Explain a little bit about Farm Stand.
Farm Stand’s primary mission is to bring together community and wellness, whether in the form of a gathering space, products, or outreach. If you distill our brand, it’s all about self-care. And then building upon that concept, we all need a community to be healthy. We’ve gone about building Farm Stand very organically with a lot of experimentation along the way. We started as a location at the Winter Equestrian Festival where we curated a group of health-centric, local food and beverage businesses alongside our own food truck and retail shop.
We focused on sustainable and quality items ranging from women’s clothing and accessories to homewares and beauty products. From there, we kept layering in small businesses and some startups that wanted a shot at getting their products in front of people―kind of in the spirit of a farmer’s market. Some things worked and some didn’t. But it’s been neat to see people so drawn to the space and we are happy they want to be an extension of our shared values.
We’ve attracted supporters who are either passionate about leading healthy lifestyles or at least curious about it. Maybe the biggest compliment we get is that our environment has really good vibes and people get a bit of joy from stopping by. That has certainly encouraged us to keep going and expand upon a product line that is an extension of our spirit of sharing what brings us joy!
When did you realize there was a need for your business, or where did you get the idea for your brand?
The community concept of open-air retail and food trucks was conceived to meet a need for healthy, organic, and gluten-free food options at the horse show. As for the Farm Stand product line, that idea grew right out of the ground! And due to the circumstances of COVID lockdowns and the seasonality of our business, we started playing around with combinations of herbs and flowers we were growing in our garden. It was an important time to spend outdoors connecting with nature while staying creative.
Our kitchen wasn’t cooking like we do in season, so we started dehydrating and cooking up soap recipes instead. The idea really came about because we had a surplus of ingredients that we wanted to preserve and utilize. It was important to us to stay inspired and uplifted as a team. We also saw it as a means to share the spirit of Farm Stand with an even wider community. Becky Gochman, our founder, was looking for opportunities to continue to give back, so we started the Farm Stand For Love Project that coordinates donations of our handmade natural soaps to women’s shelters.
What has been the overall impact of Farm Stand on equestrians?
Community gatherings, more lunch dates, and a lot of healthy addictions (chicken teriyaki, vegetable noodle bowl, and ginger tea, to name just a few). We have built a real sense of community at WEF. Farm Stand promotes healthy practices and makes them readily accessible to everyone on the showgrounds. We not only support exhibitors and spectators by providing them with food and fun, but we also give brands the opportunity to be a part of the selection at Farm Stand. The space is utilized to promote other small, emerging brands many of whom are started by members of the equestrian community. We love letting people pop up and providing them access to an important potential customer base.
What would you say is the most unique feature of Farm Stand?
We’re homegrown and we’ve been able to experiment and change in real-time. We’re a small team driven more by passion than formulas. Nothing cookie-cutter―not even our cookies. The way we have built a marketplace for food and fashion on the horse show grounds is very unique. It’s different because it’s inviting for families to gather while waiting for the next time they need to be ready to ride.
Why do you choose to have your products made in the USA?
Since we’re experimenting and test-marketing, this is a logical starting place for us. But more than that, it’s special and authentic to be able to share the experience of real farm to “table” items since we source ingredients from our own garden. If we were to scale, employing more members of the community is something we’d absolutely want to do. Also, the farm is within walking distance from our shop and that unique relationship is how Farm Stand was born. The idea of “local” is part of who we are.
What has been the greatest challenge to building your business and what did you do to overcome it?
We had a good understanding of the customer base going into the first year of the project, it’s a very focused group of visitors. However, a big challenge we were and are presented with is this narrowness. Our core customer is repeatedly browsing with us week after week. And at WEF, it can be for 13 weeks straight. The concept of newness for us is a difficult question to tackle while also balancing sustainability. It would be easy to continue to buy inventory and layer in “heaps of stuff” to fuel growth but that doesn’t align with our core values.
In order to overcome this, we have been inventive and open. We have a huge focus on visual merchandising: updating the floor set every week and pre-planning color stories and themes during the buying process to keep things fresh and in motion.
We launched our online store in 2020 to make up for fewer weeks in a physical location during Covid. Then we partnered with an online marketplace with wider distribution to bolster those off-season sales. Seeking out timeless pieces in the buying process has also allowed us to feel confident and even proud holding onto certain few pieces and reintroducing the following season. Then we donate the remaining merchandise to Women’s Shelters alongside our soaps.
If you could improve/change/delete/master one thing about your brand, what would it be?
Narrowing our focus and handing off the parts of the business that don’t quite fit anymore. We are trying to master creating partnerships to overall make the business run smoothly, while still being able to deliver an experience people love. That includes ensuring sustainability is at the forefront of our brand.
How has your business shifted during the pandemic?
We were sad to have to close our WEF 2020 shop early and lost a few weeks of business. Rather than do more shows as we might otherwise consider, we hunkered down and developed our first product line. We shifted sales a bit to eCommerce and an e-com partner, which has resulted in additional sales.
The horse show looked different in 2021 without spectators but a lot of our customers are riders, and their families, and trainers. In terms of inventory, Farm Stand partnerships have grown with some really strong retail partners that either popup or consign us inventory to sell in Wellington. We also have the ability to put our items in their shops so supporting one another through consignment arrangements has been a good outcome and increased visibility for us and them.
How do you see the future of Farm Stand?
Reaching our arms out further, making more connections, giving back, and finding ways to have an impact. Our promise is to stay heartfelt in what we do and encourage women to love and care for themselves. It’s especially important to us to find ways to help facilitate that when it comes to women who have been affected by domestic violence and other situations that have put them in a compromised position and in need of support. In terms of our products, the line is tight, but we have SO many ideas! Expanding the assortment and integrating into wholesale sales is the immediate growth plan for Farm Stand, all to support our giving back.
What advice do you have for aspiring equine entrepreneurs?
You have an awesome, responsive, and unique community so take every opportunity to engage with them around the product or service you’re offering. They are an invaluable source of feedback and rarely do businesses get such access to this organic yet focused group. Stay open and flexible. Come and see us! We love partnering with others and expanding our breadth. It’s part of our mission to support others and figure out how we can help.
Visit Farm Stand.
Want to learn more about Farm Stand?
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