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Do you live in rural America but also aspire to have a successful business? Listen up!
When I first thought about working for myself and becoming an entrepreneur I was conflicted. Part of me wanted to have this mega business and be a total CEO #BossBabe, but the other part of me wanted to live a small town life, buy some land, raise babies and cows and enjoy a life that has spotty wifi.
I thought for sure I was going to have to choose. One of my first endeavors as a business owner was with my photography business. I was told constantly that if I wanted to find success as a photographer I was always going to have to live in town or at least not out in some rural area.
My horse training business was a little different because obviously there are more horses in rural areas, but even then, how was I supposed to find clients if I lived out in BFE and went into town once per week?
I bounced these two things back and forth in my head for years until one day I decided that enough is enough. I do not have to choose between two dreams. I convinced myself that if I wanted something bad enough, I would find a way to make it work.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I wanted to create this post for the women out there like me. The ones who are lovers of the western & rural lifestyle, the farmers’ daughters, the cowboy wives, and so on. Women who love living where they do but they want to financially contribute or turn a passion project into a side hustle.
I want to show you that you can do both. You can go out and work cows, ride horses, live in a small town while still maintaining a crazy successful business.
One of the first things Tyler told me when we met was “behind every successful rancher is his wife that works in town” and I never really knew exactly what that meant until Tyler and I started chasing a cattle ranching dream.
(Follow us along on IG our username is @themakingofelrodranch)
This is when this concept really clicked for me. Most ranchers have side income or a wife that goes to work a few days a week. But does Tyler know who he is marrying? Working in town sounds less than pleasant to me. I started grinding my butt to build a business that keeps his sentiment true but with a twist.
To me, “behind every successful rancher is a wife who owns a successful online business, gets to stay home with her babies, rides horses, and works cows with the best of them”. Not quite as catchy but it is the statement I have worked tooth and nail to make true.
If you are reading this and thinking “WOW ME TOO THATS ME I WANT THAT” then girl keep on reading because today I am going to give you a few tips to get started as a business owner in Rural America.
Think about the kind of business you are starting In Rural America
- Is it a virtual business only? Such as an online store? Or an online service? Graphic designer?
- Is it a brick and mortar business such as a coffee shop or boutique?
- Is it a service based business such as a photographer or a horse trainer?
- What kinds of things are you going to need to get started? A computer? A storefront? Products?
How are you going to market your business In Rural America?
- We tend to get all excited about starting a business that we forget we need to market it in order to gain customers and revenue
- In rural America this can be more of a challenge! There are not as many people, not as much traffic, and maybe not the same type of demand for your particular product or service
- Do a little personal research, ask around and see who in your area would be interested in what you are going to start doing.
- If there doesn’t seem to be a huge interest do not let that discourage you, because this is where I am stepping in
Again, I used to be conflicted on starting a wedding photography business because I didn’t think that many people in a rural area were getting married, which is a really weird thing to think. I honestly have no idea where that came from
But I learned 2 things…
- I needed to niche down
- I may need to be willing to travel
- It means to get super specific with who you are working with/for
- Your client is not everyone. You need to be marketing to a very specific group of people. Down to their age, hair color, what kind of car they drive, etc.
- It may feel like you are limiting yourself but what you are actually doing is presenting yourself as an expert at one thing and not just basic at a whole bunch of things.
Let me give you an example!
When I started out as a photographer, I would take on anything and everything. If someone was willing to book me, I was going to shoot their wedding. But what this did was make me feel super drained and unexcited about the work I was producing.
A few years into my business I decided to get super specific on the kinds of couples I would work with. AKA all my western couples and cowgirl/cowboy weddings.
When I started to speak to these kinds of people was when pure magic happened. I was booking more weddings in general but also more of the types of weddings that I really enjoyed being at!
Examples for other kinds of businesses:
- Horse trainers can niche down to working with only certain types of horse breeds or disciplines
- Graphic designers cna niche down to only do logos for small businesses or to only make graphics for tattoos, etc
- Fashion influencers can niche down to a specific type of fashion. Western fashion is getting a lot more trendy these days and there is a huge community for it online. This is a niche!
- Even other kinds of jobs could niche down. A vet can specialize in horses only, or pigs only, or goats only.
- Farmers and ranchers are kinda niching down too when you think about it. Some only have certain breeds of cattle or they only farm certain types of crops. And I bet after years and years of focusing their attention onto one thing they got really good at it
Think about it like this… if you got sick and needed heart surgery for something, who would you go to? An orthopedic surgeon or a heart surgeon? You would go to a heart surgeon right? Because that is their speciality! So do not be afraid to niche down! I promise this will have a huge impact on your businesses growth
Embrace The Digital World
- Times are changing. The world is becoming more and more wireless and digital and when running a business of any kind, you pretty much are required to have some kind of online presence at this point.
- Even if your business is not necessarily an online business let me tell you why it is still so important to be creating content online:
- It can open up so many doors in the future that you don’t even know exist yet
- Brand deals! Need I say more? Your favorite brands can pay you and sponsor your account (just for using the things you already love)
- Grow your audience = grow your clientele. Covid 19 showed us that no matter what kind of business you have you need to pivot and possibly take it online which is not a bad thing! Hello passive income!
- Turn your knowledge into an online course or coaching business
- Create and sell digital products related to your current business
- Isn’t it amazing how just about anything is online these days? Scary but amazing. I see more and more ranchers using social media platforms to spread awareness about Agriculture and also tell their family stories. These are people that are just filming their everyday lives and showcasing them to the internet and scoring major brand deals and collaborations. All from the comfort of their own home in (you guessed it) rural America.
As some of you may already know if you follow our ranching journey, Tyler and I have already begun this process
We have plans to live somewhere that allows us to be together as a family, raise our kids the way we want and grow our herd. We are documenting this journey and growing our personal brand while Tyler is still working his 9-5 job and I have my businesses on the side.
Not saying you have to do this exact same thing, and heck your goals and dreams may be a lot different than ours, but it’s just an idea to get your brain juices flowing!
The Big Picture:
- What it all comes down to is this:
- If you want to start a business in rural america and be successful at it you need to remember that everything takes time, you need to be flexible and willing to pivot as necessary, and you honestly need to be willing to go the extra mile than some people who live in the city because living a rural lifestyle brings a totally different set of complications to the table.
- And before I go I will leave you with this: If all you ever do in your life is be a rancher’s wife, that’s a hell of a life to live my friend. Until next time, stay rowdy!
I'm Sarah Elrod
I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.
I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.
I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.
When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.
There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.
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