No one knows how many of the 24 million small businesses in the United States have closed, but the number, when tallied, is likely to surpass one million. But some tiny companies have turned a corner and head into the rest of 2021 shaken and changed, but alive. Times of E reached out to incubators across the United States, who connected us to entrepreneurs whose companies survived. Ten entrepreneurs shared their stories with us. You can find others in the series at Rest of the US. Thanks to gener8tor, Arlee Community Development Corp., E For All and Arrowhead.
Ximena Zamacona launched her gourmet mushroom farm Full Circle Mushroom in La Mesa, New Mexico, weeks before COVID-19 first hit the U.S. Before the pandemic, she figured that her customer base would be mainly restaurants. But, when many of them closed or reduced operations, she had to pivot and figure out how to enter a market where mushrooms are a luxury rather than an essential, she wrote.
Zamacona and her team were able to build a community at farmer’s markets, which proved to be the biggest place of connection to customers in a pandemic-struck world.
“Every Saturday at the Farmer’s Market we get to talk and receive love from our community,” she wrote. “Knowing that we are really bringing value to them and that they let us know is for sure a bright spot. It is funny to see when they try our mushrooms once, they always come back.”
Zamacona wants to build a system that grows functional food and regenerates soils through growing practices. Her mushroom farm, a rarity in the desert, implements composting that helps with carbon capture, she wrote.
Another challenge the company faced was knowing how much produce to harvest. Zamacona said the amount needs to be decided at least five weeks in advance, and when it’s so back and forth on when markets will be open and when they will be closed, it’s been difficult to determine a good number. Her mushrooms have a shelf life of only three days.
Zamacona said her and her two employees sold about 1,200 pounds of mushrooms last year, and had about $32,000 in sales. She said she expects revenue to increase by 50% this year as she works to expand the company.
However, it also led to creative solutions. For instance, Zamacona said she’s begun dehydrating the mushrooms, which she said she’ll begin packaging for sales soon.
This story and others on Times of E are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.