When I was little, I use to tag along with my mom as she would pick up things for her garden. My favorite stop was Agway, because, in the spring they had brooders full of baby chickens. Although my mother never, ever, indulged my childhood need to snuggle an arm full of chicks, now that I’m the Mom it’s a different story.
In the spring of 2009, we took the plunge and purchased 8 chicks from a local farmer. Like any other venture, we needed more than a box of peeps, but, while the birds were only slightly larger than the egg they hatched out of, they didn’t need many of the things a fully grown hen would.
So, instead of rushing out and buying loads of stuff that would just sit in storage until the gals were big enough to use it, we adapted to their needs and only invested more into their care when it was the right time to do it. While they were small and still needed the heat lamp to regulate their body temperature, they lived in a large cardboard box in the family room. When they got large enough to jump/fly out of their box and poop on the carpet, we built a coop and moved them to the back yard.
This spread the expenditures of time and money out, over time, so that we could better absorb the costs.
We also learned as we went along. I got a great book, Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens, and picked up a few tips and tricks from the internet and even learned a few things the hard way, but now we have all the eggs we can eat and a self-sustaining supply of new laying hens. When we had hens go broody after their first year, we were given some fertile eggs for the ladies to hatch. From those fertile eggs, we kept a Rooster. This year we just welcomed our first batch of home-grown babies.
I could keep the process going, if I wanted, and allow my hobby of back yard chickens grow to the point I could start selling eggs to my neighbors. Then grow to enough hens I could get a stall at the farmers market. I could then let the dream grow to certifying as organic and winning a contract with Whole Foods… Or not.
The formal term for this process is bootstrapping, but the process works equally well in small business as it does with back yard chickens. When considering how you want your next business to unfold, consider the slow build as a way to gain both resources and knowledge you need to ensure a successful venture.