Branding Without the Accoutrements
Many small business owners think that a lack of start up capital or the latest bookkeeping gadgets are the sole factors holding them back. However, as we shall see in this small business success story, it is possible to create a successful business without any of these extras if you are selling a unique product with a convincing brand.
Miller Farm has a strong brand, but they have definitely built it the hard way. Jacob and Amos Miller were unable to build their brand through technology and Twitter due to their religious beliefs; both men are Amish, and accept a very simple lifestyle, even when it comes to running their business. Their beliefs even kept them from adding to their business without vehicles or cell phones. How did they build their brand? By focusing on product benefits and using time honed methods of getting their message to the consumer.
In 2000, Jacob and Amos decided to begin focusing on the nutrient density of their traditionally grown foods. Because organic was already widely available, this branding would not have set the company apart from its competition. Indeed, there is a growing belief in the United States supported by scientific evidence that grass fed beef and traditionally raised vegetables have far more nutrients than their conventional, cellophane wrapped counterparts, but most companies are not catering to this growing market. Add to this a new American focus on buying from small local farms, and Miller Farm was poised for success… if they could get the word out about the advantages of their product.
The Millers began hiring a driver and a refrigerated vehicle to take a variety of their homemade products to various trade shows and conferences. Because of the uniqueness of the brand and the people selling it, this created considerable buzz. Orders began pouring in—by snail mail, of course. Despite making $1.8 million dollars in annual sales, these business owners do not own a computer or fax machine. In fact, the only modern conveniences in this animal and sweat powered farm are a landline phone and a generator fueled refrigerator.
While many small business owners would see these limits as almost unbearable, the Millers wouldn’t have it any other way. In fact, both owners express displeasure with their time spent in cities for business purposes and enjoy handling the day to day operations of their food production. The love of the land that is central to their brand is not merely a marketing point, but a heartfelt sentiment that infuses the company and its products.
Miller Farm is so successful they are turning away orders and taking measures to limit the company growth beyond an easily manageable size. This is certainly not the norm in the farming community, where small farms like this can struggle just to make ends meet. However, few farms have the solid brand and unusual story of Miller Farms. This example shows that any small business can make it, even in tough markets, with a little determination and a unique brand.