It’s not every day you start up a successful business raising chickens in your backyard, but for Mary Ann Fordyce, her efforts came with great rewards. Going from insurance agent to CEO of Blue Star Ranch, Mary Ann has seen her income increase exponentially – leaving herself and her family well provided for.
We got the opportunity to speak with Mary Ann about her experiences and insights into the world of chicken farming.
Would you tell us a bit about how Blue Star Ranch began?
Blue Star Ranch came out of necessity; my job as an insurance agent was coming to a close due to management issues in the company. Around that time I became disabled as a result of several neurological and muscular problems. I was in great pain and was unable to get a regular job. Since I do not take any medications, drugs or alcohol I had to find a way to cope with the pain. Chickens, along with meditation and acupuncture, are my way to cope with chronic illness. So I took my chicken hobby to the bank and learned a lot along the way.
I realised that raising backyard chickens can be a very lucrative business for pet owners. There is a learning curve to raising chickens, and with so many people wanting them it’s hard keep up with the demand for pet chickens!
What accomplishments have you achieved that you are most proud of?
Streamlining operations and making the backyard chicken business – which is tough to “crack” –profitable and simple for the average person to recreate. I am proud of the fact that when I fail or make mistakes, I get back on my feet and try harder. There was no real advice or information about running a poultry business from scratch 14 years ago, so being able to fill this gap was rewarding for me.
What lessons have you learned from running your own business?
So many lessons! Learning from your mistakes is vital, as is making your business more and more streamlined. I also had to design and create the chicken coops from scratch, ensuring that they are easy to access and handicapped-friendly. I’ve also learned that people change a lot over the years, but that chickens don’t! For “eggsample”, your grandparents did not spend $300 for a veterinarian to look at a “sick chicken”, yet today – each and every day – I have to talk to customers about being sensible with their money, and reminding them that genetics are a real factor in whether a chicken will survive or not. Some people don’t know a lot about chickens, so I ensure that I help to educate my clients and make them feel comfortable talking about them.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
There are many obstacles to starting up your own business. You have to keep finding a way around these obstacles – never stop trying! Also, don’t just believe everything you read online. Read the facts, and do your research. Visit as many professionals in the industry as you can to learn from their firsthand experience; they will likely be flattered by your interest. Look at your competitors and figure out how you can offer more. Cut your costs where possible, but invest all that you can (smartly) into your business. Becoming truly successful requires you to be a motivated, good and honest person who learns from their mistakes. Truly listening and caring about your customers’ needs, wants and desires is important, too. Also, if you’re starting a large chicken farm, or raising a small coop of chickens for only part time income, targeting people’s desire for fun and their enthusiasm for pet chickens can help.
How do you feel the business landscape has changed over the past 15 years?
I feel it has become far too technical for me. As a 61-year-old boomer, I feel I can do without most of the technology people are using these days. I like to keep things simple, and deep down I feel people of all ages feel this way, too. Hence why people are getting back to their roots – natural, organic and small family businesses are popping up all over. You can tell that people are missing the old American farming way of life – the simple life. This is only natural; people need peace and opportunity for quiet reflection to stay sane, rather than being constantly busy. I personally avoid social media as much as I can.
I taught myself most of what I use daily, rather than following in others footsteps. I think it’s important to be your own person, and to compete with yourself each day, rather than others. I am completely handicapped, yet I still manage to earn a six figure income from my half-acre backyard. If I can do it, anyone can! Making excuses for not trying is not an option for me. I do not view myself as a victim – I think about what I can do, rather than what I can’t. And I look inside, rather than outside, for the answers I’m looking for.
So there you have it – the secrets to starting and maintaining a successful backyard chicken business! Mary Ann’s work is inspiring, and reminds us that anyone can become financially self-sufficient with enough hard work.
Get this book from: https://www.amazon.com/Six-Chickens-Figures-Requires-Eggciting/dp/1678587419/