The past few months have been pretty hectic, crazy, and exhausting, while also being immensely fulfilling and surprising for a number of reasons. Who knew starting a small business could be so complicated?!?!
Perhaps the most rewarding thing about starting Sunberry Baking Company for us is that we have found so much support from people who believe in what we do and love our products. Indeed, so much of the energy, enthusiasm, and momentum behind Sunberry Baking Company over the past couple of months is due to personal connections we have with individuals, organizations, and businesses in the Valley. Some of them are even “competitors”–at least according to a traditional way of doing business. But in almost all cases, our friendships and mutual support make both our own businesses and the community as a whole much, much better.
This all reflects on my belief that the best businesses function as “communities” in their own ways. Since our business is centered on vegan products and principles, the ability to create community around it is pretty straightforward: most vegans seek out and value fellowship with other vegans and businesses that cater to them, especially when those businesses are fully vegan (as Sunberry Baking Company is). But I know a lot of other businesses in the Valley that cultivate personal relationships with customers in a variety of ways, and make every customer feel like a part of something exciting–whether that be through CSA and other forms of buy-in, organizing discussion forums, offering classes and other educational programs, or hosting creative events.
Vegan community in action: the Shenandoah Valley Vegans’ Holiday Cookie Exchange.
It has been quite amazing to watch the interest and excitement build for our vegan, ethically minded, environmentally conscious small business. I have always felt that our products function as a crucial form of outreach, so it is immensely powerful to connect with other vegans and veggie-curious folks, share support and motivation, and build a community in the process of baking our treats. This is happening through the Shenandoah Valley Vegans groups on Meetup.com and Facebook.
This all makes sense, since the real impetus for starting Sunberry Baking Company came from the response to the smorgasbord of vegan treats that Rosemary and I (mostly Rosemary) prepared for Vegan Night Out in September. Since then, there has been a steady show of excitement and anticipation about our vegan treats. Without that support, and without the burgeoning community of veggie-folk that is behind so much of it, we would have no real chance of building this business. It is not about us, after all.
And if that makes us “socialists,” so be it. ^_^