Grow Your Own: Three Tips from Seed Catalogs on Germinating ECOpreneurs amidst the Tanking Economy

While unemployment skyrockets and banks decline, there remains a ray of hope right around the corner: spring. For those of us living in the Midwest, now is that time of anticipation when March peaks on the calendar and we vocally vent together about how the “worst is behind us.”

Seed catalogs jam mailboxes this time of year. We Wisconsin gardeners lustfully gaze at the Royal Burgundy Bush Bean and Panorama Red Shades Bee Balm like tempting centerfolds, vividly dreaming of starting anew in the field once again.

But these seed catalogs offer more than just plant starters. Dig a dash deeper and this arrival of the seed catalogs summons a message that can germinate just what this country of angst-ridden job seekers could really use: hope. Hope wrapped in a message of self-employment of the ecopreneurial variety. Plant seeds for your own green business, follow your passion for leaving this world a better place, and you just might amaze yourself at the true prosperity your harvest.

Here are three tips reaped from the pages of seed catalogs on how to become a self-employed, independent ecopreneur:

1. Diversify

The Fedco seed catalog we order from (a great Maine-based seed co-op) lists over fifty varietals of beans alone. Talk about a diversified buffet of options, compliments of Mother Nature. Try fitting those bean descriptions on a 3×2-inch business card. Impossible. Our ecosystem thrives on diversity, one varietal supporting another, resulting in a healthy garden. These various beans also serve a variety of needs: Some are fabulous eaten fresh, while others are best suited for freezing or drying.

Likewise, diversified ecopreneurs thrive when income is based on multiple, differing sources. We run a small B&B on our Wisconsin farm, Inn Serendipity. Yes, the tourism industry – and our small share of the revenue pie – will possibly be down at the end of the year. But we have other sources of income coming in, from article writing, consulting and garden produce sales – all likely to go up. Because we “plant” a variety of income sources (along with keeping our income needs low by raising our own food, generating our own power, etc.), like Mother Nature, we end up with a fiscally sound end result.

2. Fail Fast and Intelligently

Seeds remind us of the importance of experimenting – and sometimes failing – but always doing so intelligently. Every year we take on something new in the garden; this year it’s luffa gourds, gourds that dry out to make natural sponges. No major research or cost analysis required – a luffa gourd seed packet cost a mere one-dollar investment. As Dr. Jack Matson writes about in his inspiring book, Innovate or Die, we need to support “intelligent fast failure,” keeping multiple experiments going on simultaneously that require minimal investment with the idea that one of these might bloom fruit.

An ecopreneur is always on the lookout for these “luffa gourd opportunities” – situations that require low input and investment, but could potentially yield new profits. hefty rewards. Since luffas are technically not a “food,” I don’t have to worry about commercial kitchen licensing and food preparation.

3. Focus On Passion

Nobody ever grows every seed variety in the catalog. Even if you had time and space, what’s the point? When I open a seed catalog, I’m immediately drawn to certain things. These might be standard staples that grow well every year such as Perpetual Spinach – with a handful of new alluring items like those luffa gourds. We’ve learned to not get overwhelmed – or go crazy – ordering seeds. Focus on what works (i.e., our strengths) and what we’re passionate about.

Same concept works for the ecopreneur. Deciding on a business idea can be the most challenging step when launching into self-employment and it’s easy to feel overloaded with options and never take any decisive next steps. Time to focus on your passions – what gets you excited – blended with your strengths and abilities. I can never seem to grow – or eat – enough spinach. On the ecopreneurial side, I can never get enough public speaking opportunities. Love doing that. Love my spinach. Love my life.

Plant some seeds of spring hope this season, and together we can grow a healthier, sustainable new economy filled with ecopreneurs.

Photo Credit: John Ivanko

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