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  Sandie Shores


Editor's Notes: Sandie Shores has been a member of the Network for years….I’m not even sure how long.  But it wasn’t until she
and I were both part of a panel at Frontier Natural Products in Iowa several years ago that I actually learned about her.  Over the
years we stay in touch by email.  Every few weeks one of us checks in to see how the other is doing, commenting on business
issues as well as what our latest feeling are about the men in our lives (always good for several jokes).  She’s another unusual
woman with a successful business and she’s a successful author as well with a high selling book on growing and selling fresh
cut herbs.  I hope that reading about Sandie will spur many of you on to realize you don’t have to live in California or Florida to
have a highly successful fresh herb business.

Founded:  1985

Location:  Southeastern Minnesota bluff and river country, near Rochester

Description of Business and Products: Professional grower of fresh-cut herbs, potted herbs for retail sales, speaker,
consultant and author of Growing and Selling Fresh-Cut Herbs (Ball Publishing) and Cooking with The Herb Ladies (self published).

Employees:  Me (in this incarnation) “I get by with a little help from my friends” and family when needed. When I was growing
fresh herbs year round there were 2 nearly full time and many seasonal.

Annual Sales: Varies 

Q: How did you start (or become owner) of the business? Purposefully, with a solid business plan including a loan from an
Ag Lender for my first big greenhouse and well. 

Q:  What made you choose this type of business? Like many people I was interested in starting a business where I could
work from my farm and use some of the skills that I had acquired through the years. That, coupled with extensive market research,
a love of herbs and good growing genes (Herb was my grandfather, long deceased when I started the business) led me to settle
on growing and selling fresh-cut herbs and potted herbs. 

Q:  What is your background? I preface this by saying that variety has always been one of the “spices” of my life. I started early
and I am old! Marketing, Sales, Nursing, 14 years in the music industry doing artist management, a stint as a Realtor and the author
of several small books.  

Q:  What are your biggest challenges as an herb business? Crop scheduling and continuing education-learning about
new varieties, culinary uses of the usual and unusual varieties, new growing techniques, developing new recipes and writing the
next book. It is a challenge to find the time to read all the trade magazines each month and learning how to keep my Type A
traits focused and in check! This and all the other, non-herb related, things I want to do with my life. 

Q:  What are the biggest rewards of being an herb business? Making people happy! It is wonderful to teach, especially
new growers and home gardeners. The letters and e-mails from people who tell me how my book has been their “bible”, or
constant companion in the greenhouse and field, makes all the hard work worth it. I was speaking at a large conference two years
ago when a man suddenly walked to the front of the room, hugged me and told the attendee’s that my recent series of articles in a
trade magazine had made his business a good deal of money and changed his life….well, it brought tears to my eyes and made
me weak in the knee’s. What more can I say? 

Q:  What is your philosophy of customer service? Service, service and more service! Give the customer what they want and
what they didn’t know they wanted.  

Q:  What makes you stand out from your competitors? On a local basis-Service, product knowledge, quality, variety,
consistency, attention to detail and more service.  

Q:  What plans do you have for your business? I have completed downsizing plan Number Three and will continue as I
am-see addendum below. 

Q:  Is your family supportive of your business? Yes, they call me “Herb” and probably always will. My son is now my main
tiller man.

Q:  What do you wish you’d done differently with the business? Actually, I am quite happy with the way that it evolved. My
only regret is that I didn’t follow my business plan entirely which included staying small and relatively local (selling only within a 50
mile radius). It was difficult to say no when top Chef’s from the Twin Cities were begging for my fresh, honestly fresh, herbs! I
did manage to learn to say NO but it was difficult and, for many people, seems quite contrary to the usual business concept
of continued growth.  

Q: What do you think people starting out should know about getting into your type of business? That it is most definitely
a business. There is a huge difference between growing a few fresh herbs in your backyard (AKA gardening) to sell at Farmers’
Market and a Business. It takes a good business plan, money, knowledge of each herb, continued education, commitment,
willingness and ability to work endless hours of hard physical work, perseverance and much, much more.

Q:  How has the internet helped/hurt your business? Since my business is, and will remain, local my web site has not helped
in my product sales but rather lends credibility. It has done a good deal for my book sales since it is still the only book that
addresses the topic, in depth, of growing and selling fresh-cut herbs. My monthly e-mail newsletter has been awesome for
generating sales on a local basis. It is targeted to the home gardener and busy cook/foodies. I specifically try to avoid
complicated, time-consuming, recipes and give basic herb and gardening information. The feedback from people has been
gratifying in that they appreciate that approach a very much. They also appreciate that it is not a “gaudy” newsletter with
attachments, color and photo’s, etc.  I find that feedback interesting in that so many sites are touting all the busy and colorful things
we are supposed to do to our newsletters! My customers just want to read what I have to say. 

Q: How long has it taken for your website to pay off? Immediate. My purpose with the site is to educate and call attention to
my book. While I do have some book sales from my site, I actually prefer that my publisher and the distributor handle the sales. Yes,
it sounds odd but the book is available from so many online sellers, seed catalogs and brick and mortar stores and they sell it
at a lower price than I can. The only sales I get are to those who want an autographed copy and that is fine with me. My web site
has been suffering from my inattentiveness for a very long time and has survived only because of Maureen’s help! It will be
changed soon!

Q: What things have you done to promote your website? Not enough. It has not been a primary focus since I don’t use my site
as a sales vehicle as many of you do. As soon as I make the necessary updates and changes to my site it will be more
actively promoted. I sell (not plants or herbs) on eBay and each package goes out with a handwritten thank you on the back
of my Herb’s Herbs card, which includes my web address, of course (with my eBay ID in place of the phone number). It is amazing
how many books have sold because of this one little thing (well, not THAT little-I’ve sold several thousand items!).

Some further words from Sandie: First I would like to say a huge thank you to Maureen. She was instrumental in my s
uccess, especially in getting the first edition of my book published by Storey Publishing and it has been uphill from there. Thank
you Maureen! (Echoed by just about everyone in this group.)
         My original plan with this note was to relay to you a brief history of my business to explain how it has changed and
downsized profitably. Brief is not possible with a 20 year history in the business! What I do want to tell you is that a good business
plan also includes an exit strategy, with more than one scenario given that life changes.
           I think it is important to have periodic life reviews. Doing so will usually lead to the question “What matters most?” My answers
to that question have caused me to downsize my business again.
            Yes, I remain in business with profit and passion but on a smaller scale now. I have only one, perfect-fit, account and I love it!
It is the only freestanding gourmet produce store in Rochester. I basically set up my Farmer’s Market display (minus items that
would require a commercial kitchen for retail sales) starting early spring and it goes right through October. My customers from
Farmers’ Market have followed me there, thanks to my newsletter. The amount of plants and fresh herbs that I sell there is
quite amazing and I don’t have to “man the store”. Perfect fit.
            This allows me the time to broaden my horizons-to give back for many blessings that I have received. I have been an eBay
seller for 5 years selling all manner of antiques and “stuff”. Now I have more time to continue to help the elderly and others to dispose
of their items. I am learning sign language so that I can volunteer as an Advocate with the State of Minnesota Deaf and Hard Of
Hearing Services and there is more, much more. There are so many other things that I want to do while there is still some juice left!

           Growing herbs? Always! Writing and teaching? Always! The message I want to convey is-work hard, make a profit, have
fun, enjoy life and know that there are ways you can do it all if you plan and work smart. It is entirely possible to keep your
business small and be VERY profitable



The Herb Growing & Marketing Network
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