and butter, so she can plant, she harvests each week, she helps with packaging if needed. She then goes out to the market garden and harvests, washes, and then bundles radishes, or beets, or salad greens, or whatever it is we have ready.

[34:42] She makes Paige and me look good. She’s got us ready for our Wednesday farmer’s market or the Saturday farmer’s market. Eventually, we will, of course, get back into store demos. So, she’s been really integral to that second phase of our business.

[35:00] Then, just as of last week, I had a fellow reach out to me. He had purchased some of our radish microgreens at one of our stores up in the Twin Cities. He reached out to us and said, “Could you use some cold refrigerated transportation?” I said, “Yes, absolutely,” because Paige and I were just maxed out.

[35:22] So, as of last week, they are now doing our Twin Cities route, which is 11 stores. We added a store last week. I’ll be adding a store probably every Friday for the next month or so. He’s also going to do some sales drops for us at stores that they already have relationships with as a cold-storage, cold-transportation company. He said he would take sample bags out to stores he already has relationships with and promote our product for us.

[35:48] So, that has been a huge blessing that just reached out to us. I have been working to try to find some kind of affordable shipping or transportation so we can expand our market beyond what we can physically drive to. Sometimes, in a business, you just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other and keep looking, keep your ears open, keep searching – even just expressing to your peers, your peer groups, the needs that you have.

[36:18] The way we got our vegetable garden worker was, she was displaced from a coffee shop who are good friends of ours that have a cheese business and a coffee and ice cream shop. They had to let her go when their restaurant wasn’t allowed to be open for a while, and they referred her to us. They didn’t know she had a horticulture degree. They just knew she was a really good worker. So, we were able to hire a displaced person, who she was very grateful for.

[36:51] She has now recommended a friend of hers who is going to start coming and working on our grounds to help us keep up with our flower gardens and yardwork and things that we just simply don’t have time to do. She’s in training because we will be moving to a new facility, hopefully, by the end of this year, and she will then be that designated groundskeeper for that facility, that storefront.

[37:12] Hopefully, we will be able to have vendor events and that kind of thing. So, being proactive here, we’re looking ahead to having a lot more staff to scale this business to levels neither of us ever thought about previously. When a door opens, you walk through it, and when it closes, you’ll know it.

[37:35] I think another thing that’s important for your listeners to know is from the beginning, track your numbers.

· Track how much seed you’re planting, how much soil you’re using in a flat.

· Track how many clamshells or containers or pounds that you harvest and distribute.

· Track how much you distribute to each of your outlets, whether it’s to the farmer’s market or to a store or co-op or your neighbors.

· Track every unit. I have a simple sheet that I fill out, and then I record digitally on my computer.

· We track everything from planting to harvest to sales to spoils.

[38:14] It is important to put that process into place early in your business, even if you’re only doing a couple of flats a week. Track those numbers and set up a process that works for you. Maybe it’s all digital; maybe it’s all on paper. It doesn’t really matter.

[38:29] Just track your numbers because eventually when you need to do a business plan, which you’ll need for a bank loan or whatever else you might need if you have a history of those numbers, it makes all of that paperwork so much easier than to try to go back and recoup information you didn’t record.

[38:50] Track your miles for delivery. Just everything you do, put it down because you’ll need that information in it. It also shows you your trends. It shows you your successes. I was just calculating last week, we actually harvested 81.5 pounds and distributed over 500 clamshells. That’s a long way from 1 pound every two weeks to a restaurant. So, it gives you that boost sometimes that you need to see that you are working hard and it’s working to work hard.

[39:22] Brian: That’s great to hear that you’ve been able to get that far to 81.5 pounds in a week. That’s unbelievable, and thanks a lot for those tips that you just shared, Jayne, and for the insight you gave there on how it is possible to scale a microgreens business like that by getting help and just by putting one foot in front of the other with what you said. So, that’s really great to hear. Thanks for that.

[39:48] I’m not going to keep you too much longer, guys. I have one more question for both of you. If you could give one piece of advice to someone who is new to microgreens or just starting out with a microgreens business, what would that be?

[40:02] Dean: Oh, do I have to stick with one, or can I give the eight or ten that I have?

[40:06] Brian: Go ahead, Dean. You can do whatever you want.

[40:10] Dean: I do have just a list here, and it is just, start small. When you start small, you can manage your budget, you can manage your mistakes. The second is, focus on quality. As silly as it sounds when the chips are down, and you want to take shortcuts, don’t do it. Focus on quality and just ride through it.

[40:31] Never stop learning. That’s just good life advice. Never stop learning. The other thing, never quit. No matter what, don’t ever quit. If it wasn’t for that first restaurant where Jayne had her daytime job, we would have quit, and we would not have had a business. But don’t ever quit.

[40:57] Enter every available open door. Don’t just walk through it or crawl through it, run through every open door. Go full in and ask for help because people who open doors for you or who are opening the door for you, they know way more than we do, and put the burden on them. When you go through the open door, ask for help and ask for advice because they’re there to help, and they’re willing to.

[41:22] The last bit of advice is, grow yourself. Don’t ever stop learning; don’t ever stop trying something new; don’t ever stop experimenting. It’s a life journey.

[41:34] Brian: Great stuff, Dean. That’s inspirational stuff. Thanks a lot for that. I particularly liked never stop learning and never quit. Great points there. Thanks for them.

