Woman Owned Business Series
I enjoy my trips out to Strouds Creek Farm. Tucked away off the busy street of St. Mary’s Road in Hillsborough is Friendship Lane. Driving under the canopy of trees Friendship Lane turns into a gravel road. You can hear the crunch of stone under your tires. Leaving the hustle and bustle of suburbia to open pastures with roaming horses. It is hard to believe that a mile or so from downtown Hillsborough, behind a planned development, is a quiet farm.
It is dusk as Anne Marie waves me in from the front steps of her home. Dogs are barking while she’s trying to shush them. She welcomes me into her home and encourages me to take a seat at the counter. Anne Marie is chopping vegetables and getting a soup started on the stove. Explaining that she just came in from the farm, she’s a little late to getting dinner started for her family. I have known Anne Marie for almost seven years now. She delivers organic, true pasture-raised chicken eggs to surrounding homes. When we first met, I was knee deep in caring for infants. She was kind and encouraging to me. I find her calm and optimistic demeanor easy to engage with.
Why start your own business?
At 3 Bossy Bees, we delight in stories of women creating their own opportunities. We want to know what fuels them, how they move ideas into action, and how they stay motivated. My first question to Anne Marie was, “Why start your own business?”
“It hasn’t ever been much of a question of why, but what. I put myself through college by bar tending. Not bogged down with debt, I had more options once leaving New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. Compared to what I was making bartending, it didn’t make sense to take a job in the city that would have cost me more to get to work than what I would bring home. Bartending offered me the option to start a business. I developed a great client base for interior design, while still making money to live and pay the bills.”
It was an interesting concept of not immediately going to work for a big corporation or large employer. It wasn’t as pressing to her at 21, unlike me. “How did you know you could start your own business?”
“My mom had her own business, which was born out of the financial need to support her family. She was an esthetician. Back then it was more about cosmetology then she veered into electrolysis. She eventually worked for Mary Kay, but it was to have the flexibility she needed to care for us. It never scared me to venture out on my own.”
Opportunity to Pursue my Dreams
I listen to Anne Marie talk about how she landed in Hillsborough, North Carolina from New York. Her story makes me realize it is a journey that requires some risk taking. People making the leap into entrepreneurship need gusto. It is to attempt something without fully knowing what the outcome will be. “I always dreamed of owning horses and having a farm. I brought my three girls to North Carolina and bought Strouds Creek Farm with the hope of a new, calmer life. There have been some tough moments along the way. Each year it gets closer to the picture I had envisioned and each phase of owning this farm has been fulfilling.”
Strouds Creek Farm’s initial business model was horse boarding. The farm’s beautiful fields make you feel like you’ve further into the country than the mile outside of downtown Hillsborough. Her clients suggested other services they wanted, after seeing the quality and care she put into horse boarding. “It was my clients that suggested I offer summer camp here. They would see the enjoyment my girls had living on the farm. It was apparent that playing outdoors was more than what you can do on a blacktop, but the chance to be in nature. Every day my kids have the opportunity to play in the creek, swing beneath the trees, and run through fields. And they learn how to care for animals. With a little encouragement, I realized families would seek out this idyllic experience for their children.”
Strouds Creek opened its doors for summer camp in 2011. Children and adults, rarely have the chance to experience what being on a small farm is like. They get to see chickens run freely and experience collecting eggs. It is exciting to see the rooster with his swagger and hear the hens cluck. Kids head down to the creek, run through the grass past dragon flies and butterflies. They find the occasional frog. The pride the children have in caring for the horses in a safe environment is immeasurable. It was during summer camp that parents suggested after-school care. Then they inquired about birthday parties and drop-in care.
Working for yourself is not for the faint-of-heart
I inquire about the toughest parts of working for yourself. “I know the care and quality of the service I want and I just can’t give less than that.” Anne Marie refers to her long days and how making sure things are done right means she’ll spend a full twelve hours tending to the farm and caring for children. She heads back up to the house when the sun sets, cooks dinner, and talks with her girls about the day.
There are times when business is slow or a new project requires completion to be in good standing with new county codes. “These times make me rely on the goal and vision I have. Having faith that it will work out and that if I keep pushing forward I’ll get a little closer to what I hope this farm will become. You cannot be frightened when you own a business, you have to find the courage and move forward. It is a lot of work, but I have a good sense for what I want to do and what I do adds purpose.”
Growing a small business
Anne Marie mentions she wished she could have looked a little further into the future to see how her business would have grown and transformed. As new services are added, there are growing pains to evolving the marketing and community outreach. She has the patience to grow her business. Strouds Creek Farm’s customers know what she offers on her farm is a healthy, fun, and enjoyable experience for children. She believes extending her love of the farm life to the community of Hillsborough will grow in the coming years. The Chestnut Festival, at the end of October, opens the farm to the community. It will draw in families to experience the joy of the fall and a quintessential farm experience. “Connecting with families and the community is important to me. This is the work I truly enjoy and I love that I am helping create wonderful memories.”
To learn more about Strouds Creek Farm visit: www.stroudscreekfarm.com.