I can hardly believe it, but Rural Route has been a real thing for a whole year! It seems like just yesterday we had our launch at the 2017 State Street Market, and the past 12 months have just flown by. Most of you know, Rural Route Life is not a full-time gig for us. It wasn’t created to get rich, or because we were sitting around with too much time on our hands. Both of us have full-time jobs in the ag industry, and part-time jobs at home with boys ages 6,4,2. We make time for Rural Route, because we’re passionate about farmers, agriculture and rural America. We wanted to create additional income so we could give more than we could otherwise. To support the things we so firmly believe in has been incredibly rewarding so far.
As I reflect on the year, I came up with the top three things that personally impacted me the most on this journey. Each one of them was fuel to continue on--to give up my little free time and a good night's sleep too many times to count. Read on to get my brain dump…...
1. Support of family
If it wasn’t for an extremely supportive spouse, parents on both sides, siblings, and kids who have fallen in love with this brand, it never would have happened. There have been moments, days, events etc over the past year where I questioned whether I should continue to invest time and money into this. Family, especially Brian, was always there to talk things through with me, and this was so important to me. Without his support (time, muscles, trailer driving, BSing with strangers), I would have chosen to give up this dream. Instead, he propels me in the other direction with his encouragement, creativity and almost never ending patience for my crazy ideas.
2. Support of community
I had no idea what people would think of my shirts last year at the State Street Market. A friend saw my shirt samples a few days before the event, and asked to buy 2 on the spot. My jaw was dropping all day that Saturday, as people were waiting in line to show support for the brand with their wallets.
Between multiple similar events this past year, the great people of Geneseo and the larger farming/agriculture family inside and even outside of the United States, we have been able to connect so many people with similar interests—it has just been phenomenal. I have new friends around the country, and I enjoy every single time someone posts pics on social media or sends me a message about how much they like their shirt/hat/etc.
Small businesses can’t survive and thrive without support of community, and I’m so happy I’ve been able to experience it on this small scale in the past twelve months.
3. Giving back feels good!
Since I’ve been an adult out on my own, I have always tried to be as generous as possible. My parents and the bible taught me that. One of my favorite verses is, “To whom much is given, much is expected,” from Luke 12:48. I want to help promote agriculture, and part of doing that is helping to fund educational programs and provide financial support to ag related organizations. I thought the best way to give more money to the FFA, 4-H, Pheasants Forever, and so on, was to come up with products that would appeal to the very same market and it would help to fund itself.
Fast forward to now, and we’ve been able to partner with some great people and groups over the past year to promote agriculture. We’re trying to do our little part for this big world we live in, and it is very rewarding to look back on this brand we’ve created from scratch.
Over the past year, I’ve also gone from having shirts printed in a fancy shop with automatic presses, to printing them manually by hand in our basement. It’s pretty cool to think all of these products are designed and printed just a stone’s throw from our backyard cornfield! We are aiming for 100% rural on these shirts, and we’re pretty close now!
Based on all your support, and the fact we can take some of the costs out by printing ourselves, we’ve decided to give back to our customers as well. As a thank you for how you’ve supported us and made us feel this year, we’re going to be selling everything this weekend at the State Street Market at low, low, low prices. I know $25 is a ton to spend on a cute shirt for your kid who loves tractors, and I rarely pay $30 for a t-shirt for myself either. Shirts are going to range from 20-50% off our website prices, because we want every man, woman and kiddo who loves farming to own one of our shirts.
Come see us on Saturday. Bring your umbrella just in case, and bring your kiddos for sure—we’ll have all the old farm toys out for them to play with. Your stop to visit us may just earn you some goodwill from the kids to visit “just a couple more” tents before they go into complete meltdown mode!