[41:43] Dean: Yes.

[41:43] Jayne: If you’re going to go into this as a hobby, think of it as a hobby and enjoy it. Share with your friends and relatives, whatever. But if you’re going to go into it with the idea that you want to make money at it, think of it as a business. That’s a challenge I see for a lot of farms. They love their growing; they don’t know how to run the business.

[42:08] One thing I appreciate about what you do, Brian, is you have an excellent setup. Your podcasts are very succinct and very well thought out and very well edited. Thank you very much. I listen to podcasts sometimes that bore me to death because they weren’t edited.

[42:28] You have good marketing. You have a good online presence, and that’s what you have to do with your business is, think of it as a business. Know your numbers. Know what it’s costing you. Know what you can sell it for, and you had a great podcast on how to calculate what you need to sell your microgreens for. I loved that podcast. So, well done on that.

[42:50] Then market, market, market. That’s another business thing. When we started, Dean built, like he showed you, our racks out of strips and shop lights. Instead, we put what money – because we were self-funding. We didn’t have any investors or any money. We self-funded off of our jobs.

[43:15] For sure, in business cards and the education sheet, which I had printed at a printer sh them printed, so that looked good. I had to get bar codes. Always know that your product, your box is your billboard, so make sure it looks like how you want people to know your face.

[43:38] What is your business face? How do you want people to perceive you? As a serious business person or as a hobby? Which, that’s fine. Just make your decision and then follow that.

[43:51] Then doing some local peer groups, other growers, other farmers, other business people, Chamber of Commerce or business associations that you have available locally, join those groups because there’s a lot of intelligence you can access through other people. Even if they aren’t a farmer or a grower, they’re a business person; you can learn a lot. Make yourself available to these groups, learn from them, and share. Don’t be afraid to share what you do.

[44:23] You’re going to make mistakes, and you’re going to make a lot of them, and it’s going to be costly, and it’s going to be embarrassing, it’s going to be hurtful, and you’re going to feel sucker-punched some days. I come home from deliveries, and I pulled so many spoils off the shelves. I felt like I didn’t make any progress. I drove all those miles, and I was exhausted, and you have to pick yourself up and dust yourself off and realize that was one day. This was one week. So, we showed a loss for this one week. We showed profit on so many other weeks.

[44:57] So, don’t get discouraged. Like Dean said, don’t quit. Don’t let discouragement color your aspect of who you are and who your business is. Just keep going. Don’t give up. Find some encouragement. Find a reason why you’re doing this, and keep going. Think of new aspects, new recipes, or new whatever. I redesigned our labels I don’t know how many times because I wanted it to look fun, attractive, and get people’s attention. So, it’s just going to be a lot of work, which is an entrepreneur.

[45:31] What’s hard is, when you’re growing microgreens, you’re growing your product, and you’re growing your business. That’s a lot. That’s a lot of anybody, so don’t get discouraged when it feels long and hard.

[45:44] Brian: You’re right. You wear many hats when you own a microgreens business, and you’re dead right. With any business, there are ups and downs, and you just really have to keep going. What you said about your labels, I agree with you 100%. Personally, from seeing your labels and your marketing and hearing you speak about marketing, I really need to up my own game by the sound of it.

[46:07] I appreciate learning from you on that, and also, thanks for your nice comments on the podcast. I appreciate that. Guys, I really just want to thank you for coming on the podcast today. You’ve provided some great information for all the listeners, and I really appreciate it. I know they will too. It’s really, really valuable information. Where can the listeners find you if they want to see more of what you’re doing? How would they be able to see what you’re doing? [46:33] Jayne: They can go to our website, TheGreensted.com. The same handle is for our social media: Instagram, Facebook. Our email is mailto:hello@thegreensted.com.

[46:52] Brian: Brilliant. Well, Jayne and Dean, I want to thank you both again for coming on the podcast today, and I hope you enjoyed being on. Thanks a million for sharing all your insights. I really appreciate it. So, thanks a million.

[47:04] Dean: Thank you, Brian.

[47:06] Jayne: Yes, thank you. You had good questions. We appreciate that.

[47:09] Brian: So, there you have it. A really great microgreens success story, I think you’ll agree, and I really want to thank Jayne and Dean again for coming onto the podcast and being so generous with information and their time. They’re two really nice people. We were chatting for a good while before and after we were recording.

[47:27] Usually, at this part of the episode, I’ll ask that if you enjoyed the episode to leave a review. Well, I’m not going to ask for that today. My call to action for you today is that if you enjoyed the episode, head over to Jayne and Dean’s Instagram page, thegreensted. I’ll leave a link for their Instagram in the show notes. Give them a follow and send them a message just to thank them if what they shared has helped you today.

[47:48] If you have been inspired by Jayne and Dean here today to start a microgreens business yourself, I’ve created a free ebook, A Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Microgreens Business. It will help you getting started with all the equipment and supplies that you need all the way to making your first sale. You can get that at microgreensentrepreneur.com/ebook. I will also leave a link for that in the show notes too.

[48:10] So, that is it for this week. Thank you so much for listening all the way to the end. I really appreciate it. I hope you have a great week, and I’ll speak to you on the next episode.

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[End of episode 48:54]